chapter  1
14 Pages

Compassion

Since Justices (and their clerks) are conscious stylists, often atten­ tive to the opening and closing phrases of their opinions, the phrase “benevolent compassion” caught the eye of some experienced readers. The executive editor of the now-defunct Inside.com, Noam Cohen, a former copy editor at the New York Times, wrote to his friend and former colleague at the Times, William Safire, to inquire whether Safire did not find “benevolent compassion” redundant. Could there, he asked, be such a thing as “malevolent compassion”? Safire’s subse­ quent correspondence on the question with Justice Scalia formed the basis of a Sunday column.