Readers may recall that a few minutes before Attorney General Mukassey collapsed during his speech to the Federalist Society last Thursday, a heckler in audience shouted that Mukasey is a “tyrant.” Readers may also have been surprised to learn that the heckler was a judge, namely Justice Richard Sanders of the Washington Supreme Court.

I had my own strange encounter with Justice Sanders early in 2007. I was invited to Philadelphia to speak to a leading conservative organization. Arriving early, I struck up a conversation with a member of the group I was to address. Justice Sanders was sitting nearby.

The conservative was quite unhappy about the war in Iraq. He contended that the war was going badly (which was true at the time) and that, on balance, it would be better to cut our losses. I took issue with the latter point, but did not find it easy to overcome some of the points this conservative was making.

After a while Sanders jumped in. In contrast to the reasoned arguments I was trying to refute, he asserted that the war had been hatched by “the neoconservatives” and that the notion that Iraq had WMD was an invention cooked up as a pretext for launching a war of aggression.

Frankly, I was almost relieved to face these arguments, since they were so easily dealt with. I noted, for example, that the view that Iraq possessed by WMD was hardly confined to “neoconservatives.” Instead, it was shared by the Clinton administration and by foreign intelligence services such as France’s.

Justice Sanders appeared to have no answer to this basic argument and others; indeed, it was unclear that they had ever occurred to him. However, he stuck to his position until we were called to our lunch.

Looking back, I suppose I should be grateful that Justice Sanders didn’t heckle me during my talk.

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