Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The President Uses the Bully Pulpit to Attack the Supreme Court

President Theodore Roosevelt popularized the concept of the President’s Bully Pulpit. President Roosevelt also though lived by the maxim “Speak softly, but carry a big stick.”

President Obama’s approach is radically different. He speaks loudly, often demonizing his opponents.

The President retains the Bully Pulpit throughout the campaign. He will aggressively use it.

As we all know by now, the President in a press conference Monday with Mexican President Felix Calderon and Canada’s Prime Minister Steven Harper took a swing at the Supreme Court. The President said “For years what we’ve heard was the biggest problem on the bench is judicial activism or the lack of judicial restraint - that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law.”

He added that he was confident the Court would uphold the law.

It is as if the former constitutional law professor had forgotten the classic 1803 case of Marbury v. Madison, which gave the Supreme Court the right to decide the constitutionality of Congressional acts.

It is as if the President, who taught Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago, ignored two centuries of Supreme Court jurisprudence.

The conservative complaints about judicial activism and the lack of judicial restraint are when courts judicially legislate, such as the Supreme Court in the 1973 case of Roe v. Wade, legalizing abortion, and the 2004 Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, which mandated same sex marriages in Massachusetts. The justices of both courts are not elected to their positions.

My problem with the decisions is that while I am pro-choice and support gay marriage, I believe these social decisions should be made by the body politic, either the people or the legislature, and not through judicial legislation.

This is not the first time President Obama attacked the Supreme Court. Most of the Justices attend the State of the Union Speech. The President in his January 27, 2010 State of the Union Address singled out the Supreme Court for reversing 100 years of law in the Citizens United campaign financing case by letting foreign corporations contribute to U. S. Campaigns. The Justices had to sit quietly while he laced into them. Well almost silently. Justice Alito was observed muttering “That’s not true.”

Not only was the attack out of order, a breach of decorum, the act of a bully, but it was also wrong. The opinion in no way permits foreign corporations to contribute to American campaigns.

The explanations for the President’s statements are 1) he never read the opinion and was speaking out of ignorance (Remember, Attorney General Eric holder condemned the Arizona statute against illegal immigrants without reading the statute), 2) He misread the opinion, or 3) He read the decision, but deliberately misspoke.
All of these possibilities reflect poorly on the President.

Even the media had trouble with his statement. Columnists in such papers as the Washington Post criticized the President’s statements, although Maureen Dowd of the New York Times earlier today chimed in with the President, saying the Supreme Court “is run by hacks dressed up in black robes.”

Harvard Professor Laurence Tribe, Obama's Con Law professor in law school, said the President "obviously misspoke."

The alternative explanation is that President Obama was saying what he really believes. He was speaking on his own, rather than reading programed remarks on a teleprompter.

He has acted that way at least twice before.

He said to the Editorial Board of the San Francisco Chronicle on January 17, 2008 that he would bankrupt any new coal plant.

The real remark from the heart came at an April 6, 2008 fundraiser in San FRancisco. He said the working class voters in old industrial towns "get bitter, they cling to guns or religion."

This attack is not new for the President. He earlier attacked Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Fox News. He attempted to demonize the United States Chamber of Commerce because it opposed many of his plans. He routinely demonizes Big Oil, Wall Street, fat-cat bankers, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies.

Congressman Paul Ryan, Chair of the House Budget Committee, was invited to a Presidential address on the budget April 13, 2011. President Obama proceeded to excoriate Congressman Ryan at the presentation.

The President’s Supreme Court comments received substantial blowback. He backed off somewhat on Tuesday by saying he would respect the Court’s decision “The point I was making is that the Supreme Court is the final say on our Constitution, and all of us have to respect it.” He added “But it’s precisely because of that extraordinary power that the court has traditionally exercised significant restraint and deference to our duly-elected legislature, our Congress.”

He’s wrong again. The Court’s constitutional deference is to the Constitution and not to either the Congress or the executive.

The blowback continued on Tuesday when a panel of the 5th Circuit demanded the Justice Department respond by Thursday on whether the Administration believe judges have the power to strike down a federal statute.

We have witnessed over the past three years narcissism, petulance, and bullying on the part of the President. It does not bode well for the future, even if the President is reelected.

Of course, the President does not like the Constitution. As he said in a 2001 interview, the Constitution does not provide for a redistribution of income. ObamaCare is a redistribution of income.

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