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Thursday, March 11, 2010

The White House Vs. John Roberts

The White House simply loves to pick fights. They've picked fights with Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, insurance companies, private equity firms, "special interests", and now they want one with the Supreme Court. It started way back at the State of the Union when President Obama picked a fight with the Supreme Court by criticizing their recent Citizen's United ruling. This was a remarkable thing to do because the Justices, by decorum, are supposed to sit and not make any movement. As such, not only were they scolded, but a lot of the chamber applauded while the Justices sat quietly. Justice Alito was caught mouthing "not true". The White House then condemned the decision the following the day.

In fact, it's been widely acknowledged that some of the President's statement was in fact inaccurate. He claimed that foreign corporations would now be able to fund domestic elections. That's since been shown to be inaccurate.

The whole thing simmered down until this week when Chief Justice Roberts responded to a question about the situation this way,

To the extent the State of the Union has degenerated into a political pep rally, I'm not sure why we're there," said Roberts, a Republican nominee who joined the court in 2005.

Roberts said anyone is free to criticize the court and that some have an obligation to do so because of their positions.

"So I have no problems with that," he said. "On the other hand, there is the issue of the setting, the circumstances and the decorum. The image of having the members of one branch of government standing up, literally surrounding the Supreme Court, cheering and hollering while the court -- according the requirements of protocol -- has to sit there expressionless, I think is very troubling."

The White House responded this way through Robert Gibbs.

What is troubling is that this decision opened the floodgates for corporations and special interests to pour money into elections - drowning out the voices of average Americans," Gibbs said. "The President has long been committed to reducing the undue influence of special interests and their lobbyists over government. That is why he spoke out to condemn the decision and is working with Congress on a legislative response.

Not for nothing but the Supreme Court decides issues of Constitutionality not policy. A decision may in fact wind up helping the special interests but that can't be what the Supreme Court worries about. They only have one job. They must decide if something is constitutional. That's it. So, even if Gibbs criticism is accurate, it's totally beside the point. Nowhere in that criticism was their one mention of how this decision was wrong on Constitutionality.

So, the White House is picking fights with the Constitutional body on issues of policy. The administration has taken a much bigger effort to project a populist image. It's certainly populist to stand up to the "special interests". Still, taking on the Supreme Court is usually not all that wise.

The Supreme Court is the one branch of government where not only is everyone an "elitist" but that's what we want. I want the biggest Constiutional won on the Supreme Court there is. I want someone that can cite cases from three centuries with no problems. Maybe President Obama thinks that because he was once a Constitutional Law Professor this gives him credibility. that might be true if he was arguing matters of the Constitution. He isn't. He's simply demonizing the Supreme Court for helping the "special interests". The Supreme Court is supposed to have blind justice. Their decisions aren't supposed to concern who they help and hurt but whether they are Constitutional.

Taking on the Supreme Court on issues of Constitutionality is dicey enough, when you use them to score populist points, that is not a stance that will work.

Things have gotten even dicier with this Harry Reid statement.

"I think we've had enough of them," he said. "I think what we need are people on that bench who have been legislators, people who are lawyers, people who are academics. You look at our Supreme Court and all these people, all they know is working with people in black robes. We have got to change that."

Now, the Supreme Court should be open to all sorts of backgrounds, but such a statement misses the purpose of the Supreme Court. They decide issues of constitutionality. Having experience in passing laws is not necessary to understand the constitution.. This is a demonization of the Supreme Court which entirely misses its purpose.

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