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Respect for the Court, blah, blah, blah...... Part ll


My former Justice Department colleague Ed Whelan reflects my view of President Obama's grandstanding attack on the Supreme Court and Justice Alito's mildly demonstrative response to it.  The only thing I would add is that it's unfortunate, and in my view disrespectful, for the President to dress down the Justices to their face, as they remain seated, like misbehaving children, directly in front of him: 


Over the years, no matter who has been president, I have come to detest the State of the Union address, in part for its absurd everything-and-the-kitchen-sink policy prescriptions, in part for the endless episodes of staged applause.  I don't know when or why the tradition developed of Supreme Court justices attending the speech, but it strikes me as a tradition worth abandoning. 


A few thoughts in connection with last night:


1.  In our system of separated powers, I think that it's entirely proper and healthy for a president to engage in responsible criticism of a Supreme Court decision.  (And so did, among others, Abraham Lincoln.)  If there's something seemingly impolite about offering that criticism in a State of the Union address when justices are present, I think that's a good reason that justices should not attend.


2.  President Obama's criticism of the Court's recent Citizens United decision was demagogic mendacity.  (As Linda Greenhouse points out, Obama was also wrong in asserting that the decision "reversed a century of law.")  That--not the mere fact of criticism--is what made it improper.


3.  Perhaps it would have been more politic if Justice Alito had managed to remain stone-faced during Obama's demagoguery, but I find it encouraging and refreshing that, notwithstanding his years in D.C., he retains the capacity to be jarred by lies.  (It's also impressive that Alito was still paying attention; Justice Ginsburg evidently fell asleep during the drone-a-thon.)


I am more cynical about this particular controversy. I don't think the public cares much about Citizens United. This is "inside the beltway" stuff and the public has long ago wisely concluded that there is no way you will ever genuinely regulate the amount of money given to politicians. My opinion has nothing to do with the merits of the decision. I just don't think it is an issue that has much traction once you get beyond the confines of the District of Columbia.

Obama has a stunning lack of class--from the "lipstick on the pig", to the juvenile middle finger scratch, to the iPod speeches to the Queen of England, to the Jessica Simpson comments and now a nakedly partisan attack on invitees to the State of the Union Address.

One simply does not insult invited guests, and certainly doesn't insult invited guests have no ability to fight back. This guy is less likable than John Kerry.

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