Obama insults Supreme Court with uncivil remarks

Democrat partisans largely cheered President Barack Obama’s state of the union speech Wednesday night; Republican die-hards pretty much panned it.  Most Americans probably tuned out the far-too-long speech.  The media analyzed it six ways to Sunday because, well — because that’s just what they do. 

As with most such speeches in recent years by Republican and Democratic presidents alike, Obama’s first state of the union address was nothing more than a laundry list of sound bites and self-congratulatory remarks crammed into the ceremonial box of  a “state of the union address.” 

There was, however, one part of the president’s 70-minute speech that is deserving of serious opprobrium; and this has nothing to do with partisanship.  In a truly unprecedented display of incivility, Obama in his speech explicitly criticized a particular, recent decision by the Supreme Court of the United States, and then called on the Congress to pass legislation overturning the decision.  He did this with the nine justices of the Court sitting directly in front of him.  Not only did the president display a gross lack of grace in doing this, but many members of Congress in the audience surrounding the seated justices threw fuel on the fire by standing and pointedly applauding the preident’s remarks directed at the justices.

This unpresidential display of rudeness far exceeds in infamy last year’s outburst of ”you lie” made by one Republican congressman during a less-weighty address to a joint House-Senate audience.  Obama’s remarks Wednesday night were hardly a spontaneous outburst in response to something that happened during the state of the union.  The words were deliberately and with premeditation inserted into the speech by Obama’s speech writers; done obviously with his approval.  He knew exactly what he was doing.

What the President was doing was taking a cheap, political shot at the Supreme Court – or at least one aimed at the five justices who voted in the majority opinion last week overturning a portion of the federal election laws that had made it illegal for corporations and labor unions to spend money to disseminate political views.  In his insulting remarks to the justices seated in front of him, the President falsely claimed that the High Court ruling would “open the floodgates for special interests” to spend unlimited amounts in support of candidates.  In fact, the ruling did nothing of the sort; it did not even address contributions to candidates.  The opinion with which the Presdient so obviously and vehemently disagrees simply allowed for corporations to be able to exercise their rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution, to spend their lawful money to disseminate political advocacy through such medium as movies. 

In asking the Congress “to right this wrong” of the ruling by the Court, Obama displayed further ignorance of that about which he was speaking.  The fact is, the case last week specifically overturned an Act of the Congress that had taken away the long-recognized rights of corporations to express themselves and their shareholders under the First Amendment.  If Congress were to heed the president’s call, it would be deliberately passing legislation that already had been declared unconstitutional!  Clearly, the absurdity of such an argument didn’t stand in the way of a president all-too-eager to score political points wherever he can — even at the expense of deliberately trying to demean the one institution in our country that should remain outside the arena in which such attacks are so often made these days.  President Obama should know this, and it is disappointing in the extreme that he appears not to.

154 comments Add your comment

Joseph W. Fay

January 28th, 2010
2:39 pm

The opinion is on the Supreme Court website, here: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/09pdf/08-205.pdf

Robert Littel

January 28th, 2010
2:47 pm

This court, that selected the clown prince to assume The White House in 2000, has already shown where their loyalties lie. As a corporate owned entity, (just like the entire Republican Party and a good portion of the Democratic Party), they have made a mockery of what qualifies as an individual and the rights supposedly guaranteed to each and every one of us. This corporate owned court has declared war against The Constitution that it is supposed to protect, much the way our corporate owned legislators have in their continuing effort to establish elite autocratic rule by a small, but extremely wealthy ( as in powerful) “Uber-Class” whose only concern is gaining more power for themselves. When about 4000 individuals control 1/2 of all the wealth in the country, it cannot help but become totally corrupted and, Mr Barr, you are in their doing your bit, in service to those who own your butt too.

ugaaccountant

January 28th, 2010
2:55 pm

This was Obama’s version of the “you lie” incident.

T Heil

January 28th, 2010
3:21 pm

Ok Robert…. I’m not sure I agree with you completely but supposing you are correct — what do we do about it?

sprylie

January 28th, 2010
3:48 pm

Since when was disagreement and argument in government a horrible sin to be labelled “uncivil”? Debate is the heart of democracy, of civilization. Good grief. He didn’t call them names. He opined.

Indigo

January 28th, 2010
3:55 pm

Sorry Bob, but you are wrong on this one.

Corporations are not people, regardless of the amendment that supposedly gave them “Personhood”.

I dislike Obama, but I dislike Corporations even more.

“The term ‘free market’ is really a euphemism. What the far right actually means by this term is ‘lawless market.’ In a lawless market, entrepreneurs can get away with privatizing the benefits of the market (profits), while socializing its costs (like pollution). Uncomfortable with the concept of a lawless market?

The far right will try to reassure you with claims that the market can produce its own laws, either as a commodity bought and sold on the market, or through natural market mechanisms like the “invisible hand” or the Coase theorem. But it is interesting to note that even if the entrepreneurs don’t take the more likely shortcut of creating their own state, this type of law removes the creation of law from democratic legislatures and gives it to authoritarian business owners and landlords. And since you get what you pay for, “purchased law” will primarily benefit its purchasers.

Society might as well return to aristocracy directly”

-Steve Kangas

YouAreUnCivil

January 28th, 2010
3:57 pm

UNCIVIL???? You have got to be kidding. I’ll give you UNCIVIL – those “idiots” are selling out our country to big corporations. A little more uncivil would be “STUPID IDIOTS”, “Paid For Idiots” and “Incompetent Clowns”.

Your column is more UNCIVIL than anything said last night.

WOLF 182

January 28th, 2010
3:59 pm

Speaking to the comments by Robert Little. The court to which he alludes did not annoint George W. Bush. They made a ruling that Robert disagrees with so he villfied them. Mr. Barr wrote a well expressed column that Mr. Littel disagreed with, so according to Littel, Barr is doing his part to establish a plutarchic autocracy.
It takes a big person to engage in civil dialogue, not a Littel.

WOLF 182

January 28th, 2010
4:09 pm

Orwell was right when he envisioned socialists redefining words to control avenues of understanding.
“Free Markets” are not unrestricted in the way it has been defined above.
“Corporations” are recognized as not being people but as being “Corporations”(which by law have some rights and abilities in law to act as a person).
The”Far Right” is a term that was thrown in and then defined by a less than fair person who stooped to a straw man attack on capitalists and I suppose Republicans.
I am a poor multi-ethnic unemploYed Libertarian. While I don’t like Republicans, the attacks being expressed these day force many of us in the middle to recoil.

And yes, Obama was extremely uncivil. There are well established traditions of decorum and they have value. You must not destroy what you cannot replace. And Obama cannot replace civility, so perhaps he should show respect. There are appropriate avenues of expression that we should use before becoming hostile. And sometimes, just because people disagree, they don’t have the right to fight.

WOLF 182

January 28th, 2010
4:10 pm

Sorry if I was uncivil. Let’s just try to talk fairly, okay?

David

January 28th, 2010
4:12 pm

Yeah, yeah, yeah, Mr. Barr, blah, blah, blah. I applaud the President for standing up to the Court and against its bone-headed decision. This is just further evidence of something I have often thought, that there must be some unwritten requirement that arrogance be a prerequisite for sitting on the bench, at any level.

Allen Lewis

January 28th, 2010
4:20 pm

A corporation is nothing more than a collection of individuals (shareholders) who voluntarily associate with each other to achieve a common goal. Typically that goal is to make money. The real problem is not that corporations or rich people or special interest groups make political contributions; the problem is that we have a political system where the people allow the government (and its criminal politicians) to divert resources away from the people and towards their friends and contributors.

Telling a group of individuals that they may not act in their own self-interest and exercise their right to collective free speech is exactly the same thing as telling an individual that he cannot act in his own self-interest and exercise his individual right to free speech. Individuals do not give up their rights simply because they choose to freely associate with other individuals.

If the government were properly constrained to its only legitimate function – the protection of individual rights – political contributions would not matter one whit, because politicians would be powerless to dispense political favors and graft.

jconservative

January 28th, 2010
4:36 pm

The decision by the Court allows a domestic corporation, one chartered in the US, to spend whatever it wants on political advocacy. This means CITGO, a US chartered domestic corporation owned by Venezuela to
advocate for a particular candidate or issue. They can’t vote for Hillary but they can spend $20 million on a TV campaign to adnavce her election. That is what Congress needs to change.

DirtyDawg

January 28th, 2010
4:50 pm

Bob, one would think that you’re planning to run for office again. I mean all the decision by this SCOTUS means is that the money politicians can make while in office will multiply enormously. The only thing that will save this country is public financing of campaigns, combined with drastic limits on both the length of campaigns and the types of advertising allowed. Until we make it unnecessary for politicians to solicit campaign contributions they’ll have all the ‘cover’ they’ll need to get as much as they can for as long as they can – regardless of what they may actually spend.

Lynn

January 28th, 2010
5:09 pm

The irreverence and arrogance that President Obama displayed in his remarks about the Supreme Court decision in his State of the Union speech should be a “wake up call” to all Americans. In order to guarantee the checks and balances of the three branches of government, the Supreme Court must always faacilitate their decisions in political neutrality.

If President Obama would stoop so low as to criticize, judge and disrespect the Supreme Court…..what are we Americans to be believe he thinks of us?

Chris Broe

January 28th, 2010
5:14 pm

Bob Barr is…..RIGHT! Obama got a little out of line. a little insulting. I heard things.

I heard things.

Tricky

January 28th, 2010
5:38 pm

The speech is called the State of The Union for a reason. President Obama has every right to discuss the current events that affects the country as he, the POTUS sees it. Just because the Supremes were in attendance means nothing. He simply stated that their recent decision was wrong, he can do that. Just because you don’t agree with his stance on this issue is irrelevant. He is giving the “State” of the union because he is President of the United States. Now compare that to Joe Wilson who interrupted the president during his speech to congress, now that was rude. You were so close, you switched parties, started using logic, and then someone “erased” you. Was it Limbaugh?

tipster

January 28th, 2010
5:39 pm

Lynn @ 5:09 “the Supreme Court must always facilitate their decisions in political neutrality.” Are you kidding me? Did you actually type that with a straight face, or were you laughing as hard as I am now at that line?

Otto

January 28th, 2010
5:43 pm

Nothing uncivil – let alone insulting, irreverent or arrogant – about a simple statement of disagreement. The Supreme Court chose to vacate decades of precedent and the President called them on it.

Robert Littel

January 28th, 2010
5:49 pm

T Heil – Recognizing the problem is difficult enough without having to come up with a solution all by myself. To think that I would presume having the answer, having once posed the question, would be the height of arrogance. I can no more turn this dinosaur in the bath-tub around, than the discoverer of AIDS could, upon that discovery, then instantly produce the cure.

We have already been co-opted, and with a basically distracted, disinterested, ignorant electorate (what else can you call “Independent Voters” who jump from one side to the other in the theater that is political discourse in this country) and they are predisposed to not rocking the boat. There are things that must be done, but whether they can be done may determine if we can wrest control away from the “Uber-Class” and again give meaning to the ideals of our founders. When 1 out of every 2 dollars sits in the pockets of so few people, there is not a snow-ball’s chance in hell that institutionalized corruption was not responsible for that accumulation, or that they will stop at anything to maintain that advantage. The Constitutional Republic has already been overthrown, right under our noses and without the awareness of our supposed highly educated citizens. It may require a counter-revolution and a deconcentration of obscene wealth to to put teeth back into the system our founders strove to establish, but we are definitely not prepared for the taste of blood the usurpers are going to require of us in the attempt. As long as the abused symbols of our heritage are being wielded by mindless drones (teabagger types), I don’t think reason will get off the ground.

What Me Worry

January 28th, 2010
5:51 pm

McCain-Feingold does nothing to address the real corrupting influence of corporate money in politics. All it did and does is protect incumbents from competition of ideas. If a group can’t express it’s political beliefs 60 days prior to an election then who benefits? Likely the incumbent from name recoginition.

If you want to keep corporate money out of politicians hands then you should be looking at their Leadership PAC’s.

Chambliss spent $500,000 on golfing and the like for him and his buddies in 2008. This seems especially odd since his net worth is under $500,000. Rangel(NY) spent $64,000, of his PAC money, on a portriat of himself. Reid(NV) spent $65,000 on casinos out of his PAC account. Schumer(NY) spent $47,000 on the Yankees and Giants, PAC money of course. The list goes on and on.

Lynn

January 28th, 2010
6:14 pm

To Tipster:

Under the constitution, the responsibility of the Supreme Court is to “invalidate legislation or executive actions, which in the court’s considered judgment, conflict with the Constitution. This is to ensure that Rule of Law, under interpretation of the Constitution is followed. The Supreme Court decision was a “reversal” of legislation previously passed but never challenged in the Court.

Under your interpretation, the President, Senate and Congress are free to violate laws as they chose, which by definition is government tyranny.

Should President Obama decide to take possession of your home/property because he wants to build a 4-car garage to park his limos in (ignoring the law of eminent domain) …… Should President Obama decide that you make too much money, should he be permitted to reduce your salary to 50%….. Should President Obama decides the average family will be limited to two children and therefore any child in excess becomes a property of the government…….

Would you want the existence and power of a Supreme Court to protect your rights as an American?

We are Americans first…..forget the D’s, the R’s and the I’s behind our names. If America doesn’t wake up soon, this President and this Congress will evoke anarchy on our beloved nation.

ugaaccountant

January 28th, 2010
6:19 pm

Otto

January 28th, 2010
5:43 pm
Nothing uncivil – let alone insulting, irreverent or arrogant – about a simple statement of disagreement. The Supreme Court chose to vacate decades of precedent and the President called them on it.

What are you talking about? The Supreme Court followed the precedent in this case. The constitutional point here was whether coprorations had rights. As usual, they said yes. This is a case where a neutral justice following the consitution and precedent would rule in favor of the corporations.

I don’t think any justices particularly “wanted” to allow this. They know it makes them look bad. But as supreme court justices they had an obligation to act as they did. Honestly, it’s embarassing that this was not a 9-0 decision.

Rational Person

January 28th, 2010
7:43 pm

Let’s remember that Scalia is the same skuzzball who said a month or so ago that it was perfectly okay to execute an innocent man–if “due process” had been observed. Thank God, he didn’t win that one.

You’re not supposed to be civil to people like that.

joan

January 28th, 2010
7:46 pm

Well, the Supremes were only following the statutory law. If there was a problem with it, you have to understand that the drafters of the Act in Congress were the culprits. Congress doesn’t do a whole lot right, so I am not surprised. On the other hand, corporations will have to declare and limit their contributions. How are corporate contributions any different than those of the thousands of PAC organizations, or Unions, who take member money and use it according to the management of the PAC or Union decide? Obama was complaining that foreign corporations will be able to contribute, but the decision expressly excludes them. You need to read the decision, and then opine.

Hank Williams Jr.

January 28th, 2010
8:21 pm

” THE PREACHER MAN SAID IT’S THE END OF TIME, THE MISSISSIPI RIVER IS A GOIN’ DRY,
THE INTEREST IS UP AND THE STOCK MARKETS DOWN AND YOU ONLY GET MUGGED IF YOU GO DOWNTOWN.
I LIVE BACK IN THE WOODS YOU SEE, MY WOMAN AND THE KIDS AND THE DOGS AND ME, IV’E GOT A SHOTGUN A RIFLE AND A FOUR WHEEL DRIVE, A COUNTRY BOY CAN SURVIVE!!!
BECAUSE YOU CANT STARVE US OUT, MAKE US RUN, WERE THE OL’ BOYS RAISED ON SHOTGUNS,
WE SAY GRACE, WE SAY MAM, IF YOU AINT INTO THAT,WE DONT GIVE A DAMN.
WERE FROM NORTH CALIFORNIA, SOUTH ALABAM’, LITTLE OL’ TOWNS AROUND THIS LAND, WECAN SKIN A BUCK, WE CAN RUN A TROT LINE, THEY AINT TOO MANY THINGS THESE OL’ BOYS CAN’T DO.
A COUNTRY BOY CAN SURVIVE,COUNTRY FOLKS CAN SURVIVE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

OH, AND ABOUT LAST NIGHT……………
BELIEVE THE LIES IF YOU WANT, I DO NOT.

Bob Adams

January 28th, 2010
8:53 pm

It would seem we all watched and heard all that was stated in the state of the union given by president Obama.
We however differ on what was said and how it was percieved.
There is however one area that we should all agree on:

The greatest danger to this country of ours is not from terror but from the 500 + – people that were in attendence including some in black robes that put there interest and the party interest ahead of the interest of the country. Any member of the supreme court that felt insulted by the remarks only does so because he or she is not sure that they did the right thing.

chazz

January 28th, 2010
9:37 pm

Barack Insane Obummer = the “gringo” version of “el loco” Hugo Chavez.

What Me Worry

January 28th, 2010
11:09 pm

Bob Adams is right on. I could see the justices, in the majority decision, being annoyed if they thought they were right.

Jath

January 29th, 2010
12:57 am

The man who is charged with the great responsibility of defending the Supreme Court chastised them in the “State of the Union.” If that is not uncivilized it is at least irresponsible. It sends the message that the Supreme Court is at the service of the President not the American people. He has every right to express his opinion on the ruling, but not with them sitting at his feet. Never mind whether the President’s opinion is right or wrong. Very irresponsible.

FloridaHopeful

January 29th, 2010
4:26 am

I can’t fathom why you can’t understand that your savior Barak Obama has just discounted our judicial system from the highest level. It is the people’s decision where they want to spend their money and if they want to dump it on a democratic or republican candidate, it is their right. The Supreme Court made that quite clear on the grounds of the Constitiution. Does anybody remember the Constitution? This is the early steps of dictatorship..Open your eyes. The Supreme Court is comprised of different beliefs from different parties. It is bipartisainship at its best in this nation. The president just chastised them in front of the entire nation. This is in turn an insult to the peolpe of the United States of America.

Leigh

January 29th, 2010
5:50 am

It doesn’t matter whether the ruling of the Supreme Court was right or wrong, what matters is that the Supreme Court members were invited guests of the President and the White House and were seated at the “best seats in the house” directly in front of the President. This was not the time or place for a “tongue lashing” by the President to the honorable Supreme Court Justices. It was tactless and rude. I give Obama an “F” on this one.

Captain America

January 29th, 2010
6:57 am

“It sends the message that the Supreme Court is at the service of the President not the American people. ”
The Supreme Court just sent the message that they are at the service of corporate criminals.

Captain America

January 29th, 2010
7:04 am

Before all of you right-wing corporatists get too happy about this ruling, consider this: the ruling also gives the same rights to unions and advocacy groups like PETA and Moveon.org.

Bubba

January 29th, 2010
7:35 am

Even the NYT says Obama lied in his comments on the SCOTUS decision. You guys defending him must REALLY be in lockstep.

Eric

January 29th, 2010
8:06 am

Mr. Barr, I’ve almost always been in agreement with your views, but not this time. Obama was right to express outrage in the Court’s decision. “Corporate rights” are artificial, not natural as with humans. Legal or not, I’m glad someone (Mr. Obama) is finally taking a stand and giving power back to the people. I’m so very surprised you’re not on the same page, given all the other “Big Brother” and other corporate-driven policy-making in this country that you so well critique.

Glenn

January 29th, 2010
8:21 am

I have not been a fan of President Obama either but on this issue he was right . Democracy & politicians should not be for sale . Unfortunately he as well as all politicians are self serving hypocrites .

3rd Party Guy

January 29th, 2010
8:21 am

Captain America, good point; there are plenty of organized (crime) groups who will get to “advocate” again. But then, all those little groups just roll right up into the same two crappy organizations we’ve enjoyed for decades. Of course, those two corrupt organizations are just puppet organizations themselves.

Bob

January 29th, 2010
8:26 am

rlittlemind, This court has several new members since they ruled 7-2 that democrats had to treat all voters in Florida equally, don’t be such a dunce, learn the ruling.

Bob

January 29th, 2010
8:29 am

Obo lied when he said this opens up the elections to foreigners. The same rules are in place making it illegal for foreign donations like the ones algore got from china.

tipster

January 29th, 2010
8:35 am

Uh, Lynn, I don’t know how to break this to you, but I didn’t argue for or against the Supreme Court ruling. I just had a great chuckle at your line saying the Court must act in political neutrality. Do you honestly believe they do? If so, can you explain why most of their decisions about politically hot issues, i.e. guns, abortion, campaign finance, etc., are made with 5-4 splits along political lines according to who appointed them. Every election it is an issue. There are exceptions, but not many. But the part of your last post at 6:14 pm that puzzled me was this “Under your interpretation, the President, Senate and Congress are free to violate laws as they chose, which by definition is government tyranny.” I have re-read my post several times and have tried to figure out where I made an interpretation like that. So I can only come to two conclusions: either you are so rabid in your right-wing beliefs that YOU misinterpreted what I wrote, or you just made it up. I know what I believe.

Fred Smith

January 29th, 2010
8:58 am

Littel (above) provides a justifiably emotional insight into what are the actual data concerning the moneyed power and their control of the world. The court DID open the door to even faster destruction of what little is left of a democracy. Barr, it would be rather clear you do not support free speech, so one can only conclude you’re either a dupe or a tool of the elitists.

Freedom Line Blog » Morning Links

January 29th, 2010
9:08 am

[...] – GDP Expands at 5.7% Rate Rep. Bob Barr – Obama Insults Supreme Court National Review Online – Is this Administration Carteresque? The Daily Caller – The State of [...]

joe cur

January 29th, 2010
9:17 am

Now maybe we will be able to buy better politicians. Everybody pays.

sam

January 29th, 2010
9:31 am

boo hoo!….a decision that is so obvious a nod to big money and their interests deserves to be called out in front of everyone. where are the complaints of judicial activism? what if i work for that company or am a shareholder and happen to disagree with their ‘free speech’ ? in affect it’s my money they’re using…..this is just plain wrong and to cloak it in ‘free speech’ is a joke. And hey, how about a little nod to the president for standing up to the labor unions who benefit from this decision? not bad for a guy who is supposedly in bed with unions..

Chris

January 29th, 2010
9:41 am

Look for the left to start articles of impeachment against Samuel Alito. Given that John Conyers, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, is just as radical as Obama, it will come soon.

Intown Lib

January 29th, 2010
9:51 am

I don’t think this rose to the level of the “You lie!” incident but, it was uncomfortably uncivil and felt inappropriate to this moderate liberal counselor.

sam

January 29th, 2010
9:55 am

why is it uncivil to point out a decision they made and say why he disagrees ?

Harry

January 29th, 2010
10:30 am

Most of these comments are populist rhetoric and display a grotesque lack of understanding of the U.S. Constitution, the separation of powers, and the U.S. political system. The case in question had nothing to do with a corporation making direct political contributions. That ban remains.

The case in question dealt with a non-profit corporation spending money to make a disseminate a film that was critical of a presidential candidate. That is the non-profit advocated against a candidate. What can be more basic to free speech than that? Individuals may choose to form a non-profit to ban together and raise funds to advocate for or against a candidate. Meanwhile, Oprah, Inc. has only to endorse a particular candidate to garner the candidate millions in free publicity and the votes of her legions of fans. What is the difference? Wasn’t it Mr. Cheap Shot himself who got the benefit that? Should we outlaw Oprah?

Meanwhile, the real corrupt influence in DC is the millions that politicians make in honorariums and the invites to weekends at resorts where lobbyists have them captive. Millions are raised from “individuals” by putting the squeeze on executives at corporations to “personally” donate to the candidate of the company’s choosing. These bundled “individual” checks are then passed to the candidate as coming from XYZ Corp. Wake up people! You are all missing the real corruption while focusing on the side show thrown for you by Congress.

Mr. Barr was right.

The Supreme Court is supposed to act independently of political influences, which is why they’re appointed for life and can’t be “fired.” In fact, many a Justice has bitten the hand of the faction that got them appointed. The Supreme Court is, in fact, an anti-majoritarian influence that protects the rights of the individual against the will of the many, as they did in this case.

"Dave

January 29th, 2010
10:36 am

Did anyone here read the decision or the complaint? This ruling has nothing to do with financing from corporations. That is the blurb this Administration has shot out to the media and you have obliously taken the bait. This is about free speech. This is about cencorship. The corporation in the complaint was not a Wall Street financial giant, it was a small group of concerned citizens that had formed a small Corporation to make a film about a political candidate they were not in favor of. They were not allowed to express themselves and voice their beliefs. I am sure that most of you are opposed to political censorship and are supportive of the first amendment. I see the ruling as not a ruling of politics but rather one that upholds the constitution.