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.