Chief Justice stands up to White House bullying

As described in this blog on January 28th following President Obama’s state of the union address, the spectacle of a president deliberately and uncivilly criticizing the justices of the US Supreme Court who just days before had rendered a decision with which Mr. Obama disagreed, even as they sat politiely in front of him in the House chamber, was uncalled for and beneath the decorum which a president ought to practice.  This display of presidential bullying was made worse when, at the president’s implied prodding, Democratic House and Senate members stood, encircling the seated justices, and applauded the president’s ill-conceived — and, incidentally, inaccurate – remarks concerning the Court’s recent campaign finance law opinion.

Now, in answer to a question posed to him by a student at the University of Alabama School of Law on March 9th following a speech he delivered at the school, Chief Justice John Roberts politely but pointedly responded to the awkward position in which he and his colleagues were placed during the state of the union by President Obama and members of the president’s party who were present. 

The chief justice answered the student’s inquiry about the incident, first by indicating that criticism of the high Court’s decisions by the president or anyone else, is never out of place.  In our society, as Mr. Roberts noted, people have a right to criticize judges the same as they do members of the other two branches of government.

However, and as the chief justice also  stated quite clearly, criticizing the Court in that forum and in that manner raises serious questions about whether it makes sense for the justices to even bother attending such speeches in the future.  He summarized the situation as “troubling.”  He also accurately described modern states of the union speeches as nothing more than “political pep rall[ies].” 

The White House, preferring consistency to accuracy, once again, shortly after the chief justice’s March 9th remarks, continued to mischaracterize the Supreme Court’s decision that was the subject of the president’s lashing out at the Court on January 28th.

So far in this match between the Court and the White House, it’s “Advantage, Supreme Court.”

134 comments Add your comment

yawn

March 12th, 2010
6:35 am

That all you got, Bob?

Marine

March 12th, 2010
6:45 am

Thanks Obama, for standing up for us.

Mitzymy

March 12th, 2010
6:46 am

Enter your comments here

Joel Edge

March 12th, 2010
6:48 am

I often wondered, why even have a state of the union address. Of course, if you’re going to have one, it could be summed up in one of two ways. It sucks or it’s great. And everybody knows the condition already. They could stay home and save the gas money.

Trey

March 12th, 2010
6:50 am

Bob, it is my understanding that the Justices are not required to attend these events, the only specified attendees are the house, the senate; the presidents minions and other distinguished invited guests. I, as well as most of common sense America, was a tad shocked at the disrespect shown to the Justices in a national, public forum. These Justices; unlike our current ruler, er, leader, whoops, President; have worked thousands of hours to get where they are, made countless decisions for their country and now bear an immeasurable burden. The weight of the Law and the scrutiny of the Public make them accountable to fact and accuracy far more than the current regime, darn – I meant administration. The President and his court, (staff) need to realize that, in this day and age, facts are checked in minutes, opinions are formed in seconds, but the law? The Law in this country will prevail, as it has done for 200 years. The Justices attended the State of the Union out of Respect for Mr. Obama, and I applaud their decision if they opt to not attend for the upcoming 2 years. I very much doubt that Mr. Obame won’t be able to “change” their minds no matter how much he “hopes”. Many of these Justices will be on the bench after January 2013. This president – won’t.

Mitzymy

March 12th, 2010
6:51 am

The decision that the Supreme Court made was very wrong. Now the corporations are going to decide who runs our country, because they will have more money for adverizement than any candidate. It is very unfair advantage. How could they see that this was going to be fair for the citizens? They deserve to be humiliated and if they can’t take it, give that lifetime job to someone with thick skin.

Bubba

March 12th, 2010
6:55 am

I think James Buchanan was probably a worse president than Obama. I can’t really think of any others that are close. Buchanan’s policies helped lead to the Civil War. I hope we get off that easy with Obama. Buchanan did do one thing that Obama should also do: He promised not to run for a second term.

Mitzymy

March 12th, 2010
7:02 am

Trey—-You talk like the President wants to be in that office in 2013. He might be glad to give it up, who knows. He has been called every name in the book, his wife has be victimized in cartoons, his life has been threatened, and heaven only knows what else. He is trying to right the many wrongs that were in place when he got in office, and people like you find something wrong with everything he does. He is trying to get us resonable health care reform, and the very people who need it the most are telling pollsters that they don’t want it. The seniors that you see at the tea party rallies already have Medicare, and most of the others are on Medicaid and Unemployment. How else could they attend all those rallies when they should be at work. The President deserves as much respect as any other President, BUT OH, I forgot, he is Black!!!

An American

March 12th, 2010
7:08 am

The decision by the court being right or wrong, This country’s president is to be a cut above, not one who does the cutting. The presidents true colors are shown. and they are not red, white, and blue.

anOPINIONATEDsob

March 12th, 2010
7:11 am

The court is republican so you can’t be surprised that it leans toward the haves and big business interests or that it cries foul when caught in dog piles of its own making. Any who know Constitutional black letter law understand the serious faults regarding the extension of civil rights to non living entities as it leads directly to business taking money from the working class in order to select “public servants” whose interests are in line with the Chairman of the board and his platinum parachute paydays. It is nothing more nor less than a return to slavery or as known in more recent times as Communism. Now you know exactly how Ronnie the actor defeated communism, he embraced it for all those who worshiped him.

Ward

March 12th, 2010
7:17 am

The Supreme Court just reiterated what all of us should already understand; freedom is messy. Corporations have the same freedom of speech that you and I (and labor unions) do. If the corporations offend your delicate sensibilities in the next election, don’t listen to them. I do the same with NEA advertising. Get over it. And Obama, once again, shows himself as a naive, petulant fool.

Chris Broe

March 12th, 2010
7:17 am

Businessmen incorporate to avoid personal individual liablility that the corporation can absorb.

Road Scholar

March 12th, 2010
7:21 am

Trey: “… I, as well as most of common sense America, was a tad shocked at the disrespect shown to the Justices in a national, public forum. …”

And you aren’t remorseful for the disrespect that you have showed toward our president? Yawn! Two faced!

JB

March 12th, 2010
7:22 am

Hum….one is an unqualified over his head person who is trying to kill the goose, not realizing we will run out of goose eggs or even realize where the eggs come from……..The other is a judge. ” you can not lift up the downtrodden by destroying the successful” Fact:People need jobs……people need to work. Who provides jobs ? This administration is punitive. I own a company. Since Obama was elected, I’ve gone from 208 employee’s to 125…When I’m in the new Obama tax bracket, I will drop 15-20 more. If he cut my tax’s, I would probably hire 20 people….as i did with the Bush Tax cuts. Class envy will destroy the best country in the world.

Howard

March 12th, 2010
7:35 am

Me thinks Roberts has taken the word “supreme” a little to literally. Supreme court decisions have been criticized by President’s, Senators, Representatives, the media and average citizen’s since the court’s first rulings. It was just one administration and majority ago that all we heard was that the court was guilty of being too active and was “making law”. Perhaps he is too thin skinned to be in Washington…if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen. And, if he doesn’t want to go to the State of the Union address….don’t go. I’m sure Obama and all future President’s will carry on without him.

neo-Carlinist

March 12th, 2010
7:35 am

Mitzymy, wake up and smell the fair trade coffee. Corporations run the political process now. The SCOTUS ruling, just took makes the process more overt. Speaking of acronyms, the President needs to STFU in this instance. I am not fan of Roberts, but he is the one taking the high road. As I have stated before, if politicians want to eliminate influence, they need to draft legislation which mandates ALL political contributions (by lobbyists and corporations) go into a general fund to pay down the deficit or fund ALL campaigns equally. Or better yet, eliminate the process of (financially) supporting a candidate althogether. Why do you think Big Banking contributed to both the Obama campaign and the McCain campaign? Because they “win” regardless of which party has the Executive branch or which party controls the House (see: current erosion of any meaningful “banking reform:). because our government is ultimately controled by Wall Street, not Main Street. Roberts made the right call.

Silverchief

March 12th, 2010
7:36 am

Road Scholar, he is your Prez not mine, if he left office this afternoon that is too late !!!

No More Progressives!

March 12th, 2010
7:44 am

Ward

March 12th, 2010
7:17 am
The Supreme Court just reiterated what all of us should already understand; freedom is messy. Corporations have the same freedom of speech that you and I (and labor unions) do. If the corporations offend your delicate sensibilities in the next election, don’t listen to them. I do the same with NEA advertising. Get over it. And Obama, once again, shows himself as a naive, petulant fool.

Spot on, Sir!

It requires a certain level of inherent crassness to insult the Supreme Court right in front of them. This, coming from an alleged Constitutional “expert” from the vaunted halls of acedeme in Cambridge.

NXS

March 12th, 2010
7:57 am

Hey Bob,
Perhaps you could show us just where in the U.S. Constitution it says that corporations have the same rights as individuals? Funny how you and the right-wing “strict constructionists” don’t seem to have a problem when a far right court legislates from the bench (to the detriment of our nation), but whines like a bunch of spoiled brats when a decision regarding something they disagree with is “making law.” What a bunch of hypocrites… no surprise there there though.

Oh yea, and Obama is the only President to ever criticize a Supreme Court Decision… and I heard pigs can fly!

A True Patriot

March 12th, 2010
8:06 am

Let’s us all bow our heads in silent prayer for our President – Psalm 109:8 “Let his days be few; and let another take his office.”

Obama was using some more of those Chicago Style Mafia Politics; he was trying to intimidate our Supreme Court, plain and simply….most American Citizens are not dummies and see exactly what is happening…..they will let him and his thugs know about it come November. Thank you Bob Barr, a Great American, for keeping this in the limelight.

Bubba

March 12th, 2010
8:10 am

Stupid question, NSX. Where does the Constitution say political parties have the same rights as individuals? Or advocacy groups? Would you favor muzzling them as well? The obvious answer is, it isn’t the corporation or the party making the statement. Entities are unable to speak. Only people can.

Tricky

March 12th, 2010
8:12 am

And really, who cares if they attend the State of The Union. As it has historically been the annual address to congress, by the President about the condition of the nation. It also has been historically done for the President to outline his agenda. Let them stay home. He was right about one thing though. It has become a pep rally, but for some reason that only mattered this year.

An American

March 12th, 2010
8:14 am

Just face it… I never worked for a poor man. He can’t create jobs or pay his workers. I will always work for a rich man, if I want to eat, and live indoors. Go ahead Obama, get rid of the upper class, and come the next election, you will be looking for a job, food to eat, and a place indoors.

Repect

March 12th, 2010
8:16 am

The same respect and decorum the high Court held by telling citizens to their face that their rights are equal to imaginary personhood?

Hell, that just cheapens the constitutional rights for the rest of us.

If corps get the same rights as citizens, maybe they should suffer the same responsibilities? The next time a corporation commits a crime, I’ll be expecting them to serve jail time, none of this limited liability shenanigans. After all, they have the same rights as the rest of us, eh?

Rainy Night in Ga

March 12th, 2010
8:16 am

“Sic Semper Tyrannus” I think thats right….i know Im close.

9maroons

March 12th, 2010
8:19 am

Ohh poor itty bitty baby! Did the big black man hurt little justice Roberts feelings? Should we call the wahhambulance for the cry baby? Aw gonna cry baby? Poor poor put down white man. Why I think he’s so depressed he might suicide (or at least one can hope). WAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH he hurts my feelings!

Mike

March 12th, 2010
8:20 am

That’s a pretty weak piece. Advantage: AJC Competitors.

DirtyDawg

March 12th, 2010
8:29 am

I’m shocked…shocked…to hear that political commentary has made its way into the State of the Union address. But what I’m really shocked at is that you, Bob, by your criticism of the Pres’ taking exception to the ruling about corporate spending to influence elections, are tacitly endorsing said ruling. Is it Libertarian to allow corporations to pour money into elections? Because if it is you and your philosophy can go pound sand up that ‘orifice’ for all the good it will do the country.

Steven Daedalus

March 12th, 2010
8:34 am

Roberts should either resign or be impeached, he certainly doesn’t possess the characteristics of a Supreme Court Justice.

Peaches

March 12th, 2010
8:35 am

Obama was out of line. He should not have brought his opinion about a supreme court decision into the State of the Union speech. It was arrogant and condescending.
And typical.

Tired of BS

March 12th, 2010
8:48 am

It was incredibly rude of the president to engage in that type of bullying. As much as it made Obama look small, and it did, it also showed the bullying tactics used by he and his associates and supporters, ACORN, SEIU, Teamsters, and frankly, every other left wing radical group he’s associated himself with. I pray every night that he will gain wisdom, a love for this country, a desire to preserve capitalism, and the ability to look beyond color…. I’m still waiting for that prayer to be answered.
I remember thinking at the time, what a poor reflection Obama has brought on the presidency. I am very proud that the Supreme Court Justice Roberts made his observations in a public way.

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Davo

March 12th, 2010
9:05 am

I hate SOTU speeches. I wish they would seat the Speaker and VP in front of the POTUS and not behind him. I guess it’s symbolic; but with all the interuption with applause it just grates on me. Especially now with the ‘whack-a-mole’ Pelosi cheerleading to every nuance of Obamas monolog.

AP

March 12th, 2010
9:38 am

This is not Republican or Democratic issue…rather WILL impacts our day to day lives in next few years.

I think what President did was out of line but am glad he did bring such an issue to limelight.

Implication of Supreme Court’s decision will have dire consequence. Basically, now any foreign corporation owned by who know who??? (government, terrorist etc…) can influence this country’s politics. I think our countries politics should only be left to US citizens and citizens ONLY. Corporations are NOT CITIZEN and have no business directly influencing voters.

THIS IS WILL GO DOWN AS ONE OF THE WORST DECISION EVER MADE BY US SUPREME COURT.

No More Progressives!

March 12th, 2010
9:57 am

AP

March 12th, 2010
9:38 am
THIS IS WILL GO DOWN AS ONE OF THE WORST DECISION EVER MADE BY US SUPREME COURT.

Why???

luangtom

March 12th, 2010
10:02 am

You may or may not believe that a justice of the Court can have an opinion and express it and you may or may not believe that the President should keep personal opinion to himself within the State of the Union. It is ALL about exposure. Obama does not wish to be known as a good President. He wishes to be remembered as a celebrity. He has had more photo-ops, press-conferences and addresses in his first year than other Presidents have had in their full-term. It is all about exposure and this guy knows how to get it. He knew his comments would get a response and he is there to absorb all of the media attention he can get. He is not a President for the people he is a President for himself and his exposure to the public. Period. He ram-rods health-care down the throats of the nation with no concern for what the consensus of the voters want. HE wants it passed. Period. He will use an ill-conceived means to get it done through “reconciliation”. He gets his exposure and his celebrity is enhanced, if only in his eyes. Respect, he deserves none. So, let’s get on with life and pit the President against someone else other than the Supreme Court and get him more media and celebrity hype.

Sandra

March 12th, 2010
10:04 am

What I really wondered about Roberts comments is why he thought the SOTU hasn’t always been about politics. What an idiot! By the way, the Supreme Court and especially this guy thinks they are above everyone. This decision they made will help finish destroying the normal American’s freedom of speech and the idea that our opinion counts. Washington is nothing but a bunch of bought and paid for by big business bunch of bureaucrats. The reason big business literally hates President Obama is that he doesn’t buy into that.
There is no where in the constitution that says corporations should be able to influence everything in this country but that is what Roberts and company handed them. I hope he sleeps well at night because their decision should disturb the rest of us.

retiredds

March 12th, 2010
10:12 am

O.K. Bob, here is where the rubber meets the road and let’s just see if you will answer this one. Putting the squabble of the President and the Chief Justice aside as partisan politics (which has infected 125% of all issues today), if you were on the Supreme Court would you have voted for or against the decision in question. I will be anticipating your answer (if you answer), or the way you will duck the answer. It is a simple yes or no, without qualifications if you please.

GDRLA

March 12th, 2010
10:13 am

JR deserves to be criticized in whatever arena possible. He is COMPLETELY OUT OF TOUCH with realities – especially if he believes that the special interests will not overpower the voice of ‘we the people’. Corporations are a legal fiction, necessary to the reality and functioning of our modern society but corporations and special interests should not have all of the rights, privileges, and voice of REAL flesh and blood people. Just as the court was completely on point in the 2000 election campaign in light of constitutional realities but negated the actual reality of the voice of the people JR & this group of Mt Sinai voices have done so again.

I would like the chance to speak w/JR to see if he actually has any conception of what he has unleashed into our political, economic, and other realities for future years. The man is clueless and totally cut-off from modern reality and functionality of our country.

TINSTAAFL

March 12th, 2010
10:17 am

NXS
The constitution only defines what the government is allowed to do. It says nowhere that they can selectively limit speech. The first amendment reaffirms our right to free speech, as well as to our right to association. In no way do I see a way that the government is allowed to limit the free speech of an association.

AP
Let me propose an interesting quandary to you. You propose that this opens the door to foreign corporations influencing our politics, and you implicitly argue that these foreign corporations should not be given the same free speech rights that corporations in America have. I assume, in your thinking that rights should be limited to foreign entities, that you also support waterboarding of suspected terrorists, seeing as our constitutional rights should not be granted to foreigners.

TINSTAAFL

March 12th, 2010
10:21 am

Sandra, “The reason big business literally hates President Obama is that he doesn’t buy into that.”

What with the trillions of dollars that he dumps in big business’ laps, I’m sure they HATE him.

Hypocrites!

March 12th, 2010
10:23 am

I’m curious if Judge Roberts (or anyone else), is critical of President Reagan when he criticized the Supreme Court during the State of the Union address. Prayer in school and Roe v. Wade.

Or the other Presidents who have been critical of the Supreme Court;
Theodore Roosevelt, Warren Harding, Franklin Roosevelt…

So… Free Speech is “troubling”. Especially when critical of the almighty Supreme Court.

Jess

March 12th, 2010
10:24 am

Obama decided to take his shot at the Supreme court as a planned topic in his state of the union address in front of millions of people. Roberts never even made a comment about this until asked by a student at the university of Alabama. Somehow the press has made this out to be a give and take battle, however.

As far as the issue, the liberal responses prove they do believe in the Supreme Court legislating from the bench. This was purely a constitutional matter. It says nothing about their desire to give corporations more power in politics, it simply says there is not a constitutional way to prevent it. It’s easily solved by passing a law, and Obama knows this. Obama was simply bullying in the familiar Chicago style.

Jess

March 12th, 2010
10:27 am

AP,

They could pass a law tomorrow and the problems solved. If we feel the impact of this for years, it will be Congress and Obama’s fault, Not the Courts.

TINSTAAFL

March 12th, 2010
10:34 am

Jess,
No. You cannot just pass a law and solve the problem The ruling STRUCK DOWN an unconstitutional law. The only way you could make corporate campaign contributions illegal is through the amendment process, which would be very drawn out and tough. Not to mention that such an amendment to the constitution would open up a can of worms in the future with respect to it clashing with our right to freedom of association in the first amendment.

Get Real

March 12th, 2010
10:44 am

Obama is the most arrogant president ever. His so-called State of the Union Address should be called the Teleprompter Address! This man is destroying America with his Socialist Agenda while Dimocraps are being sold out by his agenda. His mofia strong arm tactics and deal making behind doors to drum up votes should be enough to call for his impeachment! Thank God Judge Roberts calls this idiot out!

Ragnar Danneskjöld

March 12th, 2010
10:44 am

I think Chief Justice Robert’s rebuttal was better form than the error-filled broadside by the classless and clueless “Constitutional Law Professor” Chauncey. Charles Krauthammer expressed a wish that I have made my own: that after the Republicans take the House of Representatives in November, the leadership ensures there are nine potentially-empty seats front and center for next year’s SotU speech.

Barck

March 12th, 2010
10:57 am

I am always right. I have never been wrong. If you think I am wrong then you are a racist. If there is a problem that I cannot fix, then it was the fault of the people before me. As promised in my second coming, I will give you an idealic society that I will control with the unions. If this makes you sick, then I will make sure you get a new govenment healtcare card so you can go get in line to see a doctor when I schedule you an appointment.

Fix-It

March 12th, 2010
11:07 am

Trey, good job, I agree 100%
Mitzymy, put down the bong and straighten up, then look at the facts. Corporations have been choosing and supporting candidates ever since we allow lobbyist to be a legal entity. The Obozo administration excepted millions of dollars from large corporations.

lmno

March 12th, 2010
11:20 am

In almost every case I think Justice Robert’s take on this is right on. However, this decision was so egregious that the President’s public tongue lashing was not out of place. In fact, it was not nearly severe enough.

The Supreme Court sold our electoral process to foriegn and local corporations for political expediency.

You have probably heard it said in regards to the limitations of free speech, “Well, you can’t yell ‘FIRE’ in a crowded movie theatre”, but that is not completely true. You are free to yell, “FIRE” if the movie theatre is in fact, on fire. In this case, the it was and the President should have spent even more time admonishing these “justices” for the decision they made.