President Obama’s four-sentence dissent last night to the Supreme Court’s controversial decision in Citizens United has drawn an awful lot of commentary and complaint.
Sen. Orrin Hatch says “I thought it was kind of rude” to say such things with justices in the chamber. A headline at CBS says “Obama Hammers Supreme Court;” a blog at Legal Times says Obama gave the court a “tongue-lashing.” He is said to have denounced the court, and to have committed “a breach of decorum (that) represents the worst of Washington politics.” Over at National Review, Marc Thiessen claims Obama “scolded the justices of the Supreme Court in front of their faces and led the entire Democratic side of the aisle into cheering his taunts.”
My oh my, I think we better hang a “No Vacancy” sign on all the fainting couches across the land.
Here’s what Obama said about the ruling in its entirety, word for word:
“With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests –- including foreign corporations –- to spend without limit in our elections. I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people. And I’d urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to correct some of these problems.”
Obama didn’t say anything more — and a lot less — than the four dissenters in that case had written. Earlier this week, former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, a longtime conservative, was considerably more pointed in her criticism than Obama had been. As a former state legislator who also ran for election as a judge, she has a far more informed understanding of the ruling’s real-life impact than her former colleagues demonstrated.
It’s also downright touching to see the Court’s reputation suddenly defended by Republicans who for decades have made Court-bashing a standard part of their rhetoric. The ruling in Citizens United was a direct swipe at the powers of the legislative and executive branches to regulate their own elections. It is perfectly reasonable and under the Constitution even necessary for the latter two branches to make their displeasure known.
You know, free speech and all that?