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Monday, January 24, 2011

Should They Stay or Should They Go?

This was in 4 separate posts.

part I
Last year in the State of the Union Address, Pressident Obama said,"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. (Applause.) I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. (Applause.) 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."

Justice Alito appeared to disagree with the President's interpretation of the Court’s Citizens United decision.

The President had accused the Court of admitting foreigners into the funding of our elections.

I thought it was excessive.

Part 2
Will the members of the Supreme Court come to the State of the Union?
After that Presidential condemnation from the podium, some of us wonder which members of the Supreme Court will attend the State of the Union address on Tuesday night. Scalia never attends because he says they “sit there like bumps on a log”, and Thomas thinks it is too partisan. Roberts and Alito have stated their discomfort with the Congressional “cheering and hollering” while they are required to sit there unmoved. Breyer always attends. I would expect that the new ones, Sotomayor and Kagan, would attend. The other two are toss-ups. My bet is Ginsburg will go (if healthy) and Kennedy won’t. It is possible though, that some of the four on the left will also have been offended by the President’s remarks about the Court last year and will not attend.
I agree with those who think that a partisan divide in the attendees is probably not a good idea.
I think that the policy should be changed and both the Court and the Military (the nonpolitical parts of the government) should not participate at all.

Part 3
As to the disagreement between Justice Alito and the President about exactly what the Citizens United decision said, it is worth noting that Pulitzer prize winner LINDA GREENHOUSE, who writes about the court for the NY Times, wrote: “Indeed, Mr. Obama’s description of the holding of the case was imprecise. He said the court had “reversed a century of law.
The law that Congress enacted in the populist days of the early 20th century prohibited direct corporate contributions to political campaigns. That law was not at issue in the Citizens United case, and is still on the books.”

Using the principle of "statement contrary to presumed bias" we can say that if someone at the NY Times says that Obama was "imprecise" you can read that as: wrong.

Part 4
Media Matters says media conservatives have falsely claimed Obama's Supreme Court criticism was "unprecedented.” For example, MM says that: President Warren G. Harding criticized the court for putting "this problem outside the proper domain of Federal regulation until the Constitution is so amended as to give the Congress indubitable authority. I recommend the submission of such an amendment."
But if you replace MM’s 5 words: “criticized the court for putting” with the eight words that Harding actually spoke you will see that there is no criticism at all. “The decision of the Supreme Court has put this problem outside the proper domain of Federal regulation until the Constitution is so amended as to give the Congress indubitable authority. I recommend the submission of such an amendment.”
He made an observation, not a criticism. He does not even indicate that he disagrees with the Court’s opinion. He notes that the Court has made a ruling and that he favors a constitutional amendment to overturn that ruling. (The rest of this paragraph was revised at 8:20 AM -1-24-11)(I think this was an example of an "activist conservative Court" that was reading into the Constitution something that wasn't there. The issue was whether Congress had the right to write child labor laws. Congress has since legislated on that question without a specific amendment.)
He may have criticized them elsewhere but not there.

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