Spurning the Supremes?
The blogosphere was set ablaze in the wake of the State of the Union address on Wednesday evening in which President Obama rebuked the Supreme Court's recent decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The President couched his remarks with deference to the separation of powers and then proceeded to call the Court's 5-4 decision in favor of Citizens United, "a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans." In doing so, President Obama took an "unprecedented" step of assailing the judiciary in the forum more traditionally reserved for the hardnosed evaluation of the legislative and executive branches.
The President did indeed strike a disciplinary tone in his address, but one sprinkled with measured sympathy. Like a frustrated father rounding his rambunctious progeny to the kitchen table, Obama chastised sternly while assuring the prodigal Congress of his unyielding faith in its potential to rise above partisanship and serve the American people. "Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it's not leadership" Obama noted, censuring the GOP's apparent resolve to block the progress of legislation in 2009. And then with a quick note of optimism he concluded the thought, "We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions. So let's show the American people that we can do it together." Were it a wayward teen, the words would read, "You're grounded because I love you."
But what about the nine Supremes? Where do they fit into this family tree? Are they children to be chastised? Or are they elders to be esteemed? Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) would choose the former, having commented, "They [the Justices] got a real world reminder tonight, if you make a boneheaded decision, someone's going to call you out on it." He is joined by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) who are trying to legislate around the Court's decision.
On the other side, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) called the President's rebuke "inappropriate" no doubt agreeing with Prof. Randy Barnett who wrote in the Wall Street Journal, that criticism of the highest Court has its time and place, "but not when the justices are in attendance as a courtesy to him [President Obama], seated as a captive audience on national television."
The most surprising reaction has come from Prof. Lucas Powe of the University of Texas-Austin Law School, a noted Supreme Court historian, who said he wouldn't be surprised if no Supreme Court justices attend the State of the Union next year after the president's "unusual" criticism.
What do you think? Did President Obama spurn the Supremes? Or should they be subject to the same review as their legislative and executive counterparts? Are they children or elders? Let me know where you place the Supremes in your picture of the federal family tree.