Here’s a moment from Obama’s SOTU that’s gotten a lot of coverage:
There are several things wrong with what Obama did here. The first is the questionable nature of his factual assertion, which was the reason Alito shook his head and mouthed “not true.” Law professor Bradley A. Smith writes:
The Court held that 2 U.S.C. Section 441a, which prohibits all corporate political spending, is unconstitutional. Foreign nationals, specifically defined to include foreign corporations, are prohibiting from making “a contribution or donation of money or ather thing of value, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation, in connection with a Federal, State or local election” under 2 U.S.C. Section 441e, which was not at issue in the case. Foreign corporations are also prohibited, under 2 U.S.C. 441e, from making any contribution or donation to any committee of any political party, and they prohibited from making any “expenditure, independent expenditure, or disbursement for an electioneering communication.”
Smith goes on to add that Obama’s statement that the SCOTUS decision in Citizens United “open[ed] the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections,” was “either blithering ignorance of the law, or demogoguery of the worst kind.”
I happen to think it may be both; are they always mutually exclusive? But hey, what do you expect; it’s not like Obama’s a law professor or anything.
What’s more, as many commenters at the law blog Volokh Conspiracy have pointed out, it was crass, unpresidential, and demagogic of Obama to make his criticism of the SCOTUS decision part of his SOTU address, a venue at which the Justices are supposed to sit stoney-faced and not respond. Once Obama called the Justices out, Democrat members of Congress surrounding them jumped up to clap and cheer in the usual jack-in-the-box fashion, compounding the public humiliation of another equal branch of government—the judiciary. And, unlike politicians, the Supremes are not allowed to respond as long as they hold office. They were, and still are, sitting ducks.
No wonder Alito made his silent, small (and probably almost unconscious) protest to what was a cheap and profoundly classless shot by Obama and his follower Democrats.
In addition, in characteristic fashion (and this is the thing that makes Obama’s misrepresentations so fascinatingly Orwellian), the activity that Obama falsely said the SCOTUS decision allowed—contributions from foreign corporations—is somewhat akin (although not identical) to the very method Obama most likely used (illegally) in his own campaign for president: foreign contributions, in his case from small donors.
A final observation: Obama’s disrespect for the SCOTUS began with the remark, “with all due deference.” That phrase (or another very much like it, “with all due respect”) is usually a telling clue that the person uttering it is about to say something nondeferential and downright disrespectful. It’s somewhat like Obama’s favorite, “Let me be clear,” which almost inevitably signals that an especially murky remark is coming up.
[ADDENDUM: Here's more from Randy Barnett, a law professor at Georgetown:
In the history of the State of the Union has any President ever called out the Supreme Court by name, and egged on the Congress to jeer a Supreme Court decision, while the Justices were seated politely before him surrounded by hundreds Congressmen? To call upon the Congress to countermand (somehow) by statute a constitutional decision, indeed a decision applying the First Amendment? What can this possibly accomplish besides alienating Justice Kennedy who wrote the opinion being attacked. Contrary to what we heard during the last administration, the Court may certainly be the object of presidential criticism without posing any threat to its independence. But this was a truly shocking lack of decorum and disrespect towards the Supreme Court for which an apology is in order. A new tone indeed.
The tone isn't so new, if you come from Chicago.]