January 28th, 2010

Obama’s SOTU and the Supremes: why Alito mouthed “not true”

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.]

70 Responses to “Obama’s SOTU and the Supremes: why Alito mouthed “not true””

  1. A diminished, petty President « Public Secrets Says:

    [...] True” Moment at Reason; Fausta, who provides quotes about why Obama was wrong and demagogic; neo-neocon; and Hot [...]

  2. Steven Says:

    If you say “with all due respect,” then you can say whatever you want, no matter how insulting. It’s in the Geneva Convention!


  3. Amy Says:

    “…it’s not like Obama’s a law professor or anything.” Heh.

  4. mizpants Says:

    What a boorish performance.
    The expression “with all due ….” has always bugged me. It’s that “due” that carries the snarkiness. Because I’m fair minded, I’ll give you all the respect or deference you’re due, which isn’t very much.
    He might have framed it differently. He might have expressed real respect for the Supremes and then gone on to say he was troubled by this ruling. That would have still been borderline, I think, but better than what he said. The more I think about it, the more outrageous it seems.
    Is this the President of the United States?

  5. Scottie Says:

    Please neo, don’t point out how ridiculous The Won is being.

    I figure the more he alienates the SCOTUS – and especially Kennedy – the safer our liberties will be in the long run.

  6. Tatyana Says:

    I was out yesterday (networking) and didn’t listen to the speech; not that I would have a patience to sit through the end…
    But I was reading someone’s live reportage and comments. Guys, if you listened – is it true that he proposed to wipe out educational loans of those works for the government for 1o years? (Meaning that we the rest of us will be paying)And that he wants to impose additional tax on companies who outsource their operations?

    If true, I hope this outrage will be wider known. I can’t imagine what this would do to international business.

  7. Susan in Seattle Says:

    “…a cheap and profoundly classless shot by Obama and his follower Democrats.”
    They’re becoming cheaper and more profoundly classless by the day, it seems.
    I happened to notice that one of my senators, Patty “just a mom in tennis shoes” Murray was sitting right behind the SCOTUS members and sure enough, she jumped out of her seat with the others to clap. Grrr.

  8. roc scssrs Says:


    Jennifer Marshall from the Heritage Institute mentioned the educational loan scheme on Bill Bennett’s radio show this morning. I only heard it in passing, but sometimes they post the interviews next day at http://www.billbennett.com.

  9. physicsguy Says:

    In the video posted above, I tried to pay attention to what Sotomayor’s reaction was. She stayed fairly stoned faced. I wonder what’s going on in her head, especially if, like I assume, the rest of the justices, she quite clearly understand that their ruling was on a differenct section of the law.

    This one moment may the single item which will be remembered from the speech. If so, it will be interesting to see how the 5-4 split continues in the future. Not good to piss off your friends.

  10. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    Though the same may not be true of our President, the Supremes are grownups who are more than capable of handling public criticism, even under the demeaning circumstances they were forced to endure at the SOTU. All the same, as I watched the clip, I could not help but notice the ailing Justice Ginsburg (who dissented in the decision being criticized) hunched, thin and fragile among her heartier colleagues, looking stricken as the President insulted her court and the Constitution and those Congressional yahoos leaped to their feet to cheer and jeer all around her. It seemed more like a scene from some kangaroo-court country than from America.

    I agree with mizpants that there are ways to formulate the obligatory respectful intro that don’t carry the snark of the “due deference” line — I’ve spent a lot of time in court, and I’ve often seen it done right. Not only did Obama make no effort to come up with such a formulation, but I thought his tone of voice was very close to openly sarcastic.

  11. Morgan K Freeberg Says:

    I recall a younger colleague in a previous job of mine, weaseling his way into de facto supervisory status by becoming best-buds with the real boss. One of my more vivid memories is from on occasion on which he transformed a cranky rival of just his into a bitter enemy of many innocent bystanders around him, simply by saying “with all due respect” rather than “with all respect.” It was a momentary tragedy, because although he had his differences of opinion & interest with the addressee of his remarks, it was evident to all of us that within the context of the conversation immediately underway, he really did mean “with all respect.” But he wanted to sound sophisticated and wordy and got himself into a big stewpot of hot water.

    He achieved precisely the opposite of what he wanted to achieve. He required an explanation from someone more erudite, how radically the tone of your remarks changes, in what direction, and why, when you throw in that word “due.” He just didn’t get it. It’s a subtle transformation, rather like photographing the face of a beautiful woman in her mid-forties, lit from below the chin, with incandescent. Someone wise needs step in and say “full stop and rearrange.”

    And yeah, he was an Obama zealot. There’s something about that whole culture, something unaware, clumsy and rustic. Something immature. I guess you can’t perform brain surgery very well wearing Chicago brass knuckles.

  12. Artfldgr Says:

    The (Securities and Exchange Commission), in a 3 to 2 vote, decided to require that companies disclose in their public filings the impact of climate change on their businesses — from new regulations or legislation they may face domestically or abroad to potential changes in economic trends or physical risks to a company.


    for you biologists and genomics people, please write to the lysenko institute for advice on grant proposals. :)

    how can i estimate the damage caused by an event that is only real in propagandic space?

    can i ask the club of rome for advice?

    “In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill…” COR

    “…we need to get some broad based support, to capture the public’s imagination…. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements and make little mention of any doubts…. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.” Steven Schneider (another cracker jack nobel prize winner). ‘

    No matter if the science of global warming is all phony… climate change [provides] the greatest opportunity to bring about justice and equality in the world.” Christine Stewart, Canadian Minister of the Environment

  13. Artfldgr Says:

    will scotus then decide if the people said now to be fleeing parts of india due to global warming can come here, get paid lots for running from nothing, or…

  14. Cappy Says:

    Obama’s idea of jurisprudence starts and ends with the stupid shiites that inhabit the bench in Chicago.

  15. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    Cheap shot artist. Somewhat like the index finger on the nose in the debate with Hillary. The man is so arrogant, tone-deaf, and classless.

    Glad I didn’t watch the speech. I would have been so angry it would have been hard to sleep last night. Instead I joined Vodkapundit for his drunk blogging take. A lot of chuckles and totally relaxed when bedtime arrived.

  16. effess Says:

    The scuzzy and loathsome Chuck Schumer led jump joined by the clueless Patty (of “Osama bin Laden is popular in poor countries because he helped pay for schools, roads and even day care centers” fame) Murray, Harry Reid, Dick Durbin and, slowest in jumping up, Bob Menedez. Also, Tim Geithner and Eric Holder joined in — but they report to the guy.

  17. huxley Says:

    “You all know the okey-doke,” Obama told voters in Mississippi, “when someone’s trying to bamboozle you, when they’re trying to hoodwink you.”

    Yes, Mr. Obama, we know your okey-doke all too well.

  18. Richard Johnston Says:

    Hoping this is not a gross faux pas, I will copy and paste from a post I left this morning at Bookworm Room:

    I have a bit of a quibble with the proposition the president was “wrong” about the implications of the Citizens United case. This is not to say his choice of venue or demeanor was not questionable; it’s about substance.

    The link you provide [which was to the same analysis by Professor Smith you cite here] ends up being to a statute limiting “foreign corporations” from electioneering (that’s a bit imprecise but I think it’s close enough for present purposes).

    First, since Citizens United was based on constitutional analysis, a mere statute may very well wilt before it.

    Second, the statute does not impact the ability of foreign-controlled corporations from making campaign expenditures (e.g., Sony America).

    Third, this concern was quite emphatically expressed in Justice Stevens’ dissent, such that the concern cannot be dismissed out of hand (disagreed with, of course, but a Supreme Court Justice’s views ought to be afforded the respect of examination on their merits if you ask me).

    The foreign-controlled corporation issue will in all likelihood be decided in a future case. But for now it does remain an issue — indeed the majority opinion in Citizens United expressly said it was not addressing the issue, so it remains unresolved.

  19. kcom Says:

    Not only did Obama make no effort to come up with such a formulation, but I thought his tone of voice was very close to openly sarcastic.

    You’re entirely right, Mrs Whatsit. I was going to make the same point but you said it so well I’ll just second your comment. It wasn’t just his words that showed no due respect, it was his snarky, sarcastic tone that really gave the game away.

    How boorish and unpresidential can he be? Every time I think he’s at the bottom of the hole, he finds a way to dig deeper.

  20. MikeLL Says:

    It wasn’t just his words that showed no due respect, it was his snarky, sarcastic tone that really gave the game away.

    He was trying to act cool and tough and hip throughout the entire speach. I’m thinking he fancies himself more a celebrity than a leader.

    Poor guy came out looking somewhat childish. And these “You Lied!” moments are starting to become a common theme.

    Obama the bully falls flat on his face. What is he going to do? Pack the court? I’d like to see him try. Mr. “Present” doesn’t really seem to have the stomach for a fight like that. Despite his bluster about “I don’t quit.”

  21. waltj Says:

    The Supremes may have been sitting ducks in this case, but it’s likely they’ll have the last quack. After such a gratuitous insult, Obama has made it far more probable that even the liberal wing of the court will look with a gimlet eye at any legislation or lawsuits that his administration sponsors. It’s human nature. Nobody likes to be publicly humiliated, even a Supreme Court justice. Thanks to Obama’s administration tone-deaf and maladroit comments, I believe he just lost any deference and benefit of the doubt the Supremes were inclined to give him.

  22. waltj Says:

    Thanks to the Obama administration’s…

    Read the post first, Walt. sheesh.

  23. huxley Says:

    From the Gag Me With a Spoon Dept. we have Christopher Buckley swooning “One Hell of a Speech” even though he thought Obama called out the Supremes unjustly:

    Tonight Mr. Obama proved—once again—that he hears the American music and can play it like a maestro. As well as Ronald Reagan. Both presidents had—have—have music in their souls. The other people in the room where I watched the speech were in tears by the end—the kind that stream down the face. I managed to hold those back. But I could not hold back my admiration at the performance, in particular of Mr. Obama’s deep humanity, as evinced by his profound, almost Lincolnesque humor. Oh dear, are tears streaming down my face, one way or the other?

    He proved himself capable, too, of drama, as when he (figuratively) pointed a finger at the Supremes, sitting in their courtly robes directly in front of him, hands demurely folded, and accused them (in my opinion, unjustly, to say nothing of injudiciously) of allowing “foreign enemies” to influence our elections. I had been under the impression that it was called “free speech.” But never mind. It was an electrifying moment. Thank you, Mr. President.

  24. betsybounds Says:

    Mom in tennis shoes. Ugh. I would not like to be the child of this mom. I think the woman has never smiled in her life, not one time. She’s a true commissar: Dedicated. Pitiless. Humorless.

  25. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Not being paranoid or anything, but if you discredit and disparage an entity or a group, it becomes more likely you can get others to become negative, running from ignoring them to actual violence.

  26. Occam's Beard Says:

    it’s not like Obama’s a law professor or anything.

    Actually, he’s not, and this meme gets my (pet) goat. He was an adjunct professor, an honorary title, a Kentucky colonel in academia, who came in to give the odd lecture as the in-house equivalent of a field trip, i.e., a lark.

    As someone who busted his butt to publish and thereby become a real professor, arrogation of that status to someone who never published…well…anything, is annoying as all hell.

  27. csimon Says:

    1. Christopher Buckley’s father is not just turning, but churning in his grave.
    He’s semi-adept at writing satire, but that’s about the extent of his abilities.
    As for “the other people in the room” w/ whom he was watching, I think they were crying because the speech went on and on and on……….. Obama did not say anything that was remotely stirring.

    2. Tatyana — I believe your question re: educational entitlements suggested by Obama involved his proposal that everyone should be able to go to college so the government should loan students any amount they need. Their repayment upon graduation would essentially depend on their earnings to the extent that loan repayment would be based on 10% of the graduates earnings for 20 years. After 20 years, any unpaid amount remaining would be forgiven. For those going into public service, loan repayment would still be based on 10% of earnigs, BUT the 20 years would be reduced to 10 years, after which all loans would be forgiven.

    SO, the answer to your question is YES! We The People would be paying for any remainder of unpaid loan. (So glad my parents scrimped and saved — as most responsible people do — to enable their children to attend college. Yes it’s a major sacrifice, but it is in the name of working to ensure the children’s chances of achieving a secure future for themselves and their future families.
    (It’s called planning for the future, and budgeting as opposed to expecting others to take care of the responsibilities!)

    Re: main topic of this thread: I was horrified and offended at Obama’s “arrogant audacity” when he attacked the Supreme Court and their recent decision. First and foremost, one of our democracy’s most significant underlying principles is the system of Checks and Balances: Legislative vs. Executive vs. Judicial. The people have learned (and will continue to feel the fallout) what folly we have brought upon ourselves by forgetting how important such Checks and Balances are when they voted for super-majorities in both the House and Senate which would turn out to be not much more than lackeys for this President. The President’s attack/denouncement of the Supreme Court Justices was inappropriate, w/out any due respect despite his prefacing words, and a blitz attack on the most respected body in our government in a forum where they could not even answer back.

    Call it poor taste, the actions of a boor, arrogant, patronizing, sleazy, wholly inappropriate……there is no end to the derogatory descriptions I would apply to Obama’s action.
    He is entitled to his personal opinion, and to discuss it ad finitum with his friends or colleagues. But this was The State Of the UNION address — not about his petty grievances, his “I-know-better diatribes…” It was not the place or the time to vent his crybaby complaints of disagreements or injustive.
    He is an embarassment (not to mention ignorant, disrespectful, and wrong!)

  28. Brian Swisher Says:

    Who the heck is this Christopher Buckley dude? I’d never heard of him until a couple of days ago…and, judging by the excerpt above, he writes like the kind of guy who would dot his “i”s with little hearts…

  29. neo-neocon Says:

    Richard Johnston: That’s why I never said that Obama lied. I used phrases such as “the questionable nature of [Obama's] factual assertion,” and “activity that Obama falsely said the SCOTUS decision allowed,” because the court ruled narrowly in Citizens Union. Anyone who knows about law (and Obama supposedly knows about law) knows that it is usual for the Supreme Court Justices to rule as narrowly as possible, and not to ordinarily take up questions of law that are not before them in the case at hand.

    It is clear that, if this issue comes up via a future case, they will rule on it, but were deferring a decision for now—and rightly so. It would have been incorrect for them to have taken up the question in Citizens United. Obama, as a lawyer and former law instructor, knows this—and knows that his characterization of their ruling as “open[ing] the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections” was a complete mischaracterization of the SCOTUS ruling, which did not address this issue at all.

    I didn’t get into the legal subleties because it would have been too long and complex, and also irrelevant to the fact that Obama misrepresented what the ruling was about for demagogic purposes. It is my understanding that the statue controls the foreign corporation situation until a case comes up in which the Court would be likely to address the issue.

  30. Occam's Beard Says:

    Who the heck is this Christopher Buckley dude?

    A living example of regression to the mean. Or below.

  31. neo-neocon Says:

    Occam’s Beard: I am familiar with the brouhaha over Obama’s actual status at U. of Chicago. However, the university itself ended up saying that “professor” was the right term, and so I use it.

    Here is the official statement from the University of Chicago.

  32. jon baker Says:

    What about the Mexican Government lobbying for amnesty of millions of their citizens?

  33. Occam's Beard Says:

    However, the university itself ended up saying that “professor” was the right term

    No sale. In fact, spread Chicago’s statement on the wheatfields of Kansas and you’d double the crop. How many professors at Chicago have failed ever to publish anything? Anything at all? Zip. Nada. Nichevo. Nichts. Of course now they say he was “regarded” as a professor, whatever that means. If he’d been arrested as a serial killer, they’d be saying he was “regarded” as a temporary fill-in guest lecturer, not a professor at all. Right now, Chicago’s thinking “Presidential library,” and so they’re hardly disinterested observers.

    Furthermore, let’s cut the bullshit – how was Obama paid, if at all? At what pay grade and academic rank, if any? Talk is cheap – as is “regard.” Did Chicago pay him as a professor? I doubt it, very much indeed. If Chicago wasn’t willing to stump up the full whack of benjamins for a professor, then they didn’t consider him to be a professor. That’s the ultimate operational definition. And you can bet your boots the real faculty didn’t consider him as a professor, although they were probably too polite to say so.

    Several times during his 12 years as a professor in the Law School, Obama was invited to join the faculty in a full-time tenure-track position, but he declined.

    So he was invited to try out for the varsity, but declined. If someone is invited to try out for the big leagues, does that make him a major leaguer?

    And turn it around: if Obama were this great constitutional law scholar – from whom we’re still awaiting publication #1 – why is he babbling about Congress passing legislation overriding the Supreme Court? Hells’ bells, I’m a scientist, and I know perfectly well that only a Constitutional amendment can override a Supreme Court holding regarding constitutonality.

    In all, Chicago’s statement is of a piece with Tribe’s latter day pronouncement of how wonderful Obama was back in the day. Of course they think so now. Where is the contemporary evidence for such? Show me that, and I’ll reconsider.

  34. Promethea Says:

    It’s amazing how far well-respected institutions like Chicago, Harvard, etc. have fallen in esteem as they rushed to get their hands on public money.

    This will backfire big time because millions of people now know that these academic institutions are just one more example of corruption. As more and more states go bankrupt, fewer and fewer people will support public funding of these charlatans.

    Kiss your grants goodbye, money grubbers.

  35. Richard Johnston Says:

    Neo: The president wasn’t the only one who perceived “activity that Obama falsely said the SCOTUS decision allowed.” Justice Stevens perceived the same thing, and objected on precisely those grounds (among others) in his dissent. I guess I have trouble with the connotation of the word “falsely” as used here; I would think the word “incorrectly” would be more accurate if you are not accusing him of lying.

    Not a big deal in any case; just wanted to point out the interpretation posited by the president is not so far-fetched.

  36. Promethea Says:

    And Artfl’s description on a previous thread of Columbia University’s contribution to communism in America was very enlightening.

  37. neo-neocon Says:

    Occam’s Beard: We are not discussing whether Obama was a full professor, a good professor, a tenured professor, a published professor, or even a marginally adequate professor. It is about whether he was entitled to have the term “professor” used to describe him at all. Chicago, the law school that hired him, uses that term, so I will use it as well, to make the point that he ought to have known better than to do what he did in his SOTU speech.

  38. neo-neocon Says:

    Richard Johnston: if Obama understands law (and I’m not at all sure he does), then he knows he was not telling the truth here. “Misrepresenting,” “twisting,” “distorting”—all of them are close to the word “lying,” if not exactly and precisely synonyms for it.

    He strongly (and wrongly) implied that the Court had ruled on the issue of foreign corporations—here’s the full quote:

    Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections. Well, 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 that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.

    Call it a lie, call it a misrepresentation—I think you will agree that the word “incorrect” is too mild and too—well, incorrect as a descriptor of what Obama is doing here. He is not that stupid, and one can assume that he knows something about law, and something about the constitution. He says this ruling was a reversal that will open floodgates that include foreign interests. If he didn’t know this was “not true,” then he is very stupid indeed. And what sort of legislation is he envisioning to overrule the decision of the Supreme Court? And why would the Court not strike it down as unconstitutional, if it violated their ruling in Citizens United? Is he asking the legislature to ban campaign contributions by foreign corporations? But they already are banned, by statute. If he is asking the legislature to ban them more explicitly as a test case for the Supreme Court, then the Court will rule on whether such legislation is constitutional or not. But they have made no ruling on it so far, so what is this “wrong” that Obama is talking about “righting?”

  39. Richard Johnston Says:

    Neo: The main concern I’ve heard, and one, again, stressed by Justice Stevens, who I expect knows a thing or two about this stuff, is about foreign-controlled American corporations, which are not covered by the statute Professor Smith cited, and which could (so the concern goes) act as a conduit for foreign interests. I do not consider this to be a frivolous concern. But I am comforted that disclosure requirements survived Citizens United so assuming they’re complied with we’ll know who is saying what and can consider the source.

  40. Julia NYC Says:

    Yes, the unprecedented humiliation of the Supreme Court was a bad move on the part of our celebrity President. Yet another cringe inducing moment from our Commander in Chief. And yes, Justice Ginsberg did look quite mortified by the situation, as did they all. This could not have been a good stunt to have pulled. Publicly scorning the Supreme Court I’m sure is never a wise political move.

  41. huxley Says:

    Publicly scorning the Supreme Court I’m sure is never a wise political move.

    Yes. You can count on the fragile 5-4 SCOTUS majority on “Citizens United v. FEC” stiffening their resistance to Obama.

  42. neo-neocon Says:

    Richard Johnston: Obama said “foreign corporations.” Period. Not “foreign-controlled American corporations.” Obama is a lawyer. He knows that one must use words very exactly. He knows what he is saying. And he knows it’s a demagogic misrepresentation, lie, whatever you prefer to call it.

    I am arguing with you not because I think we differ so very much, but because I think it’s important to point it just how disingenuous Obama is willing to be, and how he believes he will get away with it.

  43. huxley Says:


    The White House ordered the Justice Department on Thursday night to consider other places to try the 9/11 terror suspects after a wave of opposition to holding the trial in lower Manhattan.


    Apparently the Obami have managed the calculation of what a disaster trying KSM in MYC would be. They are lucky that they have some cover for this retreat.

  44. huxley Says:

    I am arguing with you not because I think we differ so very much, but because I think it’s important to point it just how disingenuous Obama is willing to be, and how he believes he will get away with it.

    neo: Quite right.

    I don’t believe Obama plays a Bobby Fisher game of 3-D chess, but I do believe he is a competent enough lawyer to know when he is misleading people for a political payoff.

  45. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    betsy bounds said,
    “Mom in tennis shoes. Ugh. I would not like to be the child of this mom. I think the woman has never smiled in her life, not one time. She’s a true commissar: Dedicated. Pitiless. Humorless”
    Spot on! She needs to be retired so she can spend more time drinking lattes with we peasants here in the People’s Republic of Puget Sound. We’re looking for our version of Scott Brown!

  46. Scrapiron Says:

    Payback will be hell when congressional bills signed by O’Dumbo are appealed to the SCOTUS.
    Both O’Dumbo’s lost their license to practice law. He sealed the ‘why’ when he was in the Il senate.

  47. Richard Johnston Says:

    “Richard Johnston: Obama said ‘foreign corporations.”
    ‘ Period. Not ‘foreign-controlled American corporations.’”

    Point taken. Just about everybody I’ve communicated with on this took this for a shorthand for what was the concern about foreign-controlled American corporations before the SOTU. I think he would have been accurate to say what you suggest, or at least “foreign interests.” That notwithstanding, the distinction between “foreign corporations” and “foreign-controlled American corporations” is pretty fine, and I do not think there is a material difference between the two in conveying what the overall concern is here. But we’re splitting hairs, I think. I’ll stop.

  48. Richard Johnston Says:

    OK I’ll stop after this. I just gave it another listen. I think the statement is accurate if one considers that a foreign corporation, through the device of having an American subsidiary, could indeed “spend without limit in our elections.” It creates a path for expenditures which would not be there but for Citizens United. So it’s a matter of interpretation and how charitable one is inclined to be about the president’s intentions. I know the answer to that one around here.

  49. neo-neocon Says:

    Richard Johnston: If Obama had argued that point in some sort of other speech on the merits of the case (not the SOTU), I’m sure no one would be all that incensed.

    He did not. And what he said is not a matter of interpretation, unless you want to twist yourself into a pretzel trying to explain what he said. What he said was quite clear. He is a lawyer, and former law professor/instructor/lecturer. He knows how to state the facts of a case properly. That is elementary, and he failed to do so—in fact, he misstated them. And used them to make a political point, in front of the justices who had made the decision and could not answer back. And he said Congress needed to right the wrong that had been done.

    And remember my other point that I don’t believe anyone in this comments thread discussed: there is excellent evidence that Obama himself got a lot of money—illegally—from foreigners.

  50. Baklava Says:


    He had no tact.

    His words were poorly chosen.

    His intentions are …

    … unfigurable if that is a word. One can’t make all the claims he has made from earmarks, C-SPAN, no lobbyists (should I make the list 10 long or will that suffice) and then be believed anymore.

  51. Perfected democrat Says:

    Brazen arrogance; it doesn’t take much to imagine what a person with a personality like that is capable of if not challenged …

  52. No one you know Says:

    So it’s a matter of interpretation and how charitable one is inclined to be about the president’s intentions. I know the answer to that one around here.

    So, why be charitable with regard to the president’s intentions, especially when it comes to campaign finance? Just because people who comment here may tend to take a jaundiced view of Obama and his agenda does not make them wrong. Seeing as Obama already has a track record of lying when it comes to campaign finance, (see summer,2008, Public Financing) I think the onus should be on him (and his defenders) to prove his good intentions. So, again, why should I cut the man any slack?

  53. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    It seems that the only political tactic the man knows is to set up an enemy and attack it, almost always dishonestly or, at least, without examining the facts.
    Stupid police officers
    Wall Street
    The Supreme Court
    Bush Bush Bush
    and on and on.
    Most disturbing is that the enemies are always Americans. He always attacks from within. He sabotages and undercuts and calls it building — and some people still believe him.

  54. Richard Johnston Says:

    “So, why be charitable with regard to the president’s intentions, especially when it comes to campaign finance? Just because people who comment here may tend to take a jaundiced view of Obama and his agenda does not make them wrong. ”

    I thoroughly agree with that; I did not mean to come off as snarky as I did above. I really was just trying to say that what I personally think is a plausible interpretation of the remark in question is more or less persuasive depending on one’s evolved opinion of the speaker, and that the president is not well regarded among most who comment here. It was meant to be just an observation, not a veiled criticism.

  55. betsybounds Says:

    Richard Johnston: This is really just an aside to the main discussion. But it’s a bit thick to use an Argument from Authority, by understated snark, as in, “The main concern I’ve heard, and one, again, stressed by Justice Stevens, who I expect knows a thing or two about this stuff, . . .” The implication is that Justice Stevens is to be deferred to because he is, well, Justice Stevens. But what about Justice Alito? Can we not reasonably view him as someone who also “knows a thing or two about this stuff”? The Argument from Authority breaks down when the relevant authorities are diametrically opposed in their interpretations of the same set of facts.

  56. Jamie Says:

    Richard Johnston, you’re a gentleman (I presume the gender, and please accept my apology if I’m presuming in error!). Your courteous defense of the President does you honor, even if I believe he doesn’t deserve it.

    I just saw a little piece in a blog called – “DoubleX”? I think it was that; some girl thing. <eye roll> The writer agreed with (among others) Ann Althouse that Justice Alito’s reaction to President Obama focused on the President’s misstatement of the ruling, and that the Justice was correct: the President got it wrong. First comment in the thread: “See, that’s the problem with our side. WE look at things with nuance, and WE’re too nice to the other side. Imagine what would’ve happened if one of the SCOTUS justices had done this in a Bush SOTU!” etc., etc. Again with the eye roll, since although President Bush undoubtedly objected to any number of SCOTUS rulings in his years in office, he never went so far as to exhort Congress, in front of the Supreme Court Justices assembled, to attempt to override a constitutional ruling via legislation. Much less to lie about (or misstate) a ruling out of what appears to be demagoguery, based on the rest of the speech’s tone. (Offshore drilling? Really?)

    And then, when I tried to register at that blog to comment, I tried FOUR passwords, each more complex than the last, and it kept telling me they weren’t secure enough! (Its last piece of advice: “Try punctuation.” Okaaayyy… At least it didn’t tell me to choose a random hexadecimal number between one and a hundred million.) As far as I know, this blog isn’t handling state secrets or anything…

    So eventually I gave up. My eyes are tired of rolling.

  57. will Says:

    He’s “speaking truth to power”, taking it to “the man”, I can imagine the glee and euphoria around the table at the old Peace and Social Concerns committee, at this latest action.

    Someday, years down the road, he’s going to reflect, and look upon this squandered opportunity, and wonder why?


  58. Richard Johnston Says:

    “The Argument from Authority breaks down when the relevant authorities are diametrically opposed in their interpretations of the same set of facts.”

    I agree with that but it depends on what you are arguing for. If I were invoking Justice Stevens to say my side is right and the other side is wrong then I don’t get too far. But if my point is merely to establish that there is at least something to my argument — here that the “foreign-controlled corporation” concern about Citizens United is not the frivolous point some have made it out to be — then the fact that there are relevant authorities on both sides itself has some meaning. It was 5-4 after all; both sides had to have had some force to their respective arguments. And the point I was going for was just that the president was not alone in being concerned about foreign influence as a consequence of Citizens united; he had a Supreme Court Justice concurring with him.

    “Richard Johnston, you’re a gentleman (I presume the gender, and please accept my apology if I’m presuming in error!). Your courteous defense of the President does you honor, even if I believe he doesn’t deserve it.”

    Thank you very much.

  59. Artfldgr Says:

    on another note PAK FA flight went nice.
    just what the world needs another 5th generation fighter… anyone wonder who or what that is designed to go against?

  60. Wolla Dalbo Says:

    By the time Sarah Palin gets done with Obama’s SOTU on her Facebook page ,there is nothing left but a few pieces of ash floating in the air ( see http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=271836568434) .

  61. Manju Says:

    Richard Johnston:

    Even if its true–that the implication of SCOTUS’s ruling is that foreign companies can now influence elections–why is that the fault of SCOTUS? After all, all congress needs to do is pass a bill to fill that loophole–if it does indeed exist–as the President himself suggested. Its not SCOTUS’s job to fill the loophole–they are not legislators–nor is it proper for them to decline protection of constitutioanally protected speech because it opens an easiily closable loophole to unprotected speech.

    Look at it this way. Lets say congress passed a law saying its illegal to yell fire in a movie theatre. someone then is convicted of doing just that, when there is acutually a fire, meaning he saved a lot of lives. SCOTUS would clearly find such law unconstitutional, since government has no compelling interest in preventing someone from truthfully yelling fire in a movie theatre, ie the law was not narrowly tailored.

    Butthe implication of such a ruling is that now someone can falsely yell fiire in a movie thearte, and therefore put people’s life in danger…an act that is not constitutionally protected. But does the fact that this is an implication of the ruling mean that SCOTUS was wrong to strike down a law that was too broadly written?

    Of course not. All congress needs to do now is pass al aw that makes falsely yelling fire in a movie theatre illegal.

    Obama was wrong to criticize SCOTUS on those grounds. This ruling has bouhgt the authoritarian left out of the woodwork.

  62. Richard Johnston Says:


    It is at best an open question, given the Citizens United holding, whether it would be constitutional to legislatively control the speech of an American corporation based on the fact it is foreign-controlled. So long as the corporation is legally formed and indeed qualifies formally as an American corporation, Citizens United would seem to prohibit selective regulation based on the fact its parent company is a foreign corporation. That was in large part the basis of Justice Stevens’ dissent, and I personally find the dissent persuasive. In sum the legislative fix you envision may itself be foreclosed by Citizens United.

  63. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    It’s quite possible that you are right, Richard Johnston, but as I think you may have already acknowledged upthread, that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with the Supreme Court’s decison. If the Constitution does not permit the legislation Manju proposes, well then, it doesn’t. If we’re worried enough about that (and honestly, in this age of the Internet, does anybody think that any legal measures short of Chinese-style censorship can prevent anybody, anywhere, from expressing their political views to whomever they want to reach?) then the remedy is to amend the Constitution, not to hector the Court.

    The Supreme Court is not supposed to distort its legal interpretation of the Constitution to achieve the legislative outcomes that some particular President or Congress, or even a popular majority, may prefer. That’s why the Justices have lifetime tenure — to insulate them from political pressures, including those brought to bear in public by insolent Presidents. Obama’s suggestion that the court should have made its decision based on the public policy consequences of the outcome rather than on the requirements of the First Amendment is patently unfair, not to mention extraordinarily ignorant — or disingenuous — in a Harvard Law grad and former constitutional law instructor.

  64. Manju Says:

    “Citizens United would seem to prohibit selective regulation based on the fact its parent company is a foreign corporation.”

    Well it wasn’t prohibitive enough to prevent Obama from proposing it. If there is a compelling a compelling governmental interst and the law is narrowly tailored, I don’t see how CU is prohibative.

    But you’re right in that its undecided. But how could it be otherwise? The court was not asked to address the issue and unlike the precedents they overturned, it wasn’t necessary to address in order to rule wherter or not CU’s first amendment rights were violated.

  65. Artfldgr Says:

    if whats going on now continues you guys can forget any future elections…

    Paulson Says Russia Urged China to Dump Fannie, Freddie Bonds

    i guess the cold war was not over
    since we didnt win

    Russia urged China to dump its Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bonds in 2008 in a bid to force a bailout of the largest U.S. mortgage-finance companies, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said.

    Paulson learned of the “disruptive scheme” while attending the Beijing Summer Olympics, according to his memoir, “On The Brink.”

    The Russians made a “top-level approach” to the Chinese “that together they might sell big chunks of their GSE holdings to force the U.S. to use its emergency authorities to prop up these companies,” Paulson said, referring to the acronym for government sponsored entities. The Chinese declined, he said.

    the minute that happens, all those signing statements and non laws i talked about long time ago, that hux and others said was impossible, then go into effect.

    and we will be ablet to borrow from whom to pay for a war? (the enemies?)

    and how would we build and supply what we need?
    with our factories that are gone with the infrastructure that is gone, with people who cant do basic math, ecoomics, etc?

    china and russia never had qualms at ANY point in history to take over another country, regardless of the resutls to the people. (only in regards to outcomes for them)

    Russia’s five-day war with U.S. ally Georgia started on Aug. 8, the same day as the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Games. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told U.S. President George W. Bush during those ceremonies that “war has started,” according to Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman.

    i TOLD ya all then that the war has started, and that everyone was going to turn up the burners and that it was going to get real hot. nuclear hot.

    right now, we are not in that ONLY because we are sitting on teh good graces of a regime that OBAMA is pissing off mroe and more every day.

    “The report was deeply troubling — heavy selling could create a sudden loss of confidence in the GSEs and shake the capital markets,” Paulson wrote. “I waited till I was back home and in a secure environment to inform the president.”

    Russia never approached China about dumping U.S. bonds, Peskov said today. “This is not the case,” he said by phone.

    given history, what do you believe?

    unless any one gets it, our discussions mean nothing if the whole framework changes

    and obama said he was going to change the whole thing fundementally.

    any one else other than me realize that most of the murders of the prior century could have been stopped if only we belived hitler when he wrote mein kampf, we believed marx when he called for revolutionary holocaust to exterminate the bottom who could not move forward, and gramsci with his nine books, and feminists with their declarations, and so on.

    thats a pretty long list to be created by the same mistake of being reasonabl in the face of unreasonable plans, and relying on their unreasonableness to protect you automatically like karmic forces exist for you.

    i guess we forgot to read them still as it was that funny austrian guy that pointed out that doing the unthinkable is easier to accomplish because REASONABLE peopel do not defend against it.

    in this way i know that the unthinkable is coming, no one who is reaasonable thinks its reasoanble to do anything to prevent something they believe is impossible (for automatic reasons).

  66. Artfldgr Says:

    meanwhile, the students that put chavez into office, like our youngins.

    are now ahead of us moving into phase II. the SAME people are now being declared enemies of chavez state as they go into the streets to protest and bring back what they threw away.

    dont it always seem to go
    that you dotn kjnow what you haev till its gone

    several students have died now.

    and if not for socialism, they would have been in classes finishing up their degrees and taking up a place inthe economy in the field of their choice.

    now, like the prescient broadway show “the lemmings” illustrated.

    they are now
    flower children pushing daisies…

  67. Artfldgr Says:

    Chairman Zero is considering a plan to buy off the Taliban with a billion dollar bribe.


    if they are like the russians they will take the billions we give them and build nuclear weapons, armaments, and upgrad or build things like yamentau mountain. (we give russia billions every year)

  68. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    Oh my. Just when I was beginning to put Obama’s SOTU performance behind me, now comes this from Hot Air:


    fisking this SOTU excerpt:

    We find unity in our incredible diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution: the notion that we are all created equal, that no matter who you are or what you look like, if you abide by the law you should be protected by it; that if you adhere to our common values you should be treated no different than anyone else.

    Setting aside Hot Air’s trenchant criticisms of the first part of the quotation for the moment, please read that last segment about common values. Read it again. The man believes that the Constution provides that only those who “adhere to our common values” should be equally treated. And what should happen to the others? He doesn’t say. This is chilling for reasons that go well beyond the man’s ignorance of what’s in the Constitution.

  69. Artfldgr Says:

    His agenda on the ropes, President Obama made a calculated decision to pivot to populism

    [ah... like he wasnt trying for that same thing that hitler lenin, stalin, and others had. after all. he made testiment to his like of populism as a means in naming his brood]

    Bonfire of the Populists
    The president’s anti-Wall Street rhetoric is not good for the economy, and may hurt his party politically.


    For an administration that claims to know its political history, the White House appears to have misread at least one decade. FDR was re-elected in 1936 for many reasons, but among them was his fiery denunciations of “economic royalists,” “economic tyranny,” and “economic slavery.” Business knew it was in the president’s crosshairs and put its capital on strike. The economy didn’t recover until the war.

    well, the whole issue on knowing history pivots on the end you wish to have.

    if the ASSUMPTION is not to do this and have a war and all that it entails. then the paragraph can be seen as a statement of puzzling the lie of knowing history.


    if they DO know history, then they do know that a war can clear the books, lower the population, denude the welfare rolls, move manufacturing back, give them complete control over the economy, and so on.

    the problem is that the others are nastier than we are, and so their ability to cooperate and not turn for advantage, is about as good as hitler and stalin teaming up and staying that way till the end of the war… there is no honor among theives.

    A venture capitalist recently remarked to me that the uncertainty the administration has created is “nothing short of paralyzing.” Nobody will invest in an industry that might be the next to be overtaxed, overregulated, or publicly disemboweled.

    he spends still like a drunken sailor in a whore house with someone elses credit card.

    and we as a people are not paying attention to whats converging. [if your enemy country elected a dunderhead, the first in its 200 year history. would you sit by and let it all go by, or would you refuse to waste a crisis? the war started with the invasion of georgia and no response]

    Policy-wise, too, the administration is boxing itself in. In keeping with the populist swerve, a feisty Mr. Obama this week upped the ante

    a poll running on DU about populism, and was surprised to find that more than one person believed Adolph Hitler to be a populist.

    ya got to love the rationalization on why he wasnt.

    But Hitler was NOT a populist.

    Hitler saw the masses as “inherently stupid” (from Mein Kampf), and not fit to govern themselves. Hitler despised democracy and promoted Social Darwinism. Nazism was elitist, and the rule of Germany was restricted to the privileged few.

    ah… marxism sees all masses as ineherently stupid and to be exterminated in the revolutionary holocaust. (his words). ALL marxists feel that the people are too stupid to govern themselves.

    then on social darwinism. what does that mean? that those who can will rise up to take the place at the helm in a meritocracy. that you can be something different than your parents were.
    the opposite would be a feudal state, and social creationism. you were born to be what yuo are, and what your parents where, now a miller, or a smith, forever. those born to power stay in power a a permanent dynasty.

    right. isnt that the differnce between creationism, and darwinism? evoluition of position as you move into the future/

    of course socialists would push social creationism instead of social darwinism. otherwise their welfare recipients might rise up from welfare and not need them.

    and the final line of nazism being elitist. TRYING to imply the others arent… that is, if you have 4 that are elitist, and you take time to point out how elitist one is, not mentioning the others, the assumption is that the others arent. (when no such thing was ever said).

    but the comparisons show why we will lose this. as we are waking up way to late… and due to the reasonable, who kept us from voting this out, we still are not awake on teh eve.

    Now, compare to the common definition of populism: “the political doctrine that supports the rights and powers of the common people in their struggle with the privileged elite.”

    its interesting when a poltical illitreate to socialism, and ocmmunism reads a definition!!! they ONLY interpret it in light of the west, not the east. which fails to show you the game.

    may i asi what a dictatorship of the proletariat says it is? a political doctrine, that supports the riths and powers of the common people in their struggle against the elite”

    isnt that what obama said? of course the person here is not latching on to the points that the definition pertains to. they are making up the bridging points to fill in teh gap the way we used to with god.

    hitler did to unite the common man in his struggle against the elite!!! he wanted to oust the elite of weimar, and he used the people to do it for him.

    lenin and stalin did the same, they too are considered populist.

    all one has to do to understand is hear:
    “power to the people”

    and realize that the labels of the army and other things are all to reinforce the notion that the dictatorship is FOR the people and is populist.

    like manufacturing huge crowds to seem popular… lenin did it, stalin did it, mao did it, hitler did it, obama did it.

    [edited for length by neo-neocon]

  70. Manju Says:

    “Now the Supreme Court decides to include Corporations as part of the 1st amendment. Give me a break!”

    How do you square this sentiment with the fact that the NYTimes is a corporation, yet enjoys 1st amendment protection. NYTimes vs Nixon )pentagon papers) for example.

    Do you actually believe a law restricting corporations like the NYTimes form editiorializing (ie, advocating for a candidate) 30 days b/f an election is constitutional (since corporations don’t have first amendment rights).?

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