January 30th, 2010

Obama: premediation with malice aforethought

Jay Cost at HorseRaceBlog takes up the Obama vs. Alito SOTU controversy:

I think it was inappropriate for the President to take a shot at the Court in the way he did. The Court’s solid reputation is a public good for the country, and it should not be tampered with, especially over a case such as the one in question…I’m sure [Alito] regrets what was an impetuous response. Obama should not have been so critical because the Court’s reputation is important yet fragile. For the same reason, Alito should have kept his counsel. Obama has a republican legitimacy that Alito lacks – and it is politically not smart for a Supreme Court justice to disagree openly with an elected official such as Obama…Altogether, I’m much more troubled by Obama’s comment than Alito’s response because Obama is so much more powerful than Alito.

Cost is correct as far as it goes. But he and many others are leaving out another important difference between the actions of the two men. Obama’s words were part of a prepared major speech, written out beforehand and planned and rehearsed with care, and then executed in full voice and full view of others. He was the focus of all eyes and cameras, and he knew it.

In marked contrast, Alito’s response was completely spontaneous, unplanned, and reactive to what Obama had said. In essence, he was sucker-punched, and he and the other justices showed remarkable self-control under the circumstances.

Alito’s reaction was also quite subtle and subdued and not really meant as a public declaration. If he had really thought about it, he might have imagined that a camera might be focused on him at that moment, but it certainly wasn’t clear that this was the case, and he was only one of hundreds in the crowd. In addition, as far as anyone can tell, he did not actually vocalize aloud, just formed the shape of the words almost to himself, in a spontaneous reaction to being attacked (and even lied about) in full view of the world.

A huge difference. Obama is immeasurably more culpable—malice aforethought. But malice seems to be an important element of his character, although the myth of his measured, rational responses continues among supporters. If things continue to go poorly for Obama and he gets more rattled, prepare to see this aspect of his personality come increasingly to the fore.

40 Responses to “Obama: premediation with malice aforethought”

  1. Alice Finkel Says:

    I must admit that I begin to despair of Obama’s capacity to learn and grow from his follies and mistakes. It is as if he was set in his stupidity at a very early age and simply cannot be otherwise.

  2. csimon Says:

    Maybe stupidity; maybe not. (although I agree he is not too bright when he does something like this — at which time even most lefties were taken aback. As many have already said, he’s entitled to his personal opinion. Even an opionion as President. But the attack, as neo said, was planned, premeditated & effected at a time when he knew the justices would be helpless to answer his accusation — and problably never will because of their integrity and commitment to propriety.

    Obama’s action in attacking the Court was just another indication of his arrogance, his aucacity (which, as in this case, used negatively and with malice) and his refusal to
    respect the office of the Presidency as one of our THREE branches of govt. which were created so they would have equal power and insure checks and balances on one another.

    We now see that Obama’s political acumen is really somewhat limited, and his ability to govern all the people is nonexistent. Instead he pushes to elevate his office to that of a monarch or ruler instead of the representative leader, the post to which he was elected. Instead of using his soapbox to be inclusive and re-win the favor of those independents and Republicans who now regard him with disfavor, he pushes ahead as if they don’t exist. He does this at his own peril.

    As far as I am concerned he already broke the law when he disregarded bankruptcy law and handed money due to the legal first line creditors over to the unions. As he continues to act with impunity — almost daring people to interfere — perhaps he will step over one of those bright lines in law –and win himself a ride to an impeachment hearing. One can only hope because his actions indicate he is unable (or just simply refuses) to accept criticism, but to synthesize it and and communicate his understanding to the people and adjusting his agenda accordingly.

    Not sure he is unable to do this, brazenly refuse, or simply sees no reason to do so because he is now top dog. It is as if he has forgotten it took an election by the people who put him there, and would take another such election to keep him there. And the People, he has now seen, know how to speak up in between said elections, and have learned that if they communicate as a cohesive group with a message, they can make themselves heard!

  3. Bent Notes » Alito was sucker-punched Says:

    [...]  . . . and Neo-neocon says that’s the qualitative difference between TCM’s highly public dissing of the Supreme Court during the SOTU and Justice Alito’s quiet, spontaneous response. [...]

  4. Julia NYC Says:

    Yep. It’s gonna get nasty, because he’s never been really tested before. No one it appears has ever said, “no Barry, it’s not gonna happen.” So now that finally people are saying, “no way you’re wrong” the guy doesn’t know how to comport himself. The whole thing is pretty interesting.

  5. Baklava Says:


    Mouthed the words to himself.

    That’s the key.

    Obama knew he was speaking to millions. Alito knew he was speaking to himself.

    Shame on ∅bama. Shame on ANYBODY without perspective on this subject. It shows a lack of perspective.

  6. Sundog Says:

    ” . . . in a spontaneous reaction to being attacked (and even lied about) in full view of the world.”

    The word you are groping for here is “slandered”. President Obama slandered Justice Alito and the entire Supreme Court, and he did it at a time and place where he knew the entire nation would be watching. If you or I were to do such a thing, it would be grounds for a lawsuit.

  7. strcpy Says:

    I do not think Alito’s response was seen in anyway negative. Indeed, we have to ntoe how fast it was dropped by most of the major news agencies – they knew how it ended up playing out.

    We can also note the subdued to non-existent defense (mostly pretending it didn’t happen) on even hard leftists sites. If they thought for a moment they could harm Alito they would have.

    Further, why should a Supreme Court Justice care that much about the political realities of that? They are there for life *precisely* for that reason. It’s not like Obama can get rid of one or anything.

    I do agree that Justices need to maintain a high degree of decorum and they did VERY well in this case. All the other judges (even the disinters) looked like thunderbolts and it was amusing looking at the people sitting around them looking uncomfortable.

    Nor do I think they are the weakest branch – they are the most restricted but are the only ones truly capable of killing anything they want with no one able to counter them. I didn’t take it as the strong (Obama) attacking the weak (SCOTUS) but of Obama having been forced to realize that there is a power out there with a full ability to stop him cold. It was a show of weakness on his end and an attempt to marginalize them.

    Recall that after the decision he wanted to pass a bill overturning them and was – rather politely given his history in law – told that no one has the authority to do so. This was his way at snapping back at them and the only one he had available. It was another case of The One’s will being thwarted and Blasphemy towards him and he reacted as such.

  8. Sundog Says:

    “I must admit that I begin to despair of Obama’s capacity to learn and grow from his follies and mistakes.”

    In order to learn from your mistakes, you must first be capable of recognizing and admitting that you have made them. Obama’s narcissism does not permit him to do this. You will never hear him confess to having made an error of any sort.

    If his words or actions have undesirable consequences, it’s always someone else’s fault. This became clear to anyone who was paying attention during his campaign, when we lost count of how many allies and advisors were thrown under the bus so that Obama could avoid taking responsibility for his screwups.

  9. huxley Says:

    IMO the GOP let itself be suckerpunched in allowing Obama and the cameras into their retreat yesterday. They were caught be surprise and ceded far too much ground in letting Obama set the format so they got to listen to him lecture them.

    Obama may not play 3-D chess like Spock, but he is a canny, smart enough guy. He handled himself well.

    I think Obama is in great trouble but he is still a force to be reckoned with.

  10. K~Bob Says:

    A very significant point, Neo. Good catch.

  11. vanderleun Says:

    “The Court’s solid reputation is a public good for the country, and it should not be tampered with,…”

    Not unless the primary motive of the speaker is: “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.”

  12. betsybounds Says:


    Well I must say that we are once again reminded that no one will ever go broke underestimating the intelligence of the Republican Party (pace H.L. Mencken). They have for many years, maybe even decades, either failed or refused to recognize that they are in a war, and have only the barest, dimmest grasp of what the stakes are. Instead, they clutch manners: Be nice. Remember to be nice. It’s important to be nice.

    Are they incapable of learning from experience? I’m afraid so. It’s the biggest reason they are held in dubious regard as alternatives to the brazen one-party follies we’ve been watching for the last year.

    Meanwhile, I hope they were taking notes during Comrade Obama’s lecture. He’s probably going to ask them questions later.

  13. jvermeer51 Says:

    My God, he mouthed a dissent to himself. “That’s not right”. Hope the children weren’t watching. How inappropriate. What an unhinged looney. We’d probably have riots in the street if he went to far as to whisper something to a colleage. One can only imagine what would have happened if the messiah had tried something like that with, say, Sarah Palin.

  14. Richard Aubrey Says:

    I’m trying to think of a physical process as a metaphor or analogy of where I think zero is now.
    Tipping point?
    It’s where there is nothing you can do to reverse course.
    zero cannot deal with having made a mistake and will only be seen as even more incompetent. Everybody makes mistakes. The question is , what next?
    In zero’s case, it’s mean-spirited and ineffective.
    His reaction to being reproached for the SCOTUS slander will not be graceful. Thus, he reinfoces failure.

  15. betsybounds Says:

    I know of no reason why good manners require anyone to submit to public slander quietly and without response. Alito didn’t shout anything out, didn’t disturb decorum. If the cameras hadn’t been on the court, no one would even have known. He did not indulge in any sparring with the Democrats surrounding the entire seated SCOTUS as the Democrats–ALL the Democrats–leapt to a scornful standing ovation, unanimously cheering a lie and the liar who told it.

    Obama should be ashamed. He won’t be, of course. He is incapable of feeling shame.

  16. huxley Says:

    Meanwhile, I hope they were taking notes during Comrade Obama’s lecture. He’s probably going to ask them questions later.

    betsybounds: Quoth the Sage of UTenn, “Heh!”

    Ann Althouse provides an excellent fisking of Obama’s lectures.

    Obama is a slippery fellow whose words are not easily overthrown without some thought and an equal place in the conversation.

  17. huxley Says:

    where I think zero is now.
    Tipping point?
    It’s where there is nothing you can do to reverse course.

    Richard Aubrey: I go for tipping point.

    Obama as Obama cannot reverse course. He faces a long downward slide from here. Unless the economy makes a surprising recovery, I don’t see much future for his presidency.

  18. pst314 Says:

    “I know of no reason why good manners require anyone to submit to public slander quietly and without response.”

    Because Obama is our Dear Leader?

  19. Jim Sullivan Says:

    Richard Aubrey:

    How about Critical Mass? When the momentum of a system is sufficient to sustain itself and fuel further growth.

    I’ve been out of the loop the past few days. But I start trying to catch up on the news and find that our president has gone and slandered the Surpeme Court justices in the Citizens United case. During the Sate of the Union. Are you freaking kidding me?!

    I miss all the good stuff!

    I may have kidded about it before but I thiink I can safely say: Worst President Ever.

  20. Gray Says:

    IMO the GOP let itself be suckerpunched in allowing Obama and the cameras into their retreat yesterday. They were caught be surprise and ceded far too much ground in letting Obama set the format so they got to listen to him lecture them.

    I thought that way, too, initially until I realized:

    “My God, what would have happened had they refused.”

    Had they Pubbies refused to let Obama in, can you imagine the “Racist!” “Obstructionist!” “Anti-american!” attacks the dems would be banging-away on?!

    Obama imposed himself on them and then acted like a boor. It reflects on him, not them; they had no choice at all.

  21. Gray Says:

    Obama is immeasurably more culpable—malice aforethought. But malice seems to be an important element of his character….

    Indeed. He is a bad guy. An actual bad guy we got for president.

  22. Richard Aubrey Says:

    It’s possible an economic recovery will help zero.
    But that’s separate from who he is and how he’s regarded.
    He’s so bad–incompetent, mean-spirited, oblivious–that he will not get the credit most presidents get generally not justified) for an economic upturn.
    It will be seen as in spite of him, not because of him.

  23. betsybounds Says:


    Had they Pubbies refused to let Obama in, can you imagine the “Racist!” “Obstructionist!” “Anti-american!” attacks the dems would be banging-away on?!

    Obama imposed himself on them and then acted like a boor. It reflects on him, not them; they had no choice at all.

    This is true. However, to the extent that the event reflects badly upon Obama relative to the Republicans, it’s almost certainly more a result of his manifest weakness than of their strength.

    They need yet to rouse themselves to the nature of their enemy. This is not traditional American politics. This is war. Recall Clausewitz: “Politics is a mere continuation of war by other means.”

  24. betsybounds Says:

    Vanderleun is correct. This was not a matter of Obama saying that he disagreed with a SCOTUS ruling, as other presidents have from time to time, and about other rulings, said (never mind that his distillation of the ruling itself was a lie). This was a matter of his saying, as a matter of policy and in a SOTU address, that the ruling in question was illegitimate and had to be supplanted. It was, instead, a declaration that there should, and in fact will, be no authority beyond Obama.

  25. Manju Says:

    “This was a matter of his saying, as a matter of policy and in a SOTU address, that the ruling in question was illegitimate and had to be supplanted. It was, instead, a declaration that there should, and in fact will, be no authority beyond Obama.”

    This is completely removed from reality. Obama disagrees with the ruling. Bush disagreed with a religious freedom case (the peyote case). so he and the republicans introduced a bills (various federal and state religious freedom laws) that helped restore, via federal law, some of the religious liberty scotus said was not found in the constitution. That’s legitimate politics.

    Obama will do the same thing. Indeed, the very fact Obama thinks he can restrict corporate and foreign involvement in our elections demonstrates that scotus ruled correctly…ie McCain Feingold was too broadly written (a law must be narrowly tailored in order to pass strict scrutiny). In other words, if there are other ways to reach the same goal without restricting speech, then the law is unconstitutional.

    Obama is dead wrong about the ruling IMO. But his actions in response are legit. presumably he’ll introduce a Bill that congress will be asked to pass. to say this is tantamount to him declaring there is “no Authority beyond Obama” is teabagger nonsense.

  26. Rick Caird Says:

    Malice is an important part of the Obama toolkit. Obama uses malice in an attempt to build himself up and tear others down. However, it eventually becomes a tiresome technique which will rebound on Obama. Compare Reagan to Obama and we can see how one can disagree without malice.

  27. E.M. Crotchet Says:

    premeditation, surely.

  28. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    Manju, do us all a favor and drop the “teabagger” nonsense. I was getting ready to respond to your otherwise decently-reasoned (though in my view only half-correct) remark, but when I came to the stupid ad hominem insult at the end I decided not to bother. Do you really think that a sleazy sexual insult slurs delegitimizes reasonable analysis? It doesn’t. It only deligitimizes you.

  29. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    drat, delegitimizes, at least I typed it right the first time. Ah, for an editing function!

  30. Trimegistus Says:

    Manju, like his (her?) adolescent crush-object Barack Obama, is a small, petty person who attacks others in order to shore up a very fragile sense of self. Why else come trolling here?

  31. Tom Says:

    The bottom line is that Baraq is not bright. He has the community organizer features: viciousness, bullying, able to manipulate the ignorant and the jealous with lies and half-truths (which he himself believes), and no duty to actually accomplish anything except tear-down agitation. Shifting KSM to NYC is a tear-down case in point. I can hear him and Holder: Let’s move it to da Big Apple, stick it to the Yids and Wall Street, give Bloomie a headache too.

    We have been told ad nauseam Baraq is so very intelligent- he has those Ivy League degrees and that’s proof positive, right? Nope. He and MyBelle are where they are because of Affirm Action….And they are not alone. They are part of a wave of incompetence. Like Cornel West being called a “scholar” by the AP.

    Baraq is not smart. But he is an accomplished weasel. And weasels don’t know what manners are.

  32. Wolla Dalbo Says:

    I have often used the term “Blitzkreig” to describe Obam & Co.’s full bore attempt to overwhelm us with so many actions—some important, some not, some in the form of appointments, or proposals, or legislation, some in the form of regulations, some in the form of executive orders—that we would find it almost impossible to become aware of all of the attacks, much less sort them all out, and to respond to all of the more serious threats among them.

    However, there are some actions that are so unusual, actions that make no ordinary sense—but make very much and ominous sense, if seen and understood as possible building blocks, laid to construct a Tyranny, actions that stand out and erupt, like a magnesium flare in the night.

    One such very early flare was Obama & Co.’s attempts, in the first few weeks of his administration, and continuing today, to get control over the Census, whose population counts are used to apportion Congressional Districts—and thus affect voting power in Congress–and to direct Federal funds to states and localities.

    Now come two other major cases in point—both executive orders signed by Obama with little fanfare, that stand out, that make no sense, but that—if you believe that Obama & Co. are striving to institute some form of Tyranny–have very ominous implications for every American’s freedom.

    The first, the one paragraph Executive Order 12425, signed December 16, 2009, without any signing statement or justification (subsequent media requests for the justification for this EO have not been answered) and quietly placed on the White House website, exempted INTERPOL, the international police force, from all U.S. laws; they can now operate in the U.S. without any restraints on them whatsoever, without being subject to, for instance, the restraints placed upon all U.S. law enforcement organizations—local, State and Federal police, Federal Marshals, police of various federal agencies, and the FBI–by the Constitution and our laws. EO 12425 also makes INTERPOL property and records exempt from all search and seizure laws, and also exempts INTERPOL from having to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests.

    INTERPOL, by the way, has its U.S. headquarters located in our Justice Department so that, it would seem, any documents that might be in INTERPOL section of the Justice Department cannot now be ordered to be produced or be examined by any U.S. authorities. Gee, I wonder what would happen if some Justice Department files—say, for instance, those files pertaining to the DOJ’s decision not to go forward with the Black Panther’s voter intimidation prosecutions–somehow got into the INTERPOL offices?

    Moreover, it would also seem that, post EO12425, if the International Criminal Court were to rule that some U.S. citizen or official were, say, a “war criminal,” it appears that INTERPOL could hunt him down and arrest him here within the U.S. and transport him overseas for detention and trial, and there is no way to stop them.

    The other E.O., one that was also issued very quietly and that has drawn hardly any notice, was a January 11, 2010 EO establishing the “Council of Governors,” supposedly “…to strengthen further the partnership between the Federal Government and State Governments to protect our Nation against all types of hazards.”

    The EO signing statement points out that the Council was created pursuant to a mandate to do so contained in language in the FY08 DOD Authorization bill. However many such Congressional “mandates” are routinely ignored by both the White House and by DOD, so I believe Obama & Co. decided to heed this mandate to give them cover for something they already wanted to do.

    Says the White House signing statement, “When appointed, the Council will be reviewing such matters as involving the National Guard of the various States; homeland defense; civil support; synchronization and integration of State and Federal military activities in the United States; and other matters of mutual interest pertaining to National Guard, homeland defense, and civil support activities.”

    The EO says that the Council is to be composed of ten governors selected by the President (no more than five Governors from one party) and the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Homeland Security, the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, the Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense and America’s Security Affairs, the Northern Command Commander, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, and the Chief of the National Guard Bureau. The Secretary of Defense will designate an Executive Director for the Council.

    With Obama there are no “innocent explanations.” One would think that with all the various exiting connections and interactions between Federal, State and local agencies, with a National Guard Bureau in each and every state, and the existing National Guard-DOD connections, there would already be enough consultation about the National Guard and any internal policing issues in the U.S., so this seems very duplicative.

    But, when viewed in the context of steps taken to build a tyranny, given Obama’s bizarre call for a “Civilian National Security Force… that is just as big and well funded as our [current] military, ” (given that among the other members of this new Council, the current Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs, is the very dangerous and odious Valerie Jarrett), given that the justification for this EO talks of internal policing in the U.S., given that the Posse Comitatus Act very strictly forbids the use of U.S. military forces within the U.S., and that the Council, which will have a predominance of Federal military and few State i.e. National Guard members, and will be directly concerned with such internal policing, this, too, has a very ominous ring.

  33. betsybounds Says:


    These are precisely the kinds of things that are most disturbing about Obama’s tenure. They are also the kinds of things some of us have in mind when we contemplate the possibility that he has revolution and the establishment of a tyranny in mind. Others of us focus on his abysmal legislative record, think he is already an accomplished failure, and are more-or-less sanguine about this country’s ability to weather the storm–not without damage, but at least short of destruction. I tend to be in the more alarmist group, I guess, while hoping to be wrong. But his legislative train-wreck doesn’t even begin to be the whole story of the damage he is doing or the of the power he is positioning himself to exercise. Regulation and EOs are not subject to legislative approval. The Congress is going to have to be more alert than it has so far shown itself to be for some of this stuff to be stopped.

    I agree, furthermore, that his approach resembles a kind of Blitzkrieg, and seems based on a strategy to overwhelm “the system”–Cloward-Piven, anyone? You can’t fight him everywhere if it’s not even clear where-all “everywhere” is.

  34. Gray Says:

    I’m with Manju:

    I think the prickly, anti-corporate, speech-code writing, “ram it down the people’s throats!” president and party have great respect for the separation of powers, free speech and respect for corporations as legal entities. They clearly understand the “firewalls” and regulations governing US Subsidiaries of multinational corporations.

    The president and his party don’t rush important legislation, do not attempt to “legislate from the bench” and you can trust them not to impose regulations against the will of the people. I think Cap and Trade is an excellent example of their wisdom and deliberation: the legislators in favor of it, along with the president, have shown a full understanding of the underlying science, natural phenomena and the long-term effects on our economy and way of life.

    Manju is certainly right: as the voice of the level-headed, contemplative congressional majority, Nancy Pelosi can be counted on to balance corporate interests with free speech and…..

    (hahaha! I couldn’t keep a straight face anymore! I did pretty good for a while there….)

  35. Oblio Says:

    There is something very wrong about using the good manners of your opponents as a shield for lying about them. Lying under such circumstances is worse than lying when someone can call you on it, in the sense that the abuse of trust is an aggravating factor.

  36. Boots Says:

    After the election of 2008 but prior to the inauguration, Valerie Jarrett appeared on one of the Sunday am political shows and said that Barack “is ready to rule”. Not lead, not guide, but RULE. That has been their intent all along, which was why this administration ignored the very real problems with the economy & jobs, and focused their attention of ramming through the socialist agenda while they had huge majorities in both houses of congress.

    I can only hope Sotomayor was offended by being mocked by Obama, she apparently wasn’t too happy when the White House wouldn’t even let her choose her own clothes for her hearings. She certainly didn’t look happy sitting there next to Alito.

  37. DeWayne Says:

    Alito was wrong. Very wrong. Instead of mouthing the words to himself, he should have risen and left the chamber, and then found the nearest news camera and told the world what a liar, or an outright imbecile, Obama is.

    The decision didn’t overturn a century of law, and it didn’t open any floodgates to foreign money that Obama hasn’t already found a way around.

    It was BS, it was unseemly, and it deserved a stronger calling-out than Alito gave it.

  38. Baklava Says:


    The entire Supreme Court should’ve walked out :)

    For a man who self-proclaimed diplomacy skills – he certainly didn’t showcase those skills in this last year.

  39. DeWayne Says:


    You’re right. What a fantastic display of statesmanship: “in all due deference to the separation of powers, let me publicly attack and undermine our Supreme Court, who reached a decision of constitutional import. To demonstrate my lack of understanding of what the Supreme Court does, I’ll ask Congress to pass a law striking down the ruling”

    A fool. An absolute fool.

    Anyone who really understands the tenuous grip “the law” has on any society knows better than to drag the court into the arena of opinion. The court’s ruling have to be regarded as sacrosanct, or we risk “jury nullification” writ large. Very large. We flirted with anarchy during Gore v. Bush, and Obama wants to try that again.

    Like I said, a fool.

  40. Artfldgr Says:


    it doesnt matter how many times you explain the future moves and their potentials to accomplish certain ends. they dont get that normally those ends wouldnt even be on the table.

    we are getting deeper and deeper into it because, like the unresponsive revolutionaries of history, we are going to be reasonable and give them every possible benifit of the doubt, till there is no more doubt.

    but when the others are on board and there is no doubt, there is also no escape from the inevitable any more… which is why there is no need to obfuscate and create doubt to hide in.

    (if you go way back… i said that every revolutions key problem is the people who are part of the [R]evolution jump the gun and take off their masks before they have what they think they have. which has happened too.. like seiu head explaining that now they are trying persuasion not power, but later if that doesnt work, they are going to use power to persuade… )

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