Thursday, March 11, 2010

Poor Bubby

That poor, put-upon John Roberts. He's only the Chief Justice of the United States, and he actually had to sit there in silence while the President criticized the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United during this year's State of the Union address. Now the Chief Justice is calling the President's remarks "very troubling." It wasn't absolutely wrong for the President to criticize the decision, the Chief Justice says, but the setting and the circumstances made the President's actions inappropriate.

What nonsense. Let's get this straight. According to the Chief Justice, it's perfectly OK for the Supreme Court to diss the entire Congress and the President too, by striking down the campaign finance laws that Congress passed and the President signed. That kind of critique has actual effect: the Supreme Court officially undoes the official handiwork of the other branches. And that's perfectly fine.

But whoa, we can't have the President talk about and criticize the Supreme Court's decision, even though that kind of critique has no official effect whatever, and at worst gives a few Supreme Court Justices an uncomfortable moment.

The Chief Justice is mistaken. But he's only doing what so many in Washington mistakenly do -- thinking that form is more important than substance. He thinks talking about what another branch does is a harsher, nastier treatment than officially negating what another branch does.

When asked whether the President's speech was appropriate, a better answer for the Chief Justice would have been, "the President, or anyone else, has every right to criticize the Supreme Court's decisions. Of course, the Supreme Court Justices and other federal judges are given life tenure by the Constitution so that we don't have to worry when people criticize us. The President is free to say what he wants, but it will have no effect, either way, on the Court's decisions."

And by the way, Mr. Chief Justice, no one is forcing you to attend the State of the Union address. If you're too delicate to be criticized, stay on your own turf.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good post!