State of the Union speeches regularly infuriate the opposing party, and to that extent Barack Obama met and exceeded expectations last night.
One aspect of the speech deservedly is receiving most attention: The crude attempt to intimidate the Supreme Court in front of the Congress and the nation. Here’s the relevant text:
With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections. (Applause.) I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. (Applause.) They should be decided by the American people. And I’d urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to correct some of these problems.
The video shows the Supreme Court, surrounded by cheering and standing Democratic Congressmen and Senators, sitting mostly stone-faced in the face of the Congressional mob, except for Justice Alito who apparently mouthed the words “not true.”
The details are well publicized, and Instapundit has a good round-up of why the President’s attack was both false and unprecedented.
Put aside for the moment that this is the same President who had his campaign disable credit card security features on his campaign website so that there would be no way to ensure compliance with federal campaign laws. This post is not about mere hypocrisy, which is a common trait in politicians.
The attack on the Supreme Court during the State of the Union was a window into Obama’s divisive soul. I have posted numerous times before about Obama’s need to identify and campaign against enemies. He did it during the campaign and he does it every day in office.
Last night it was (mostly) the bankers and Wall Street (which donated more money to his campaign than to Republicans) and the Senate Republicans who were his target. But it those were the only attacks, it would have been merely another typical political speech.
The attack on the Supreme Court exposes the intolerance of this President. The politician who campaigned and allegedly champions the rule of law actually has very little use for the rule of law when it does not advance his political agenda.
Last night was an attempt at intimidation, a chance to work the referees on the sideline during a home game with the guarantee of crowd approval.
Bob Herbert in the NY Times asked recently “Who is Barack Obama?” We found out last night, again.
Barack Obama is a divider, not a uniter.
Update: Here is an historical perspective as to how unprecedented it was to confront the Supreme Court Justices during a State of the Union speech:
President Barack Obama’s pointed criticism of the Supreme Court in tonight’s State of the Union address, which we reported on here and here was beyond unusual; it was almost unprecedented. The third branch rarely even merits a mention in the State of the Union speeches, according to a search we’ve made going back to Woodrow Wilson’s speech in 1913 in this University of California Santa Barbara database. (Thanks to editor David Brown for the research.)
Presidents have mentioned the Supreme Court by name only nine times since that Wilson speech nearly a century ago, according to the search, and it would be hard to categorize many of those nine as criticisms. Even President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had a lot of grievances with the Court, never mentioned it in any of his State of the Union messages. And Richard Nixon, who campaigned against the Warren Court, mentioned the Supreme Court in a State of the Union talk only once, in 1972, in a bland, welcoming way.