Why the sudden slew of attacks on the Supreme Court, specifically Justices Alito and Roberts, by leading Democrats?

The decision in the Citizens United case, which struck down on First Amendment grounds some legislative restrictions on campaign speech by corporations, is the excuse but not the reason.

The Citizens United decision is not a clear victory for either political party, since corporate spending will be matched if not exceeded by union spending, and as we have seen in the health care debate, large corporate interests often support Obama’s agenda. Nonetheless, Pat Leahy (D-Vt) has declared the decision the “most partisan decision since Bush v. Gore.”

Yet numerous Democratic leaders, not just Obama, are on the offensive against Alito and Roberts, claiming that they “misled” Congress during their confirmation proceedings as to whether they would respect case precedent.

This assertion is patently false. Neither nominee (nor any other nominee in history) ever commits to never overturning an incorrect prior decision of the Court. Many of the most historic Supreme Court decisions, such as Brown v. Bd. of Education, overturned longstanding precedent.

So why the anger and fury?

Let me suggest it has something to do with likelihood that Justice Stevens will be retiring at the end of this term. Democrats are attempting to paint Alito and Stevens Roberts as extremists who misled Congress in order to pressure Obama to pick an activist liberal justice to replace Stevens, and then to justify confirmation.

The argument will go that since Alito and Roberts are activist on the right, there must be an activist on the left appointed as a counterbalance.

There is method to Democrats’ madness in attacking the Citizens United decision and in demonizing Alito and Roberts. But it’s still madness.

Update: Not surprisingly, Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), whose unhinged rant on the floor of the Senate last month launched his career as the Senate’s Alan Grayson, has taken a lead in attacking the Supreme Court’s “right-wing” activism:

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., for instance, said on the Senate floor Friday that he sees the court’s recent decision to allow unfettered corporate and union spending on elections (though not as direct aid to candidates) as an overt bid by the majority conservative bloc to pursue “Republican political goals.” …

“Connect the dots,” said Whitehouse. “Republicans are the party of the corporations. The judges are the appointees of the Republicans, and the judges just delivered for the corporations. It is being done in plain view.”

Tellingly, both Leahy and Whitehouse are on the Senate Judiciary Committee (Leahy is the Chair).

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