Chief Justice John Roberts, in responding to a question during a law school forum, took the very reasonable position that what happened at the State of the Union address was troubling:
“First of all, anybody can criticize the Supreme Court without any qualm,” he said, adding that “some people, I think, have an obligation to criticize what we do, given their office, if they think we’ve done something wrong.”
“So I have no problems with that. On the other hand, there is the issue of the setting, the circumstances and the decorum. The image of having the members of one branch of government standing up, literally surrounding the Supreme Court, cheering and hollering while the court — according the requirements of protocol — has to sit there expressionless, I think is very troubling.”
I will be less polite than the Chief Justice. The sight of Chuck “my flight attendant is a bitch and Scott Brown is a teabagger” Schumer jumping to his feet right behind the Justices so he could clap loudly in the ears of the Justices was … vomitous.
But the Chief was more reserved, criticizing not the criticism, but the theater created by Obama to ridicule the Justices.
The critics of Roberts almost to a person ignore the distinction Roberts made between criticism of the Court (which he views as proper) and the “cheering and hollering” surrounding the Court by the likes of Schumer.
And then Glenn Greenwald took it one step further, claiming that Roberts suffers from a psychological defect (emphasis mine):
The very idea that it’s terrriby [sic] wrong, uncouth, and “very troubling” for the President to criticize one of their most significant judicial decisions in a speech while in their majestic presence — not threaten them, or have them arrested, or incite violence against them, but disagree with their conclusions and call for Congressional remedies (as Art. II, Sec. 3 of the Constitution requires) — approaches pathological levels of vanity and entitlement.
The particular Obama/Roberts/Alito drama is an unimportant distraction, but what this reflects about the mindset of many judges, including (perhaps especially) ones on the Supreme Court and obviously the Chief Justice of that court, is definitely worth considering.
The theme that Roberts’ observation reflects some deep psychological problem was reiterated by Jonathan Weiler at HuffPo:
But Roberts’ apparently deep sense of injury over being criticized, the evident insecurity he feels notwithstanding his awesome power and the frankly stunningly simplistic nature of his reasoning (at least when it comes to race and affirmative action) are likely not play-acting. They provide a revealing and, I would dare say, troubling window onto the soul of the man who may head our high court for the next generation.
The claim that Roberts’ reasonable comments reflected a psychological problem is, well, just nuts.
Update: Some pretty good commentary from Jan Crawford of CBS:
For the life of me, I just don’t get why the White House continues to try to pick a fight with the Supreme Court. I’ve suggested before that perhaps it’s a sign President Obama intends to tap an outsider when John Paul Stevens retires, so he can beat the drum that the Court is out of touch with everyday Americans.
Whether the White House has a short-term or long-term strategy or no strategy at all, it’s flat-out absurd and ill-advised for the administration to think it should always have the last word. It’s like my 6-year-old: “I don’t LIKE your idea. I like MY idea.”
Is it finally sinking in? This administration always has to have the last word, and is intolerant of dissenting views. Since the only thing Obama ever accomplished in his life was winning political campaigns, everything looks like a political campaign.