Remind us: who’s the only President to rebuke the Supreme Court to its face at a State of the Union?
Morning Joe came down with a bad case of the vapors this morning, clutching its collective pearls [to mix metaphors] over President Trump’s comments about the court currently hearing the case on the executive order on immigration.
Jon Meacham said that Trump was “messing with the Magna Carta,” of all things! Joe Scarborough upped the anxiety ante, saying “the historical precedents are chilling. I don’t even want to mention their names, but some of the dangerous autocrats of the 20th century, their two goals were to, first, undermine an independent judiciary and, second, to undermine a free press.” Gee, wonder with which “dangerous autocrat” of the 20th-century—whose name one dared not speak—Scarborough was lumping Trump?
Note: as you’ll see in the video, Trump quoted part of the 1952 law that gives the President the right “for such period as he shall deem necessary, [to] suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”
Note segundo: in addition to his Trump = Hitler analogy, Scarborough also darkly mused that Trump’s criticism of the court might be an “attempt to intentionally discredit them so he can strip them of power down the road.” Just what is Joe suggesting? Some sort of executive coup d’etat against the judiciary? We need to know!
The thrust of Trump’s criticism was that the language of the law was so straightforward that even a “bad high school student” could understand it, whereas listening to the oral hearing on the case, he heard “things that had nothing to do with what I just read.” Even so, Trump was careful to observe: “I don’t ever want to call a court biased, so I won’t call it biased.”
And for this, Trump is accused of being a latter-day [fill in the blank with your most dangerous 20th-century autocrat]?
Hmm, which other recent president also called out courts for not interpreting what he saw as the clear language of a statute? President Obama, of course. Among numerous statements documented here, Obama said, while the King v. Burwell Obamacare case was pending before a court, “Look, this should be a pretty straightforward case of statutory interpretation.”
And on an earlier Obamacare case, Obama suggested—while the case was pending before the Supreme Court—that “people’s lives are affected by the lack of availability of health care . . . The law has . . given 2.5 million young people health care that wouldn’t otherwise have it.” Got that, Court? Agree with me or jeopardize the lives of millions!
And speaking of disrespect for an independent judiciary, remind me: who is the only president in American history to have rebuked to their faces members of the Supreme Court who sat before him at a State of the Union address?
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Well, President Trump continues to lob shots at the judicial branch. We await a federal court’s, appeals court’s decision over whether to reinstate President Trump’s order suspending travel from seven countries. And speaking yesterday morning before a convention of county sheriffs and police chiefs, the president called the courts “political.”
DONALD TRUMP: [reading from statute] “He may by proclamation and for such period as he shall deem necessary.” So here it is. People coming in. “Suspend the entry of all aliens,” right? That’s what it says. It’s not like — again, a bad high school student would understand this.
. . .
I watched last night in amazement and I heard things that I couldn’t believe. Things that really had nothing to do with what I just read. And I don’t ever want to call a court biased so I won’t call it biased and we haven’t had a decision yet. But courts seem to be so political and it would be so great for our justice system if they would be able to read a statement and do what’s right.
. . .
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Well, it’s more than stunning. It is dangerous. Again, for anyone who knows the history of the 20th century, it is dangerous when you have executives trying to denigrate the judicial branch and judicial independence . . .
When you say what said about federal court judges, it either is an attempt to intentionally discredit them so he can strip them of power down the road, or it’s a complete ignorance of the system . . . It is a system of checks and balances that began with Madison and Hamilton, and presidents do not speak this way. And I saw you and I both quoted Jefferson last night in some tweets about the extraordinary importance of judicial Independence.
JON MEACHAM: It’s not even a 230-year tradition he’s messing with here. It’s a thousand years. It’s the Magna Carta
JOE: Again, the historical precedents, Mark Halperin, are chilling. I don’t even want to mention their names, but some of the dangerous autocrats of the 20th century, their two goals were to, first, undermine an independent judiciary and, second, to undermine a free press. This crosses a bright, bright line that conservatives in my party need to start talking about and pushing back on.
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