Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
--C.S. Lewis--

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Alito/Obama Throwdown

Am I being too boring if I'm not as shocked as some by either man's behavior? Obama's statement was false and demagogic, but the idea that he isn't allowed to criticize the court during his big speech is just silly. Presidents have criticized Congress before during the SOTU speech, so why is it some heinous breech of etiquette to call the court out when you think they are wrong? The other branches of government are separate, not sacred. And, while the precedent may be for the court to sit there like a bunch of polite rocks, once the president starts criticizing them so directly, showing a little human emotion seems to be well within reasonable bounds. In fact, telling Justice Alito that the president has a right to rake his decision over the coals while he sits there and takes it without so much as a facial tick seems like a pretty cowardly position for the president's partisans to take.

Charles Krauthammer makes a decent point. Unlike the Congress, the Supreme Court attends the SOTU as a courtesy to the other branches. They are not required to attend, and past courts have not done so. That makes the president's attack a little more like inviting a friend for dinner and browbeating him about politics over dessert. Therefore, maybe you can argue that Obama's choice of venue was a tad rude. I still think that the folks acting as if this was some major breach, or assault on the separation of powers are more than a bit overwrought.