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Obama vs. Alito vs. Dionne

Our Readers Who Comment are still all fired up about Justice Samuel Alito's murmured "not true" response to President Obama's pointed criticism of a Supreme Court decision in his State of the Union message. Readers this morning are arguing about E.J. Dionne's column saying the Court "is now dominated by a highly politicized conservative majority intent on working its will, even if that means ignoring precedents and the wishes of the elected branches of government."

Commenters were strong on both sides of the discussion, some praising and others damning the court's decision. The ruling ended decades of restrictions on corporations being able to use their profits to finance campaigns for and against candidates and, among other things, raised fears that foreign-owned corporations could significantly influence U.S. elections.

We'll start with twm1, who wrote, "I think Dionne is just exactly right. Both Obama's criticism of the Court and Aliot's apparent dissent are appropriate. Repression of this sort of thing in the name of decorum deprives the public of important information. The British House of Commons holds a weekly rancorous "Question Time" where the Prime Minister must answer questions by MPs on the floor of the Commons... I wish someone of importance would push this [in the United States] now."

polystyreneman said, "No, it was the response of a judge who understands the law better than the president. Whether the decision was activism isn't the point. I know the commenters here love to slam the conservative columnists, but Dionne deserves at least as much disdain."

dmblum wrote, "What struck me was the silly childishness of it. I mean, he's supposed to an august, apolitical jurist who merely interprets the law. Instead he looks like a one of these obnoxious shouting heads that dominate cable news."

stratman1 said, "The only thing this dust-up reminded me of is Obama's lack of class. It's an image I'll remember, for sure, but not for the reason E.J. thinks (and holds dear)."

whatdyousay wrote, "It's pretty obvious these judges have way to much power. To take one mans documentary and turn it into human rights for a corporation makes no sense. Everyone in that corporation has the same rights as you and I, but should a CEO decide for everyone else what candidate to support?"

OneWhoSpeaksTruth said, "His was the honest reaction of a judicial activist who believes he has the obligation to impose his version of right reason on the rest of us. Uh, that's what judges do, they judge."

j9zig1 wrote, "Funny how libs are all about respecting precedents except on decisions they disagree with... Please get off your high horse and just say you think that money is not speech (a previous SCOTUS decision) and that corporations and unions (and non-profits too!) do not have the right to make political statements."

And ljkeesey observed that "Free speech is free speech. What's the difference between a corporation or UNION using its own treasury to pay for a political advertisement or a political action committee, frequently with an innocuous-sounding name, espousing its views in a commercial? At least with the former I know where the message is coming from and can gauge accordingly. That's not necessarily the case with the latter. Frankly, I say more transparency is better."

i_go_pogo said, "I would sure like to have one of the fine conservative commenters explain the big upside of unlimited corporate political speech. Standing up for the First Amendment? Please. Seems to me that since the silent majority of voters never quite showed up on your side, you're eager to enable the until-now silent majority of corrupt corporate dollars..."

But johntu wrote, "Liberal activists have dominated the court for so many years that it makes chills run down the spine of a leftist when a conservative court reverses an unconstitutional decision. And for those worried about all those possible corporate donations, I have a question. Did anyone ever find out where the Obama campaign got all its millions?"

JerWH said, "If our rights are to be protected, it is necessary to love freedom more than your fear the consequences of it. Personally, I despise many of the provisions of the Patriot Act precisely because I love the freedoms which it curtails more. By the same token, I love the freedom of speech more than I am afraid of corporate money being used in a free campaign. I am intelligent enough to not base my vote on a paid advertisement, and so I'm willing to risk allowing a person with whom I disagree to speak. You're wrong on this one, Mr. Dionne."

dmblum wrote, "The ideas that corporations are human beings is so transparently monstrous on the face of it it's astonishing any adult (not working for a corporation) for it to be so. Can corporations fight and die for this country? If corporations are citizens with all the rights entrusted in thereof, we no longer had a democracy, we have a plutocracy. Actually we've had one for some time, this just openly acknowledges it."

chod1560equines said, "The perfect summation of the Obama performance to date; "That's Not True"..."

MNUSA wrote, "In 2000 they chose a president. That was without Alito and Roberts. Now the Bush Supreme court is even more entrenched and for a much longer period of time."

But etronsen said, "The nation owes a substantial debt to Justice Alito for enforcing the U.S. Constitution."

JoeTH wrote, "...Obama's transparent attack was merely a cookie for his liberal base. And another divisive zinger when the nation - not its extremes - longs for real collaboration. Where is Dionne's disdain for Pelosi, Reid and Obama's core belif that they have the 'obligation to impose [their] version of right reason on the rest of us?' "

We'll close with blarsen1, who gave me a laugh in writing, "The republicans will hail this decision right up until the moment George Soros starts a billion dollar campaign to elect Nancy Pelosi for president."

All comments on Dionne's column are here.

By Doug Feaver  |  February 1, 2010; 6:57 AM ET
 | Tags: Alito, Corporations, Obama, Supreme Court, Unions  
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Justice Alito

Dear Mr. Dionne,
I was disappointed that in your news article you did not even touch on the issue of the President’s rebuking the Supreme Court justices, while they sat unmoving during the State of the Union address. It is akin to a Headmaster, chiding a group of senior students who he disagreed with his views.
Much is being made of Justice Alito’s “Not true” which is surely not a “You Lie” moment…..yet you and others have chosen to give the President a bye and simply focus on Alito’s “gaffe”. The example you gave of Ronald Reagan’s precedent is not the same
“There is ample precedent for Obama's firm but respectful rebuke of the court. I know of no one on the right who protested when President Ronald Reagan, in a 1983 article in the Human Life Review, took on the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision of 10 years earlier.”
Do you honestly feel that the way the President attacked the decision was “respectful”. If you do, then I must respectfully say that I must have been watching another speech.

Jai Sehgal
Newtown, PA

Posted by: jsehgal001 | February 2, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse

I find ironic that President Obama is being chastened for his freedom of speech expression for critiquing a Supereme Court opinion. Is he not entitled to the same rights as a corporation?

Carl Mazzocone

Posted by: Mazzocone | February 2, 2010 10:36 AM | Report abuse

I'm glad Mr. Feaver that you included the last comment that made you laugh.
I think the reason I am so supportive of the Supreme Court decision, besides the fact that according to most Constitutional experts is that it is absolutely in accordance with the Constitution, is because of Soros' monetary control of US campaigns and elections.

Soros has been fined for his illegal excessive donations but continued to break the law in defiance of the penalties, which are insignificant considering his billions of $$.

The shady actions of the numerous fronts that Soros has used to support Obama's presidency, campaign and election, have created that distrust of government we are experiencing.
Too many people feel helpless against the elite group that control the decision-making in Washington.
Knowing that Soros, and others to lesser degrees, can control decisions made by this administration, I think that the Supreme Court ruling will level the playing field legally, in contrast to the illegal activism of George Soros.

And as for Pelosi, if Soros feels he needs her, he will use his billions to buy her. But that's not news. That's how he (and she) operates.

Posted by: pjcafe | February 1, 2010 9:29 PM | Report abuse

Here's a thought. Since corporations exist solely as a matter of law, let's repeal the law.

Posted by: Frazil | February 1, 2010 7:55 PM | Report abuse

Justice Alito needs to explain how Citizens United does not allow a wholly-owned US subsidiary of a foreign corporation--say, a state-owned Chinese corporation--from donating cash to US campaigns.

A US corporation is a US person. The law looks to the jurisdiction of incorporation, not the residence of its shareholders. (UK law looks to where the corporation is managed and controlled.) Federal tax law has taken this approach from the beginning of the income tax, as has federal and state corporation law. A US subsidiary of a PRC corporation owned by the gov't of Communist China is a US person. It will be able to buy Congress just as easily as Goldman Sachs.

Unless Citizens United changed this--and it did not--Alito is NOT TRUE.

Posted by: Garak | February 1, 2010 6:23 PM | Report abuse

kreator6996 wrote:
> But, a corporation is NOT a union, and their intent is never equal.
> Ones goal is for profit.
> The other's isnt. Its goal is to raise funds to affect legislation.

You don't seriously believe that, do you? Unions are trying to make a profit too. How do you think they pay salaries to the union leadership and other people retained to provide a service (legal, research, etc) for the union itself? Unions are supposed to represent their members when it comes to bargaining with employers. Their goal is to make sure they have the power to do so and do it from a position of a greater authority. Unions want laws on their side as well. Frequently, the laws they want passed contradict laws corporations want passed. Unions want high minimum wages, mandatory benefits, limited working hours without overtime pay, mandates that jobs be filled by union members, etc. Corporations want lower minimum wages, fewer mandated benefits, unlimited working hours with no overtime pay, no union member requirements, etc. Both sides have vested interests in swinging a Congressman or Senator to vote in their favor.

Numbers used in this are just examples, so please don't take them as the product of in-depth research. If the right thing would be to have work hours limited to 50 per week with a maximum of 9 per day and anything over 8/day and 40/week is mandatory overtime, a moderate minimum wage, no mandated benefits, and having unions create some form of certification system that could give people a hiring preference, you'd see the unions cry foul of the lack of mandated benefits, cause a rumble but might accept the moderate minimum wage and certification, and love the limited working hours, while the corporations would love the no mandatory benefits, grumble but might accept the minimum wage and certification, and cry foul of limiting how many hours a person can work per week.

Think of the unions as corporations whose stockholders are its members.

Posted by: kiltedknight | February 1, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse

I still dont understand how unions,
a collection of citizens who decide to collectively bargain and join together for a common goal is the same as a person incorporating their business to protect their assest and their goal is to make a profit for their shareholders.

One is a collection of citizens,whose goal is to affect legislature.

The other isn't.
I dont have a problem with business creating PACS or donating to causes that attempt to change laws in their favor.

But, a corporation is NOT a union, and their intent is never equal.

Ones goal is for profit.
The other's isnt. Its goal is to raise funds to affect legislation.

Lets say I have a corporation, whose sole purpose is to make profit for shareholders of my company.
The sole business mission of my business is to affect legislation, to in turn create profit for my shareholders.
I dont make any products, I dont offer any service, am not a contractor of any type.

This totally opens the door for purely for-profit business to make its sole business to influence government.

Unions dont and cannot work this way.

Why not just elect a president based on the Dow?

Posted by: kreator6996 | February 1, 2010 5:07 PM | Report abuse

We'll close with blarsen1, who gave me a laugh in writing, "The republicans will hail this decision right up until the moment George Soros starts a billion dollar campaign to elect Nancy Pelosi for president."


Posted by: lostinthemiddle


Pretty much. Conservatives do not have the lock on being super rich that they think they do. In fact most of the Top Ten richest Americans in the world are Liberals. So jump with glee at the thought of Exxon installing our next President but Soros, Gates, and Brin could put a halt to that overnight.

You'd have to count on the Walton family to open their pocketbooks to counteract some of the biggest philanthropists in the world......and that group of vultures make money; they don't spend it. Don't count your chickens yet guys.

Posted by: theobserver4 | February 1, 2010 4:07 PM | Report abuse

obama proved that he will lie to get what he wants...
the people now know this and will vote how they want to regardless of the ads on tv...
the dems can put pelosi in a piggy dress and she still won't get elected...
obama blew the dems chances at being in power...

Posted by: DwightCollins | February 1, 2010 1:49 PM | Report abuse

i cant believe they highlighted two comments by "dmblum", who chose to compare a response that requires a lip-reader to a "shouting" cable news talking head, and parrot the left wing talking point about "corporations aren't people", as if that is what the court decided (which they didnt).

Posted by: dummypants | February 1, 2010 1:39 PM | Report abuse

We'll close with blarsen1, who gave me a laugh in writing, "The republicans will hail this decision right up until the moment George Soros starts a billion dollar campaign to elect Nancy Pelosi for president."


Posted by: lostinthemiddle | February 1, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

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