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John Roberts gets it right (for once)

Chief Justice John Roberts is wrong about a lot of things — most things, actually — but he may be right when he suggests that he and his black-robed colleagues should give the State of the Union address a pass. Their presence looks like a tradition whose time has come and gone.

To the extent the State of the Union has degenerated into a political pep rally, I’m not sure why we’re there,” Roberts said Tuesday at the University of Alabama, elucidating the obvious. Politics? At the State of the Union? Let’s all pause for a moment while we get over the shock.

Roberts was complaining about the moment in January’s speech when President Obama blasted the court’s anything-goes decision on campaign finance. Six justices were in attendance, including three who voted with the majority; Justice Samuel Alito couldn’t keep himself from mouthing the words “not true” and shaking his head. Much comment ensued.

“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 to the requirements of protocol — has to sit there expressionless, I think is very troubling,” Roberts said told a group of ’Bama law students.

He’s got a point. Obama had every right to call the justices out for a decision that he (and, ahem, many others) believes was wrong. But, as The Post's Eva Rodriguez noted this afternoon, in such a political atmosphere it’s unrealistic to expect the targets of presidential wrath to sit like cyborgs, betraying not a hint of reaction. I would go further, and ask whether it is necessary, or even appropriate, for them to go at all.

It’s not as if Alito did the full Joe Wilson and yelled “You lie!” or even “You misinterpret the equal protection clause!” He shook his head and muttered — and even in a setting of such high ceremony, some allowance has to be made for muttering.

But really, what are the justices doing there anyway? The State of the Union is an occasion for the president to lay out his agenda. The Supremes’ work shouldn’t be affected by anything the president says. Their only role is as props, their presence a reminder that our government has a third, less visible, branch. A better way to bring home this civics lesson would be for the court to allow oral arguments and other proceedings to be televised. Then the nation would learn something.

On State of the Union night, the justices can get together at the courthouse, order some takeout and watch the whole thing on the tube. They’ll be free to cheer and boo all they want, just like the rest of us.

By Eugene Robinson  | March 10, 2010; 7:53 PM ET
Categories:  Robinson  | Tags:  Eugene Robinson  
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Comments

GENE ROBINSON IS RIGHT. THE SUPREMES NEED NIT BE THERE, ESPECIALLY IF THEY ARE TO BE ROASTED.


Gene is right. No need for the Supremes to be there. Especially if they are to be roasted. On TV in the court room; Gene has it all wrong, as Roberts generally does, I agree there too. We have all to much show biz in our political life. The presence of cameras will change more than one justice into a Lance Ito. Let's try to have a modicum of decorum in our high court in spite of the presence of some of the justices.


Posted by: alf1052 | March 11, 2010 1:35 AM | Report abuse

John Roberts should count his lucky stars that his face is obscure enough that he can walk down the street without getting spit on. 80% of the American public is appalled at his court's ruling that our democracy be put up for the highest bidder from corporate interests (as if they didn't have enough influence already). He's taken the country back a century.

He is an enemy of the state, and by rights should be rotting in Guantanamo. He has done FAR more damage to this country than any one Al Qaida operative possibly could.

Posted by: B2O2 | March 11, 2010 2:31 AM | Report abuse

I completely disagree.

There is nothing wrong with expecting Supreme Court justices to maintain their appearance of impartiality. It is the most basic duty of their position.

The problem here is that both Alito and Roberts are rabid ideologues, hell bent on imposing their right-wing political preferences under the guise of judging. The fact that those two conservative activists find it hard to control their outbursts is no reason to change the tradition of attendance at the SOTU or to condemn all judges as incapable of exercising self-control.

What is galling to Alito in Roberts is that the rest of the world isn't bowing down to their right-wing ideology and praising them for shoving it down everyone's throats by "discovering" right-wing constitutional rights that never existed before.

Posted by: uh_huhh | March 11, 2010 3:55 AM | Report abuse

There are a few institutions in America that should not be demagogued and made pawns of partisan poltics while they are captive audiences at the SOTU and obligated by protocol not to display their own political inclinations.

One is the Supreme Court, the other is the assembled Chiefs of the Military.

Imagine if Obama had decided to bash the military leaders and all serving under them and had Democrats rising and cheering as he ripped into them...
Would their independence from partisan politics require them to assert that independence back at Obama's political exploitation - shake their heads and mutter "not true?". Or would that be disrespectful to the Law Prof in CHief? Even more disrespectful than his public dissing?
What if just that happened, and as Dems stood up and applauded the political atteck on the Brass - they decided to get up and walk out? What if the Boy Commander then ordered them back to their seats to take more abuse, and they just kept walking?
That would be quite the mess, wouldn't it?

If anything, Obama should be even more respectful to SCOTUS than he is to the military, as a coequal Branch. That doesn't mean SCOTUS is above criticism. In fact, it is essential that Congress and the President DO so, it is their Constitutional duty to inform SCOTUS and the general public if they think SCOTUS is off the reservation.

But what Roberts said politely at university is that there is a right way and wrong way to do that criticism, and Obama was off-base. Just as - Commander in CHief - he has many venues to criticize or challenge military thinking and decisions - but doing it in front of a national audience for personal political gain is not one of those venues.

Posted by: ChrisFord1 | March 11, 2010 4:27 AM | Report abuse

I think the criticism of the Citizens United decision is over-done. In the first place it simply doesn't make that much difference practically speaking. Yes it overturned considerable precedent, but let's face it: that precedent was built on careful avoidance of reading the First Amendment onto the decisions.

Obama's remark during the State of the Union address had much the character of taking a pot shot at sitting ducks. Disparaging the justices was not only graceless and quite useless politically speaking, but also harmful to the court as a public institution.

The problems that none of the former, overturned legislation solved are that 1) political campaigns cost too much and 2) they drag on forever. We need statutory limits on election campaign spending. We need statutory limits on the length of election campaigns, and we need to compress the primary season and move it closer to the general elections. The vast bulk of the time and money spent on elections currently makes no real difference in popular outcome. It only serves to increase the expense and thereby indenture political candidates to their largest contributors.

Posted by: fzdybel | March 11, 2010 5:04 AM | Report abuse

If the major corporations were to give us instant rebates when we bought their products and services and appended a list on the receipt of people they would prefer us to vote for, it would be efficient, economical,and well appreciated by the consumer.

Posted by: freddiano | March 11, 2010 6:01 AM | Report abuse

Robinson misses the point (again). The real issue is the hypocrisy of Obama. As candidate Obama, he RAILED against the hyper-partisanship of Washington. As president Obama, he is one of its most devoted practitioners. His State of the Union swipe is a prime example. The State of the Union was not intended to be a partisan political pep rally. He seems to have been transformed. Although I voted for Obama in 2008, I was concerned that his deeds would not match his campaign rhetoric. My fears were realized. His transformative liberal (big government)agenda trumps his campaign of a less partisan approach to governance.

Posted by: SkiFanatic | March 11, 2010 6:24 AM | Report abuse

Judging from the outrage at the Supreme Courts' Citizens United decision, one could reasonably conclude that there was no corporate influence on Congressmen prior to that decision and that the sky is soon to fall.

Posted by: tulsadave | March 11, 2010 8:45 AM | Report abuse

The entire SOTU circus is a tradition whose time has come and gone, NOT just the presence of the Justices. This address needs to come from the Oval Office, with our President behind his desk. No partisan
legislators present to applaud a million times, or show disdain by refusing to stand up and perform, no theatre at all-just our President, addressing the state of our union, PERIOD. This has become one more sham, a monumental waste of money
and time.

Posted by: patriotgmalou | March 11, 2010 8:45 AM | Report abuse

How I detest l o n g d o n g silver, scalia, roberts & alito. Shameless characters. Completely out of touch with ordinay human beings.

Posted by: davidsawh | March 11, 2010 9:05 AM | Report abuse

agreed...all of the $upreme Corp's (or as i call it, the U.S. Vatican Council) proceedings need to be televised..if scalia doesn't like it, then he can quit..

Posted by: rmcgolden | March 11, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

The suggestion by Roberts that the court should suddenly decide to not attend the State of the Union address is not about partisanship. When Bush enthusiastically endorsed anti-abortion sentiment, the court didn't object to his opposition to settled law. This is about insiders, when outsiders are finally in power, taking the ball and going home. These kinds of schoolyard tactics should be familiar to any of us who have broken through barriers into seats of power only to have the rules change under our watch. Happens all the time.

Posted by: rosebud11 | March 11, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

I am nearly always on the opposite side of a question from Mr. Robinson, but not about this. The dressing down of the court (actually, of the majority) in the circumstances had the aspect of bullying. Mr. Robinson shows intellectual honesty in not being swayed here by his political support of the President and his dislike of the Supreme Court decision in question.

Posted by: Roytex | March 11, 2010 9:55 AM | Report abuse

If the Supreme Court is that thin skinned they should stay home. Some didn't attend. It's a "State of the Union" address and the President talks about a lot of things so anything to do with campaigns will probably be discussed. I think Roberts was surprised that both sides agreed with the president.

Posted by: rlj1 | March 11, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

the catholic 5 on the court (not including sotomayor) would like the court's proceeding to be like a secret Knights of Columbus meeting...

Posted by: rmcgolden | March 11, 2010 10:02 AM | Report abuse

I have thought for more than 30 years, through administrations I liked and those I didn't, that the Supreme Court justices should not be at the State of the Union Address.

Their role is above politics; the president's agenda is not theirs.

It's a shame this issue now becomes a referendum on "Citizens United." The real issue is separation of powers and judicial independence. They should stay home.

Posted by: Meridian1 | March 11, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Ya know guys, when the so called "supreme ones" handed Bushy his presidency on that silver platter, we all saw the writing on the wall, and as long as Bushy's appointments of the "chosen" remain, we
will see more skullduggery from this body.
This was the sole purpose of placing these cretins in this once respected office. They are slowly eroding any modicum of
decency this body one held. Much like the
repukes are systematically eroding any modicum of decency this country once held.
They (the ones of whom I speak) deserved
the scolding from our President, they are
superb examples of what the repuke party
if ALL ABOUT.

Posted by: patriotgmalou | March 11, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Why doesn't everyone just stay home and watch the President on television. It is all performance art, anyhow. sitting and waiting, then waiting some more, sending an escort delegation out to escort in, applauding the guest not once, but twice before he ever opens his mouth to read a speech that has already been released and read along with him by everyone on the floor of the House, much standing and applauding, then more sitting for a few seconds before jumping up again.

What a kubuki! Enough already. Everyone stay home, the President included, reading his teleprompter. Stop shutting down the city -- TIVO the speech and watch it or read it or ignore it.

It is utterly forgettable!

Posted by: radbwana | March 11, 2010 10:05 AM | Report abuse

radbwana-you are obviously in agreement with my former post-RIGHT ON!!! How many
more of you posters agree? Care to chime in on our little suggestion for the manner in which the SOTU is carried out? Many
"traditions" have out-lived their value, for instance the exorbitant inaugeration
gala, state dinners, etc. We have all
learned to live within our budgets, we have cut "luxury" items and tightened our
belts, why can't the feds begin a trim-down of unnecessary spending? It would be a great demonstration of "FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY". DO you think any of them have the guts to even consider this?

Posted by: patriotgmalou | March 11, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Eugene Robinson is wrong about a lot of things - most things actually - but he is mostly correct on this one. It must have been a struggle for Eugene to comment that POTUS exhibited even a hint of impropriety.

Posted by: Galasso | March 11, 2010 10:28 AM | Report abuse

I would encourage everyone to read the Citizens United vs FEC decision or at least a summary of it written by someone from a legal background - not a summary from the press. It doesn't give corporations (esp foreign ones) free reign to contribute to political campaigns. It only struck down the 30 & 60 day prior to election day limits on tv/radio ads.

BTW, this decision didn't suddenly declare that corporations were "persons". That has been the case under the law since the 1800's.

Stop being ignorant. Educate yourselves and stop believing the propaganda that the news media is shoveling.

Posted by: flatlander1992 | March 11, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

I would love to be able to watch oral arguments and proceedings of the Supreme Court on television!

Posted by: maggydumas | March 11, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Mr Robinson answers his own question:
..."But what are the justices doing there anyway? Two sentences later; "Their presense is a reminder that our government has a third, less visible branch."
'nuff said.

Posted by: peterjbenson | March 11, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

I'm fairly certain that few Justices will show up for the next SOTU. President Obama will then have a freer hand in misrepresenting the facts in mounting any attacks upon them.

Posted by: edbyronadams | March 11, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

If a "liberal" commentator and a "conservative" justice can agree on something being good for our nation, maybe there is yet hope that our representatives in congress can set aside their posturing and do the same.

Posted by: SJ123 | March 11, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Well said! Enjoy the pizza!

Posted by: slownez | March 11, 2010 11:58 AM | Report abuse

The Supremes are already out of touch with the rest of America as they sit in their ivory castle. Further removing them from the consequences of their decisions would make them increasingly so. At least the State of the Union exposes them to the political realities of our day, whether we or they feel 'comfortable.'

Posted by: HillRat | March 11, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

I usually agree with Mr. Robinson, but not in this case. The nature of the State of the Union has not changed for many years; it was just as political under Reagan as it is today. It should be required attendance; it's the one day in the year all parts of the federal government need to be together. Aside from the critique Obama made, the event generally helps reinforce the unity of the system rather than conflict. That symbolism needs to continue. As for Obama's criticism of the Supreme Court, those folks need to get a thicker skin. They're appointed for life, so public criticism, even in a highly watched moment, should be permissible. You think when Reagan and others critiqued Roe v Wade in the State of the Union, the Justices whined?

Posted by: kennedys | March 11, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

As far as I'm concerned, a lifetime appointment means showing up to staff meetings for your employer:

the US public.

Roberts is the epitome of hubris. Let him and other Justices face the public, for better or worse. We can't throw them out, so they can suffer a few comments once a year.

Posted by: forestbloggod | March 11, 2010 12:14 PM | Report abuse

The justices should be there as the one time the Judicial, Executive and Legislative bodies come together, and was a great time for reflection......until an ignorant, Huga Chavez Wannabe, decided to start ranting about a court decision he didn't like. That was something a tinpot dictator ......or a limp-wristed, egotisical, socialist community organizer might do.

Posted by: Realist20 | March 11, 2010 12:16 PM | Report abuse

And we're supposed to be surprised at a rightwing hack's response to real leadership?

Posted by: mmax | March 11, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

In the country's early history, Presidents submitted the State of the Union message in writing, rather than in a speech. Thus, I don't think it would be wrong for the Justices to change their practice of attending. On the other hand, there is nothing wrong for the President to say an action of the Supreme court has had a negative impact on the State of the Union. His message is supposed to give his opinion of the State of the Union and his suggestions to Congress for improving it.

A President is elected to represent all of the United States, not just the President's political party and its supporters. The Constitution requires the President to inform Congress of the State of the Union. Therefore, to me the bigger politicization problem is the relatively recent practice of television giving the minority party free national coverage to refute the President immediately following the President's address to Congress. If they are going to do that, they should give equal time to the majority party leader for a rebuttal.

A clearly partisan political act that still deserves criticism is Chief Justice Roberts illegally interjecting the U.S. Supreme Court into the 2004 election dispute over the State of Florida's selection of the electors to send to the Electoral College. Not only does the Constitution reserve disputes over electors to the States and the Congress, Roberts gave that election to the man who appointed him Chief Justice, a conflict of interest ethics issue. He deserved to be impeached for that.

Posted by: BTMPost | March 11, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

I'm not an Obama fan, but his State of the Union address is a First Amendment exercise and he should be free to express his opinion, whether or not it offends the audience. That some of the Supremes didn't like what he had to say is no different than Repub senators and representatives sitting before him or the American public watching their televisions at home not liking what he had to say. If any of the Supremes are so sensitive as to not want to be present for remarks that may offend them, they need not attend the State of the Union. But that won't stop remarks from being made that might offend them anyway!

Posted by: MylesSchulberg | March 11, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

For once, I will agree with Eugene.... There is no need for the Supreme court to be present for the State of the Union, which is nothing more than a political agenda setting speech. Let the two branches involved in daily politics attend, and leave what is supposed to be the impartial branch, out of the picture.

I will strongly disagree with Gene's assertion that Roberts "is wrong about a lot of things — most things, actually."

This is just not a fact, but a cheap political opinion by a blind sheep following Obama until he falls off a cliff.

Posted by: alutz08 | March 11, 2010 12:33 PM | Report abuse

I rarely disagree with you, Gene. But in this case, I do. The SOTU is one of the few grand public ceremonies that we have left. It's the only time when all three branches of our government gather under one roof, and it's a visual reminder that -- no matter what else is going on -- the Republic still stands and the institutions of our government remain intact. Public ceremonies are part of the glue that holds a society together, and to that extent, I'd hate to see us forgo the pomp and circumstance and just use it as another occasion to break off into ideological camps.

That said, I agree 100% that the court needs to be more transparent, over and above a ceremonial appearance at the SOTU. Allowing C-SPAN to televise the court proceedings would be a damn good place to start. Just like Congress, give the people a chance to see what is being done in their name.

Posted by: js_edit | March 11, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

I would encourage everyone to read the Citizens United vs FEC decision or at least a summary of it written by someone from a legal background - not a summary from the press. It doesn't give corporations (esp foreign ones) free reign to contribute to political campaigns. It only struck down the 30 & 60 day prior to election day limits on tv/radio ads.

BTW, this decision didn't suddenly declare that corporations were "persons". That has been the case under the law since the 1800's.

Stop being ignorant. Educate yourselves and stop believing the propaganda that the news media is shoveling.

Posted by: flatlander1992
___________

Your explanation is incomplete. The case law as published on the SCOTUS site not only lifts the ban of advertising 30 days prior to an election but it also allows corporations to "general treasury" funds. This is a huge issue because MicroSoft or Halliburton have huge treasuries and can easily swamp the airwaves 30 days prior to an election.

The other issue with this is that a corporation who takes my money as an investment may now use it to support a candidate I don't support.

The other issue is whether congress can abridge freedom of speech if the speaker is a corporation. Certainly the founders could have defined who is considered a "person" in the Constitution but they probably used the commonly accepted idea that rights belong to "men", in other words, human beings. Corporations were around in the 1700's and trying to run things as usual. But who exactly speaks for a corporation? Who can it be a "person" if not everyone who works for or invests in a corporation agrees?

While I fully agree a corporation has the right to declare it supports liberal or conservative causes and candidates the real issue is the unfairness of a corporation to use its general treasury to speak louder than anyone else.

I guess we will see how this ruling falls out. I've read the decision and it almost implies there can be no regulation of corporations. If they are entitled to First Amendment protections then aren't they entitled to every other Constitutional protection?

I know that we are going to see big corps flooding the airwaves up until election day with professionally produced hate-ads. I'm not looking forward to it.

Posted by: arancia12 | March 11, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Dear BTMPost,

You really are stupid, aren't you??

The POTUS has over one hour of talk time available to get his message across during the SOTU speech.

Also, another example of your stupidity, is Chief Justice Roberts was nominated in late 2005 to the Supreme Court, AFTER THE 2004 elections you are blathering about. The 2004 Florida elections were never in dispute, because Bush won that by a convincing margin.
If you are referring to the 2000 election dispute, Roberts was not an attorney for either side, and only was a consultant to the governor of FL at that time. Roberts did not begin his service in the Supreme Court until September 2005.

Its really amazing the lack of education from the liberal posters on this website... including the opinion writer himself.

Posted by: alutz08 | March 11, 2010 12:45 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Gene Robinson. There is no point in the Supremes going to the State of the Union address - and indeed not all of them went this last time anyway. As Koko said in the Mikado - "They'll none of them be missed!"

Posted by: troisieme | March 11, 2010 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Eugene Robinson, like the rest of the knee-jerk liberals, elides over the fact that Obama delivered an extremely rude, untrue and unprecedented slap in the face to the Supreme Court while they were a captive target.

I cringed when Obama made his statements and thought his accusation made him look like a petty little man.

Posted by: spamsux1 | March 11, 2010 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Dear arancia12,

What about Obama's 30 minute infomercial during the latter months of his campaign? Where did all those $$ come from to afford such an unprecedented bit of air-time on TV? Some investigation needed to be done into why his credit-card collection website did not require Name & Address fields to match the info on record with the credit card account.


Also a word of advice.... if you don't like what a company does with their political monetary investments, DON"T BUY THEIR PRODUCT!

Posted by: alutz08 | March 11, 2010 12:51 PM | Report abuse

CBS Poll:

"In the poll, which has been online for several weeks and has attracted thousands of comments, not even 3 percent of the respondents grade Obama with an "A," barely another 3 percent give him a "B" and about 4 percent give him a "C."
Almost 26 percent give him a "D" and more than 63 percent him an "F."

Posted by: ChooseBestCandidate | March 11, 2010 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Of course the Justices should attend. It shouldn't be too difficult for a group of such distinguished, well educated individuals to sit through a once-a-year, event to which all other parts of government are present. Even if the State of the Union address has evolved in some undesirable ways, i.e. it is too long, and sometimes boring, often partisan, it gives citizens the opportunity and right to see the faces of the people whose decisions - political, administrative, military AND legal - affect them everyday. The British have their annual State Opening of Parliament, at which the sovereign reads the script for the government. The Queen has no say in what she is reading - her role is purely ceremonial. I am sure she often disagrees, but that is part of her job, and she does it well, and the British people people see the workings and trappings of their democracy, in all its glory and pettiness, and everyone who should be present is there to participate. There is a place for ceremony in the public life of a country. Is it too much to expect those in positions of power and prestige - many holding life-time appointments - to listen attentively and remain quiet and resptful for several hours? I think not. Yes, all the Supreme Court Justices should attend, and be grateful for the opportunity to do so. Furthermore, they should be required to attend. I don't think much of Justice Thomas for failing to turn up and I wont think much of Chief Justice Roberts if he stays away either.

Posted by: ukaz | March 11, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Eugene, you are wrong here.
Roberts's comments are whiney, complainy and political. the Supreme Court can act like adults and fulfill their duty to sit selflessly by, as a symbol that all branches of government are together in a common room, protecting the commonwealth. His job is to sit there and be emotionless and expressionless. Selfless. Roberts' melodramatic complaining afterward, where he exaggerates what occurred, just shows what he is, and what the court has become.

He was not - as he claims - surrounded by lawmakers cheering against the court's decision. There were some lawmakers standing, cheering.

An adult justice wouldn't complain like this. And he was defending Alito, his fellow republican - and Alito was also wrong.

The fact that Alito reacted and Roberts defended, shows they are the ones who are political, and in a way that undermines the seriousness of their jobs.

Posted by: eeave | March 11, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

imo wise people know when and where to pick a fight. Spouting off at the wrong time gives me an inkling he just bit off the very tip off one of his toes. not huge but painful enough to make him say his prayers more often.

Posted by: ChooseBestCandidate | March 11, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

"

Robinson misses the point (again). The real issue is the hypocrisy of Obama. As candidate Obama, he RAILED against the hyper-partisanship of Washington. As president Obama, he is one of its most devoted practitioners. His State of the Union swipe is a prime example. The State of the Union was not intended to be a partisan political pep rally. He seems to have been transformed. Although I voted for Obama in 2008, I was concerned that his deeds would not match his campaign rhetoric. My fears were realized. His transformative liberal (big government)agenda trumps his campaign of a less partisan approach to governance.

Posted by: SkiFanatic | March 11, 2010 6:24 AM | Report abuse "

****

The projection is strong with this one.

Posted by: dcp26851 | March 11, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

"...Roberts was complaining about the moment in..."
*********************************
you say "complaining." i say it was a correct assessment.

Posted by: ChooseBestCandidate | March 11, 2010 1:07 PM | Report abuse

His speechifying and nice clothes to the contrary notwithstanding this guy Obama is a thug. He has no class coming as he does from Chicago where politics has always been a contact sport. The ignorant who voted for him cannot possibly understand the subleties of the court's decision. The point was that free speech cannot be regulated in the interest of furthering what liberals (yes, McCain too,) consider better government. Obama set a record for raising money to get to the White House. What hypocrisy! Intellectually he cannot carry Robert's hat.

Posted by: mhr614 | March 11, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Myles Schulberg - "I'm not an Obama fan, but his State of the Union address is a First Amendment exercise and he should be free to express his opinion, whether or not it offends the audience."

And in turn, is any Congressman free to exercise their 1st Amendment Right and shout out "You Lie!" or is that as media and Dem & REublican leadership claimed - a real breach of protocol and respect for te Office? Was the Congressman wrong to apologize for "enjoying precious Constitutional freedom", or right to, since he was an ass or just a Kahye West??

And of the two critical parts of Government not expected to get whipped up into a partisan ferver like the President or Congress critters at the SOTU - military and SCOTUS - what is their right to react if the President makes them partisan punching bags to their faces? They are a captive audience, by protocol.

What if the President thinks he can score political points dissing the Joint Chiefs? Would they be insubordinate to the Law Prof in Chief if they were filmed in front of a national audience shaking their heads and muttering "Not true??"
What if, worse, the top Brass had their fill and decided to walk out on Obama? And he ordered them back, and they kept on walking....Talk about Constitutional crisis!

IMO, Obama pulled a Rev Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church sort of stunt.
If most of SCOTUS doesn't show up next year, he has only himself to blame.

Posted by: ChrisFord1 | March 11, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse


I just can't stop laughing. How absurd.

The Supreme Tort put itself deep into political mud when it decided that voters in Florida had no rights in the 2000 election.

If you think I will EVER forget that, then you've got another thing coming.

SCOTUS is a joke, full of hacks. Watch them carefully!

Posted by: tony_in_Durham_NC | March 11, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Gallup has obama at his lowest as does Rasmussen, and a DEMOCRAT-poll and a CBS Poll so why are pro obama supporters not at least dealing with what is clearly a problem? why are mature professionals pretending? who are they fooling? themsleves? and to what end? the problems will be with us until they are trutfully addressed and dealt with.

Posted by: ChooseBestCandidate | March 11, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Robinson your lack of knowledge on the history of the court, and the timeline of the curent courts make-up only show your idiocy in this matter. One wonders if you are the product of equal opportunity, and the failure of such policies. You would be want to have your articles accepted for most secondary education daly publications.

Posted by: jjlj | March 11, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Robert's only problem with the State of the Union is that it lacks a corporate sponsor. Perhaps if the speech was interrupted with Super Bowl commercials, he would come to appreciate it.

Posted by: BaltimoreCotls59 | March 11, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

There should be no doubt after Bush v. Gore that the Supreme Court is no less prone to political predisposition than any one else. And so in that context, I think it is fair enough that this theoretically non-political group confront the rest of us on a yearly basis. There they be - to honor or ridicule as appropriate.

But in reality, allowing oral arguments to be broadcast on CSPAN would have the same effect on a more regular basis. It would also have the advantage of being a lot more interesting.

Posted by: tfspa | March 11, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse

We can't seem to decide whether the State of the Union Address and Presidential Addresses to Joint Sessions of Congress are formal ceremonial government functions, or political government functions. Both types of events serve a purpose. Confusing the two is what seems to create the dysfunction.

If it's a ceremonial function (like an Inuaguration) symbolizing the unity of our country despite having a government composed of three separate but equal branches, then the Supreme Court justices should attend. That, however, would require the President and Congress to temper their behavior as is fitting with a formal ceremonial occasion. You may or may not like your in-laws, but you have to be nice to them at the wedding.

If this is a political occasion where the branches are supposed to promote their political agendas, then the President is free to admonish the Supreme Court or Congress as much as he likes. Congressmen should also be allowed to yell back at the President. Anything goes like a wrestling match, as long as it sells the agenda. In that case, Justice Roberts makes a good point. It's probably in the interest of America that the Justices not be present. The same for the military and the diplomatic corps, who should also not be involved in politics.

Since the President's speech is the focus of these events, perhaps the President should announce in advance each year, which type of program it will be. Everyone else can then plan accordingly.

Posted by: jfv123 | March 11, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

No they should be there. The Supremes are a political entity -- operating under the pretense that they aren't. They are as much a part of government as anyone else and every opportunity to out them before our gaze must be taken.

Posted by: cllrdr | March 11, 2010 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Maybe they could make better use of their time by rehearsing a few songs and get ready to take their act on the road as the "Activist Supremes!" Might I be so bold as to suggest that at least one of their songs should itemize each of the long-lasting precedents that they've decided, in their wisdom, should be thrown into the ditch. Just one more item in the lasting legacy of Dubya.

Posted by: therapidone | March 11, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

If Obama had praised the ruling, would Roberts have objected?

It's only when the pep rally gets critical is there a problem for him.

Free speech for foreign corporations who contribute to our elections? Absolutely.

Free speech for a President that did not appoint him? Not so much.

Posted by: lpeter59 | March 11, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Wrong, Robinson, wrong. The Supremes have got to be there; it's critical.

If someone drops a bomb on the SOTU address, I sure don't want those doofuses to survive to govern the country!*

* Reference their horrific attempt in 2000, installing GWB as POTUS. Their decision stank to heaven for the next 8 years, the stench is in our nostrils yet.

Posted by: JefComment | March 11, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

Eugene, Eugene. You miss the point again as usual. Obama was wrong to dis the Supreme Court in front of Congress and the nation. Obama knew the reaction he would get from his fellow Dems and did this on purpose. What purpose you ask? Humiliation. It was low class, Chicago politics.

Posted by: delusional1 | March 11, 2010 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Justice Roberts has headed the most outright political court in history. He and his fellow right wing extremists gave people status to corporations thus giving them duplicate protection of the constitution, despite the fact that they only exist because congress has given them the right to exist but never meant to make them people. The constitution says we are given inalienable rights but never said these rights should also be granted to inhuman objects.
The catholic 5 that make up these politicos should know that only God gives inalienable rights.

Posted by: tomp2 | March 11, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

My My, those who practice white supremacy are really having a hissy fit because a black president call the Supremacy Court, on the carpet for essentially, turning the entire electoral process over to the corporations. Now the SOTU speeches are no longer relevant... Ain't that rich? As long as the presidents of old praise, the political process of the status quo, everybody feels good about themselves. But the minute someone questions the veracity of the Supremacy Court, "we don't need no stinking SOTU speeches from no black president. Its embarrassing"...LOL!!!

Posted by: demtse | March 11, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse

I can agree that the S.C. need not be thereand probably shouldn't be there. But Roberts was out of line when criticizing the President's comments as too political. This is from the leader of the most political S.C. in history. The catholic 5 , as I call them ,(Iam also catholic for the record) have a political agenda that started with all their nominations. All or some participated in the most political of actions, in awarding the presidency and disavowing counting Americans votes, they now named corporations persons with the rights of individual citizens

Posted by: tomp2 | March 11, 2010 2:17 PM | Report abuse


My My, those who practice white supremacy are really having a hissy fit because a black president call the Supremacy Court, on the carpet for essentially, turning the entire electoral process over to the corporations. Now the SOTU speeches are no longer relevant... Ain't that rich? As long as the presidents of old praise, the political process of the status quo, everybody feels good about themselves. But the minute someone questions the veracity of the Supremacy Court, "we don't need no stinking SOTU speeches from no black president. Its embarrassing"...LOL!!!

Posted by: demtse | March 11, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

I think them sitting there, not betraying a prejudice either way, is EXACTLY what Americans need to see. Maybe then they'll learn something about their govt....NAH!

Posted by: trblmkr1 | March 11, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse


My My, those who practice white supremacy are really having a hissy fit because a black president call the Supremacy Court, on the carpet for essentially, turning the entire electoral process over to the corporations. Now the SOTU speeches are no longer relevant... Ain't that rich? As long as the presidents of old praise, the political process of the status quo, everybody feels good about themselves. But the minute someone questions the veracity of the Supremacy Court, "we don't need no stinking SOTU speeches from no black president. Its embarrassing"...LOL!!!

Posted by: demtse | March 11, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

It was typical Obama Chicago bully politics.

Posted by: gman6 | March 11, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

I'M SURE THE PRESIDENT'S SPEECH WAS VETTED BY VARIOUS DEPARTMENT HEADS IN THE GOVERNMENT. WHERE WAS A VOICE OF CONCERN?
IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED.

Posted by: DANSHANTEAL1 | March 11, 2010 2:25 PM | Report abuse

ChrisFord1 - You are missing my point. Was Obama's remark about a Supreme Court decision any more offensive than a remark about detente or taxation could be to some who disagree with the remark? I don't see why this "offensive" remark from the President deserves any more scrutiny than any other of his remarks that may offend. Nor do I think Roberts' complaint deserves any more creedance than complaints from any others offended by this or that Presidential remark. As for Alito's animated response, I felt it was within civility, whereas the "You lie" response to an earlier Presidential address from Congressman Wilson was not. On the Joint Chiefs showing a negative response to or walking out because of a Presidential remark, they are under Obama's chain of command and as such, shouldn't.

Posted by: MylesSchulberg | March 11, 2010 2:32 PM | Report abuse

If there were still a true "state" of the union address. it would be important for them to listen.

But, this speech has morphed into a political charade that nobody needs to hear.

Posted by: jjcrocket2 | March 11, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

The Supreme Court decision to vote to deem corporations as citizens was a disgrace. Even some thinking Republicans thought that the decision was flawed. President Obama was correct when he excoriated the five who voted to make corporations private citizens. I applaud the four Justices who held their ground on the desenting opionion. However, the Supreme Court has five right wing idealogues, thanks to Ex President G. W. Bush and those Justices will be with us for a long time. God help this country.

Posted by: Chessie2 | March 11, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Robinson is incorrect; The State of the Union address is NOT the place to call out the Justices for a vote he did not agree with. Obama was wrong.

Posted by: countryfirst1 | March 11, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

I agree with “countryfirst1”.

Country wrote, “Mr. Robinson is incorrect; The State of the Union address is NOT the place to call out the Justices for a vote he did not agree with. Obama was wrong.”

I would just add the word “always” between “is and “incorrect”.

If the “Chicago Gang” that has taken over the White House and the West Wing and anywhere else they have to put all these “thugs” aren’t brought to respect the office of Presidency soon, we will have anarchy by November’s election.

Posted by: Jimmy7 | March 11, 2010 7:46 PM | Report abuse

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