March 10, 2010

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: Obama’s State Of The Union Behavior “Very Troubling:”

Responding to a University of Alabama law student’s question, Roberts said anyone was free to criticize the court, and some have an obligation to do so because of their positions. “So I have no problems with that,” he said. “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.” . . . Roberts told the students he wonders whether justices should attend the speeches.

“I’m not sure why we’re there,” said Roberts, a Republican nominee who joined the court in 2005.

Justice Antonin Scalia once said he no longer goes to the annual speech because the justices “sit there like bumps on a log” in an otherwise highly partisan atmosphere. Six of the nine justices attended Obama’s address.

It’ll be interesting to see how many show up next year. Meanwhile, it seems clear to me that had a Republican President behaved similarly, we’d be hearing loud cries of “Fascism!” from all the usual suspects.

UPDATE: Not only did Alito’s mouthed response overshadow Obama this year — next year, there will be lots of stories on whether the Supreme Court justices show up or not, and either way Obama will have stepped on his own speech a second time.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Reader Stephen Clark writes:

Alito’s response or some variation, with the consequence you foresaw, apparently was beyond the imagination of Obama and any who vetted the SOTU speech; the push for health care legislation with its consequent public reaction was also beyond the ken of Obama and his inner circle. Can anyone seriously advance the narrative of political brilliance of this administration, and Obama in particular, without appearing the complete idiot?

No.

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