Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts has weighed in on President Obama’s State of the Union speech and, specifically, the President’s decision to directly criticize the Supreme Court for its recent campaign finance decision. In response to a question from a University of Alabama law student, the Chief described the scene as “very troubling.” He noted, correctly, that the President has every right to disagree with and criticize the decisions of a coordinate branch of government, but that President Obama’s remarks ran afoul of considerations of decorum and propriety. As I’ve posted before, I think the Chief Justice is right on that point. In effect, President Obama used the Justices, who can only sit and listen, as a prop to score a few political points with his supporters, without showing proper respect for the Court or its role in attending the State of the Union address. I predict that we’ve seen the last of Chief Justice Roberts — and perhaps any Supreme Court Justice — at a State of the Union speech.
When White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about Roberts’ comments, Gibbs’ response was wholly political — and therefore basically confirmed that President Obama’s motivation for making his comments in the first place were political as well. Gibbs said: “What is troubling is that this decision opened the floodgates for corporations and special interests to pour money into elections – drowning out the voices of average Americans.” He added that “the President has long been committed to reducing the undue influence of special interests and their lobbyists over government. That is why he spoke out to condemn the decision and is working with Congress on a legislative response.” What purpose is served by such comments except to try to advance a political agenda at the expense of the respect accorded to the judicial branch of our government as a neutral arbiter of constitutional disputes?