For the life of me, I just don't get why the White House continues to try to pick a fight with the Supreme Court. . . But after Chief Justice John Roberts made some entirely reasonable remarks yesterday -- and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs just had to respond -- it's now getting ridiculous.Following the Citizens United campaign finance ruling, President Obama vowed "to work immediately with Congress . . . to develop a forceful response to this decision," specifically seeking "legislation." But Congress can't overturn the judiciary's reading of the Bill of Rights. For a Harvard Law grad who taught Constitutional law, Obama seems strikingly unfamiliar with "the most important opinion in Supreme Court history," Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137, 177 (1803) ("It is emphatically the province and duty of the Judicial Department to say what the law is.").
Whether the White House has a short-term or long-term strategy or no strategy at all, it's flat-out absurd and ill-advised for the administration to think it should always have the last word. It's like my 6-year-old: "I don't LIKE your idea. I like MY idea."
It wasn't enough that Mr. Obama, for the first time in modern history, took a direct shot at the Supreme Court in his State of the Union address, when he slammed the justices for their recent campaign finance reform decision. Six of them looked on -- including the author of the opinion, key swing vote Anthony Kennedy -- while Democrats jumped up to whoop and holler.
All that, of course, was too much for Justice Samuel Alito, who shook his head and silently mouthed, "not true."
The next day, the White House just couldn't let it rest. It again had to have the last word. It put out a "fact sheet," trying to prove it was Mr. Obama -- not Justice Alito -- who was right.
Now the Chief Justice, speaking yesterday at the University of Alabama Law School, has weighed in. Responding to a question from a clearly insightful Alabama law student, Roberts said he thought the whole scene was "very troubling." . . .
Gibbs should have let this go.
This administration is going to have to be dealing with this Supreme Court for at least three more years, if not more. Its lawyers are going to have to appear before these justices to defend presidential initiatives or federal laws in case after case, big and small.
I'm not suggesting they won't get a fair shake simply because the White House is trying to stick it to the conservative justices. George Bush repeatedly got slapped down by this Court, even though he never lashed out at the justices.
But at some point -- and I'd say that point is now -- the Obama Administration is working against its interests.
They'd do well to remember that on a lot of the issues they care about, the Supreme Court gets to decide. No matter how much they stomp their feet and shout, "I don't LIKE your idea; I like MY idea," the Supreme Court is going to get the last word.
Had Bush started such an ill-advised and extra-Constitutional conflict, progressives would be pushing impeachment.
(via reader Doug J.)