Friday, January 29, 2010

Justice Alito’s Reaction - Linda Greenhouse, New York Times

Justice Alito’s Reaction - Opinionator Blog - "This time, Justice Alito shook his head as if to rebut the president’s characterization of the Citizens United decision, and seemed to mouth the words “not true.” Indeed, Mr. Obama’s description of the holding of the case was imprecise. He said the court had “reversed a century of law.”

The law that Congress enacted in the populist days of the early 20th century prohibited direct corporate contributions to political campaigns. That law was not at issue in the Citizens United case, and is still on the books. Rather, the court struck down a more complicated statute that barred corporations and unions from spending money directly from their treasuries — as opposed to their political action committees — on television advertising to urge a vote for or against a federal candidate in the period immediately before the election. It is true, though, that the majority wrote so broadly about corporate free speech rights as to call into question other limitations as well — although not necessarily the existing ban on direct contributions."

It's one thing for ordinary citizens to misunderstand Citizens United v. FCC, given the distorted commentary about it. But for the President to deliberately misstate it in the SOTU, just for a cheap shot at the Court, is sad. And when Linda Greenhouse says he was "imprecise," that is doing him a big favor. He used to teach Constitutional Law.


Lord Acton said...

The U.S. Congress is becoming more like the British House of Commons with people verbally expressing their disagreement with presidential addresses as if the president was the PM. Obama even helped everyone get into the spirit today with his verbal jousting match with the loyal opposition. Once this gets into full swing, America will have truly turned politics into entertainment.

Beth said...

As I understand it, Obama was agreeing with the dissent on this 5-4 decision. Apparently the issue is one on which reasonable minds can disagree.

Evan McKenzie said...

All this stuff about overturning a century of law is partisan hyperbole. There is a place for partisan exaggeration and hyperbole, but the SOTU has not been that least, until this week.

The decision the court overturned (Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce) was from 1990, and that is not 100 years ago. The decision they partially overturned (McConnell v. FCC) was decided in 2003, which is also not 100 years ago. And the legislation they tinkered with was McCain-Feingold, which was enacted in 2002, which, again, is not 100 years ago either.

We are now in a time when there seems to be no respite from campaign-style rhetoric. They never get out of campaign mode and go into governing-the-country mode. That goes for the GOP and the Democrats, and it definitely goes for Obama, who just can't stop blaming Bush and GOP for everything. He will be doing in in November 2012 when he runs for re-election, and during his entire second term if he has one.

DBX said...

It's a terrible decision but it doesn't do that much to existing law. What I find surprising, though, is that it has much more impact on state law than federal. That's a real role reversal for this Supreme Court, which has been happily and busily overturning federal laws for the past 15 years after a half century of hardly overturning any federal law. Whatever happened to state sovereignty?