There are times when President Obama speaks that I honestly can’t believe I’m hearing such pompous, demeaning rhetoric coming from the man who holds the highest office in our nation. It’s often hard for me to sit through, not just because I disagree with him, but because of the audacity he displays by applying the very worst of motivations to those who don’t see things the way he does.
It’s one thing to explain why you support a policy or view, and why you think your opposition is wrong. It’s an entirely different thing to vilify and attack the legitimacy of those who question your decisions.
We saw such rhetoric during a press conference Monday when President Obama was asked by a reporter his thoughts on the Supreme Court’s negative reaction to his Obamacare healthcare mandate. Obama responded by demeaning the importance of the role of the Supreme Court, pointing out that the justices are an “unelected group of people” and claimed that it would be an unprecedented act of “judicial activism” if they had the gall to overturn his “duly constituted and passed law.”
I find such statements absolutely remarkable. Obviously, the president knows that one of the primary functions of the Supreme Court is to decide whether or not laws are constitutional. The notion that somehow the court’s decisions are invalid and irrelevant because justices aren’t elected to their positions by a public vote is absurd. He knows it’s absurd. But because they have the nerve to do their job and act as a check and balance to his power, he sees them as an enemy.
President Obama took the same view of the Supreme Court in his 2010 State of the Union address, after they overturned bans on corporate spending in political campaigns. With the justices sitting directly before him, he publicly shamed them in front of the world because they deemed constitutional a process that he categorized as a “threat to democracy.” Notably, the president fully embraced the new rights granted by that Supreme Court decision this February by endorsing a Super Pac supporting his re-election. Apparently, it’s okay to threaten democracy as long as it helps extend President Obama’s political career.
There’s certainly a stark contrast between Obama’s relationship with the Supreme Court and the one George W. Bush had when he was in office. As some might recall, the justices didn’t always come down on Bush’s side either.
In 2006, they ruled that President Bush overstepped his authority when he ordered military war-crime trials for detainees held at Guantanamo Bay. The Associated Press called the ruling a “rebuke to the administration and its aggressive anti-terror policies.” Bush was not happy with the decision but he respected it, vowing that he would work with Congress to achieve the necessary legislation to proceed with the military tribunals. Futhermore, he resisted the urge to demagogue the issue and assured the public that the Supreme Court’s decision would not result in detainees being set free.
In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled against Bush again when they deemed that detainees held at Gitmo had a constitutional right to challenge their detentions in federal court. ABC News called the decision a “stinging defeat for the Bush administration.” Then presidential candidate, Barack Obama, lauded the decision as, “an important step toward re-establishing our credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law.”
Senator Obama’s reaction to the ruling was particularly interesting because what the Supreme Court did was overturn the Military Commissions Act of 2006 which was an Act of Congress and signed into law by the president. The Supreme Court ruled that the MCA Act was unconstitutional. In other words, Obama was very much in favor of negating THAT duly constituted and passed law, but if the Supreme Court reaches the same conclusion with HIS Obamacare mandate, he’ll consider it to be an example of judicial activism.
In response to the 2008 ruling, President Bush disagreed with the Supreme Court but stated, “It’s a Supreme Court decision. We will abide by the decision.”
The Supreme Court also ruled against the Bush administration on EPA regulations and executive power over state courts. In none of these four cases did Bush ever vilify the justices our call into question their legitimacy. He respected the judicial branch as an equal branch of our federal government.
Additionally, President Obama stated in the Monday press conference that the Supreme Court needs to take into account the people who will be hurt if the benefits from Obamacare are suddenly stripped from them. By saying this, he has once again proclaimed himself to be the moral arbiter of our nation, declaring that those who disagree with him are in fact immoral. The reality, however, is that if he signed illegal legislation into law, he himself is to blame for the ramifications of its repeal. After all, if someone steels a car to give to their daughter as a high school graduation present, it’s not the big bad police who are to blame when the car is taken away from the daughter and returned to the owner.
Regardless, well all know that President Obama will try to pin the blame on everyone else. That’s what he does. And the media will most certainly help substantiate his claims to the American public.
Still, my hope is that even in a day and age where a good portion of the public has no real understanding of what’s going on in Washington, people (even those who view him favorably) have to be getting suspicious of this president’s routine proclamation that everyone who is obstructing him is illegitimate. That is, after all, the kind of philosophy we expect from a foreign dictator… not the esteemed leader of a free country.
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