The president issued a written statement yesterday on the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down most of the McCain-Feingold campaign statute. It read:
With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans. This ruling gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington–while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates. That’s why I am instructing my Administration to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue. We are going to talk with bipartisan Congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision. The public interest requires nothing less.
This is as noxious a statement concerning the Supreme Court that has, in my memory, ever been issued by the White House. Let’s count the ways. First, the president — who tells us he is a serious constitutional scholar — offers not a single word of substantive criticism about the Court’s analysis. He treats the Court — as most liberals do, frankly — as a policymaking body. In this case, he doesn’t like the outcome and blasts away at the result, transparently using the Court to regain his populist footing with the public.
Second, what in the world is a bipartisan response to a First Amendment ruling? He’s going to amend the Constitution? He’s going to pack the Court? The lack of acknowledgment that this is a principle of constitutional law, one at the foundation of our democracy, is jaw-dropping. You’ll notice what is not in the president’s statement — “First Amendment’ or “Constitution.” There isn’t a legislative “fix” to the First Amendment.
And finally, let’s just remember that liberals for years inveighed against any public figure who dared criticize a court ruling. They were doing damage to the political system, lessening respect for the rule of law and even encouraging violence against judges, they finger-wagged. Well, it seems the rules have changed. And from a law professor yet.
The president has many problems — a failing agenda, a public that has tuned him out, and a staff that serves him poorly. But at the root of much of what ails him is arrogance. He seems not to appreciate or frankly care what the public thinks. He deems criticism illegitimate and attributes bad motives to critics. His lawyers have invented new legal privileges and excuses to avoid scrutiny. He has populated his administration with unaccountable czars. And now he seems not to fully appreciate or respect a binding ruling of the Court. His politicization of a Court ruling for his own PR purposes and his utter lack of respect for the Court in its capacity as a check against, among other things, him is startling. And for those who hold dear notions of limited government and the protection of core political rights, this should be disturbing.