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Missing the Point, Again

January 28, 2010

(Updated below the fold)

The President completely missed the point last night with regard to the McCain-Feingold decision:

“Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections,” Obama said. “Well I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.”

At least he threw in the “reversed a century of law” line, but otherwise he got this entirely wrong.  It would have actually been a substantial argument (in a complete 180 from everything that is the SOTU) to point out the double standard to which conservatives subscribe on judicial activism.  And who can blame Alito for being a little peeved that the POTUS stuck his nose into what’s supposed to be a non-partisan decision, all the while having no idea what he’s talking about. But now that he’s adopting this new populism shtick, let’s not expect him to do anything but toe the party line on this one:

Chris Van Hollen:

“All you have to do is read the dissent, the four justices who said this will defintely open the floodgates to big corporate special interests. Anybody who thinks that’s not true is out of touch with the American political process.” Van Hollen said.

Anthony Weiner:

“He [Alito] deserved to be criticized, if he didn’t like it he can mouth whatever they want,” Weiner said. “These Supreme Court justices sometimes forget that we live in the real world. They got a real world reminder tonight, if you make a boneheaded decision, someone’s going to call you out on it.”

Again, fellas, that’s not the point.  But I don’t reckon they’ll be willing to listen to that argument.

UPDATE: Greenwald says Alito “turned himself into a partisan sideshow”:

While the factual claims Obama made about the ruling are subject to reasonable dispute, they’re well within the realm of acceptable political rhetoric and are far from being “false” (e.g., though the ruling did not strike down the exact provision banning foreign corporations from electioneering speech, its rationale could plausibly lead to that; moreover, it’s certainly fair to argue, as Obama did, that the Court majority tossed aside a century of judicial precedent).  Presidents have a long history of condemning Court rulings with which they disagree — Republican politicians, including Presidents, have certainly never shied away from condemning Roe v. Wade in the harshest of terms — and Obama’s comments last night were entirely consistent with that practice.  While Presidents do not commonly criticize the Court in the SOTU address, it is far from unprecedented either.  And, as usual, the disingenuousness levels are off the charts:  imagine the reaction if Ruth Bader Ginsburg had done this at George Bush’s State of the Union address.

Okay, but it’s a bit harder to be stonefaced when you perceive that the POTUS is lying in your face (about foreign donations) for political gain.  If the standard is politicians, then I guess that is “within the realm of acceptable political rhetoric”.

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