Much is being written about President Obama’s first State of the Union address. I didn’t hear the whole thing, but thanks to the miracle of the interwebs, video clips are up. One has already caught my eye.
First some background. Here is an overview of the Court’s stunningly activist decision in Citizens United, which struck down key components of campaign finance reform. As a result of the decision, corporations may directly give to campaigns from their treasuries because corporations have expansive First Amendment rights. It’s a bizarre ruling that attributes to fictional entities rights that were never intended. The holding of Citizens United appears to give all corporations these overbroad First Amendment rights, even those controlled by foreign interests that might be hostile to our national interests.
So in the State of the Union, President Obama questioned the Court’s Citizens United ruling. Here is what he said:
“With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections.”
This video clip gives a much better feel than the text. The video cuts to the Court members sitting somberly as members of Congress give a standing ovation. Better, it shows Justice Alito shaking his head and quietly mouthing what looks like, “It’s not true.” To Justice Alito’s credit, he’s no Joe Wilson, as he didn’t shout or interrupt.
So what are we to make of this? Keep in mind that Obama was a law professor before he entered politics. He showed as much with his reference to separation of powers that acknowledges the fundamental constitutional roles of the three branches. Take note, as well, that the State of the Union is a power and prerogative of the President. U.S. Constitution, Art. II, Sec. 3.
While I’m no pundit or close watcher of presidential pageantry, it seemed remarkable to me that he was using the State of the Union to call out the Court. The words may look light and bland, but insitutionally, this is closer to the old Saturday Night Live Point-Counterpoint routine with Dan Ackroyd and Jane Curtin:
Nice to see that the President calling the Court out on this. It’s a dreadful decision by an activist majority hell bent on allowing corporations to run amok.