Obama and Alito

29 Jan


The Supreme Court is a co-equal branch of government. It is not a delicate menagerie of ultra-fragile prices and princesses who are above the law, above reproach, above criticism, above anything.

The Court majority’s recent decision in Citizens United may be constitutionally valid, but that doesn’t make it right or good. As Obama quite correctly pointed out, that holding will result in unlimited corporate political advocacy without restriction on time, money, or message. Yet corporations don’t have the vote, and their personhood is a convenient legal fiction and nothing more.

For Obama to have criticized the decision as bad for our political system is perfectly valid. The notion that the delicate Court is above criticism at the hands of a President is as ridiculous as suggesting that the Congress is above criticism or discussion in that venue. Every time a Republican President stood up at a State of the Union address and criticized Roe v. Wade, that was the same damn thing, and no one batted an eye.

Because it’s perfectly valid for the chief executive to criticize the judiciary, and vice-versa.

By the same token, it’s no secret that the Court has become supremely politicized in the last few decades. I find nothing wrong with Justice Alito shaking his head or mouthing something back at Obama. Hell, let them stand and cheer if they want to. Decorum for decorum’s sake is stupid, and we should stop playing make-believe.

29 Responses to “Obama and Alito”

  1. Get Off My Lawn January 29, 2010 at 8:02 am #

    In last night’s State of the Union Address, President Obama said:

    We find unity in our incredible diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution: the notion that we are all created equal….

    Um, wrong founding document, Mr. President. It is in our Declaration of Independence that we read:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

    And this is the same guy who lectured the Supreme Court moments later in the same speech.

  2. Alan Bedenko January 29, 2010 at 8:23 am #

    Yes, the notion that we are all created equal is enshrined in the equal protection clause in the constitution. Between 1776 – 1863, equality was but a quaint notion. And even afterwards, “separate but equal” was the fiction the US lives under.

    Thanks for the “lesson”.

    • Get Off My Lawn January 29, 2010 at 9:57 am #

      You’re welcome. Always happy to help you libs out!

  3. RvrSide January 29, 2010 at 8:30 am #

    Oh, so now its ok to act like a 3 yr old in front of the country? Obama is the duche bag of duche bags.

  4. Brian Castner January 29, 2010 at 9:27 am #

    I feel like a broken record, but the Supreme Court decision does not “result in unlimited corporate political advocacy without restriction on time, money, or message.” They still can’t make unlimited donations to politicians. They are just allowed to advertise (or in regards to this case, make a film) within 30 days of the election. They always could 31 days before the election, and they can still make massive soft-money donations to parties. Not much has changed. The sky is not falling, even if Obama has turned into chicken-little-in-chief. I expected a more nuansed perspective from a Constituional scholar.

    • Alan Bedenko January 29, 2010 at 9:29 am #

      Never before could a corporate entity run an independent ad urging people to vote, or not vote, for a candidate. This is not a good thing for the process.

      • RvrSide January 29, 2010 at 9:33 am #

        Rock The Vote anyone?

      • Brian Castner January 29, 2010 at 9:34 am #

        They didn’t have to before, and they don’t have to now. These companies are smart enough to know that if Exxon runs a pro-gas ad, and then says “Vote for X” it will backfire. So they will do what they always have done. They will urge you vote for the cadidate for energy independence . . . or they will continue to launder it through their PAC slush funds as they always have. We’ll see in Nov – I bet not much changes.

  5. STEEL January 29, 2010 at 10:05 am #

    Where are all the right wingers screaming judicial activism?

    • Mike In WNY January 29, 2010 at 10:27 am #

      “Congress shall make no law” . . .That is exactly the principle the court correctly applied. Individuals do not lose their voice by merely acting in concert with other like-minded individuals. There is no judicial activism, only an affront to liberal pragmatic sensibilities that place agenda ahead of principles.

      • Max Tresmond January 29, 2010 at 11:11 am #

        Mike I am honestly surprised at your comment. Corporations are entities created by the government. They were always subject to regulation in this country and the founding fathers wanted it this way. You can’t be a libertarian and support this decision.

        “I hope we shall … crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and to bid defiance to the laws of our country”- Thomas Jefferson, 1816

      • STEEL January 29, 2010 at 12:40 pm #

        Oh, so it is only judicial activism if you don’t agree with the ruling. I understand now.

      • Mike In WNY January 29, 2010 at 1:21 pm #

        Max, I don’t believe you are conveying the true meaning of Jefferson’s quote. The “trial of strength” is keeping the government limited to its defined role per the Constitution, thus rendering corporate lobbying irrelevant. The threat from corporations relies on the acquiescence of government.

    • Max Tresmond January 29, 2010 at 3:56 pm #


      With all due respect, you missed my point. Corporations do not exist without the government. They are groups granted permission by the government to act as a fictitious person, originally for the purposes of limited liability against the people running the corporation and as to give the organization the ability to file a lawsuit. In colonial times, the King of England used corporations to oppress American colonists. The founding fathers did not want this to happen again and they were, from the outset, subject to stringent regulation. The original intent of the First Amendment was to prohibit the government from suppressing individuals speech. A corporation is not a “group of individuals acting in concert”, it is a government chartered organization. Corporate board members are free to contribute to political campaigns; when a corporation makes a donation, it is the corporation itself doing so and not “individuals acting in concert”. There can’t be any justice in a government that subordinates the rights of individuals to corporations.

      Jim Ostrowski made excellent points in his lawsuit against corporate welfare. If you are against corporate welfare, the idea that corporations have now have an ability to purchase unlimited influence with our elected representatives should disturb you.

      • Ray January 29, 2010 at 10:09 pm #

        “the King of England used corporations to oppress American colonists.”

        England’s merchantilism was what most of the colonist’s abhorred, the state sponsored protectionism and monopoly trade powers granted to favored English corporations by the government. No wonder smuggling was a popular occupation and a means to get cheaper goods into the colonies.

        It’s not so much the purchaser of influence, whether a corporation, a union or whatever that bothers me, it’s the elected scoundrels that agree to be purchased. They’ve been doing it all along without the recent Supreme Court decision. Regulate the one who can be purchased if you want to quash any nefarious influence on government. The Constitution was meant to do that as much as possible by limiting the government influence on private affairs, not very well though since the law has been perverted The believers in a living constitution only need to blame themselves for this.

      • Max Tresmond February 1, 2010 at 11:32 pm #

        It’s not so much the purchaser of influence, whether a corporation, a union or whatever that bothers me, it’s the elected scoundrels that agree to be purchased. They’ve been doing it all along without the recent Supreme Court decision.

        No doubt that they buy influence now, but does that mean we just say, the hell with it, let’s legalize it and let them buy as many as they want? Is that really the right way to go?

        Here’s a question Ray: Do you believe corporations have the right to run for office?

  6. Mike In WNY January 29, 2010 at 10:29 am #

    Alito was not criticizing Obama, he was pointing out an outright lie. Foreign corporations are not granted the free speech protections of the constitution. That point was clearly addressed in the Court’s decision.

    • Thomas January 29, 2010 at 11:05 am #

      Who controls Citgo?

    • Max Tresmond January 29, 2010 at 11:12 am #

      Mike, the president was correct. A foreign corporation with US subsidiaries does in fact have the right under this decision to make unlimited campaign contributions.

      • Mike In WNY January 29, 2010 at 12:27 pm #

        No corporations, foreign or not, can make unlimited campaign contributions. This case was about political speech outside of the actual campaigns.

      • Max Tresmond January 29, 2010 at 4:04 pm #

        The decision was far more broad than the relief requested by the petitioners. A United States subsidiary of a foreign corporation is permitted to make unlimited contributions under the decision. I understand that you disagree that this should be the case, and I agree with you. But that’s not what the decision establishes. Read the decision again more closely. It’s not written with the interests of Americans and (non corporate) American businesses in mind. As it stands, a United States subsidiary of a foreign corporation will be permitted to buy influence in our elections.

    • Alan Bedenko January 29, 2010 at 11:40 am #

      Why shouldn’t a foreign corporation doing business in the US have freedom of political speech? Why would you deny that right to Citgo, Bayer, BP, Dubai World, Toyota, Hyundai, Kia, Nissan, Honda, Bic, etc.? Are their interests not at stake in federal elections? How can you permit domestic corporate entities to electioneer freely but not extend the same right of political speech – “shall make no law”, I believe is the phrase you use, – to foreign companies present and subject to process in the US? Seems very inconsistent to me, and I am sure that the court will see that this inconsistency is unsupportable and must be stricken.

      Is a Burmese citizen legally present in the US not subject to the same rights of political speech as a US citizen present in the US?

      • Brian Castner January 29, 2010 at 12:06 pm #

        @ Alan – Dems need to be careful with your line of argument, if they choose to go that way. Because here is the opposing frame: “Democrats oppose giving law abiding, tax-paying, American-hiring foreign corporations the right to spend money on TV ads, but they do support giving Miranda Rights and access to US courts to evil foreign terrorists.”

      • Alan Bedenko January 29, 2010 at 12:18 pm #

        Of course they support giving rights and “access” to US courts to evil foreign terrorists. We give miranda rights and access to US courts for evil American criminals and terrorists, and when the Xmas underpants bomber got arrested in Detroit, who was going to arrest him, precisely? Military Police? Any military branch? The CIA? I honestly despise the idea and notion that terrorists should be hauled off to a dungeon in Cuba or Syria to be imprisoned for life and tortured, without charge or trial. If that’s what we’ve become, then we’re not the United States anymore. Seriously, we might as well just kill him immediately upon exit from the plane, because it’s as legally justifiable as perpetual secret imprisonment.

        I never said foreign corporations shouldn’t have the right to “spend money on TV ads”… to influence a domestic federal election. In fact, I think I just got through arguing the exact opposite holding. Clearly, Chavez’s CITGO should be doing candidate advocacy like right now for the 2010 midterms.

      • Eric Saldanha January 29, 2010 at 2:54 pm #

        In the course of his cogent analysis of this Supreme Court decision, Greg Palast asked a cheeky question:

        George Bush’s former Solicitor General Ted Olson argued the case to the court on behalf of Citizens United, a corporate front that funded an attack on Hillary Clinton during the 2008 primary. Olson’s wife died on September 11, 2001 on the hijacked airliner that hit the Pentagon. Maybe it was a bit crude of me, but I contacted Olson’s office to ask how much “Al Qaeda, Inc.” should be allowed to donate to support the election of his local congressman.
        Olsen has not responded.

      • STEEL January 29, 2010 at 1:02 pm #

        As opposed to the right wing stance – Corporations have all the right of people but people have no rights at all if the president so desires.

      • Max Tresmond January 29, 2010 at 4:07 pm #

        Let’s be absolutely clear: Giving money – in any instance – is not speech. Broadly interpreted, speech can be taken to mean nearly any form of communication (I disagree with this broad interpretation). The act of giving money and the act of communicating a viewpoint are two completely different things.

  7. Mike In WNY January 30, 2010 at 2:04 am #

    In a highly regulated country it is only natural that corporations would try to influence government. It is called self-preservation. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    • Max Tresmond January 30, 2010 at 11:00 am #


      The fundamental thing here is that a corporation is a creation of the state. Do you think public employees unions should have the right to buy politicians?

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