March 11th, 2010
09:00 AM ET

Dear President Obama #416: Courting the Supremes

Reporter's Note: In his State of the Union address, President Obama took exception to a ruling by the Supreme Court. Now, it appears they are taking some exception to even hearing that speech. Seems like a case for Judge Judy, but until she takes it up, I’ll address it in my daily letter to the White House.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/03/11/alito.sotu.jpg caption="The Supreme Court Justices remain seated while Democrats stand to applaud the President's criticism of the campaign finance ruling at the State of the Union address."]

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

Now you’ve done it! You took a shot at the Supreme Court in your State of the Union address, and Chief Justice John Roberts is suggesting they may take their black robes and go home! Not even play anymore! It took a few weeks for this pot to boil, but as you’ve probably heard, he told a bunch of law students at the University of Alabama that he’s not sure why the justices should attend now that they’ve become nothing but political “pep rallies.” Uh…I mean the speeches, not the justices.

Apparently it troubled some of them that when you took that swipe at their campaign finance ruling all your fellow Dems stood up and cheered while, by rules of protocol, the members of the court had to pretty much just sit there texting their friends. (“OMG, the prez just punked us!”) You know what? That would trouble me too.

While politicians on both sides of the aisle have long tried to influence who is chosen for the Supreme Court, it has not been the custom for presidents to tee the whole gang up and drive them down the fairway in such a public setting; especially one where they simply cannot fight back without being furiously attacked. Out of respect for your office and their own, they are not supposed to show any partiality or reveal any opinions about anything you say. For example, Justice Alito probably should not have mouthed the words, “not true,” after your comment.

I know that their ruling upset you. (Is it true that when it came down you said, “Rahm, I sense a great disturbance in the Force”?) It upset plenty of people. For you to openly disagree is reasonable, even as you respect the separation of powers. But it does seem a bit much to ask the most esteemed legal body in our nation to sit on their hands while you publicly scold them. And what did you accomplish? Your comment told me, as a voter, nothing about the state of my union. It just told me something about the state of your political views. Your words had absolutely zero power in that circumstance to change anything, so it looked like just what it was: posturing. No one likes to be used as a prop in a political morality play.

Again, I understand your passion about the subject. I’m just saying it struck me as an ill-considered remark that made you look less like a president and more like a politician. Sometimes Presidents, Congress members, and Supreme Court Justices make decisions that some of us don’t like. That’s just the way it is. But the more all you Washington power players openly suggest that even the topmost figures in our government or judicial system should not be trusted, the more you feed the already deep and fast river of discontent running among the voters. As least in my judgment…

Perhaps you’ll have some time this afternoon to talk it over? I’m around if you want to call, or we can meet for coffee. We’ve got some nice places up at Union Station near my office, or I can swing over by yours. Let me know.



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Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Joanne P.

    We do allow freedom of speech, that applies to the President , doesn't it?

    March 11, 2010 at 2:14 pm |
  2. Curt

    As President Obama is a Harvard Law graduate, I can understand his passion for justice, and his outrage at this ludicrous decision. The Court deserves criticism from anyone, and everyone with any sense of the scale of this travesty of justice. If our executive branch is not allowed to exercise its 1st amendment rights; then who is? Bravo Mr. President!!! You have the majority of public opinion on your side! So those of you who chose to disagree well good for you! You just can't help spouting off when it serves your own political agenda. Truth matters not when we are mudslinging based solely on political affiliation, right?

    March 11, 2010 at 12:19 pm |
  3. Mike in NYC

    It was a low blow.

    Really "street," I'd say. Most unbecoming.

    March 11, 2010 at 11:42 am |
  4. Dr. Nicole

    I think the president's heart is in the right place, he's just trying to win a game that's not worth playing. Anytime you "play" politics you play with the truth and when you play with the truth you are probably just trying to convince someone of a lie. Prez, don't play silly games, just go what you know in your heart is the right thing to do

    March 11, 2010 at 11:11 am |
  5. meenas17

    It is the post of President that matters.
    Obama, as a person, bears no significance.

    March 11, 2010 at 10:56 am |
  6. Ted Hidell

    I agree with you. I don't think this president thinks about what he is going to say be for he say's it. If it's not on the telepromter he should stay a way from it. Doesn't he realize what he says means more than what he is. I thought he was the president of United States of America not a Democrat. I guess he hasn't figured that out yet. He has a lot to learn. He should have been a Senitor a little longer to learn the things that he is learning now which he should have known. I didn't think that the presidence was a on the job training. I belief a lot of people are starting to see that now.
    Why would you put yourself against one of the most powerful branches of the government . It's tough enough to get things done. I think he may have put himself in a hole that he will never get out . He should have gone against the people that had the Judges rule on this matter than the rulers. If he wanted to make a point . There is not way he can talk his way out of this one.

    March 11, 2010 at 10:02 am |
  7. kfornow

    Everyone needs a wake-up call from time to time.... Even the Supreme Court! That was a terrible ruling! Take your medicine Mr. Roberts and Company....

    March 11, 2010 at 9:51 am |