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Is Obama ignorant or cynical?

Posted by Richard on April 4, 2012

James Taranto is one of many who were dumbfounded by the President’s suggestion that the Supreme Court has no business overturning an act of Congress and no history of doing so:

We were half-joking yesterday when we asked if Barack Obama slept through his Harvard Law class on Marbury v. Madison, the 1803 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court first asserted its power to strike down unconstitutional laws. It turns out it’s no joke: The president is stunningly ignorant about constitutional law.

Taranto found further evidence of presidential ignorance in Obama’s answer to a question about his attempt to lobby/bully/denigrate the Supreme Court.

… He spoke slowly, with long pauses, giving the sense that he was speaking with great thought and precision: “Well, first of all, let me be very specific. Um [pause], we have not seen a court overturn [pause] a [pause] law that was passed [pause] by Congress on [pause] a [pause] economic issue, like health care, that I think most people would clearly consider commerce. A law like that has not been overturned [pause] at least since Lochner,right? So we’re going back to the ’30s, pre-New Deal.”

In fact, Lochner–about which more in a moment–was decided in 1905. …

But in citing Lochner, the president showed himself to be in over his head.

The full name of the case, Lochner v. New York, should be a sufficient tip-off. In Lochner the court invalidated a state labor regulation on the ground that it violated the “liberty of contract,” which the court held was an aspect of liberty protected by the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause. …

Lochner, which was effectively reversed in a series of post-New Deal decisions, did not involve a federal law–contrary to the president’s claim–and thus had nothing to do with the Commerce Clause, which concerns only the powers of Congress.

If the President really believes what he’s been saying about the Supreme Court, then he’s indeed remarkably ignorant for someone who once taught constitutional law. But Rush Limbaugh thinks Taranto and others are mistaken:

… I simply refuse to accept the notion that Obama doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I refuse to accept the notion that he doesn’t understand judicial review, doesn’t know what Marbury v. Madison is. I think he’s doing something entirely different. He is appealing to the dumbest, the most uninformed, and what he’s basically telling them is: “This court is going to take away your health care that I’ve given you.” That’s what he’s telling them, and he’s counting on the dumb and the stupid to believe that, to not read any of these law professors who are correct. He doesn’t care.

I’m inclined to go with Rush on this. Obama may be weak on Lochner (I bet his Harvard Law professors taught little about Lochner besides how evil it was), but he certainly knows Marbury v. Madison. (Heck, I learned about John Marshall and Marbury v. Madison in high school. But nowadays …)

(Rush also suspects that one of the justices, probably Kagan, leaked the results of the vote to the White House, and that’s why Obama and his supporters have gone bat-sh*t crazy regarding the Supreme Court, including calls to impeach justices who vote to overturn Obamacare.)

Obama’s remarks about the Supreme Court are like his rant about the Ryan budget, which Guy Benson called “Obama’s Worst Speech Yet”:

…  Barack Obama managed to out-do himself by uncorking what very well may have been the most dishonest, demagogic, and bitterly partisan speech of his presidency.  I render that assessment as someone who has sat through and analyzed countless Obama lectures, some of which earned very high marks for deceit and ideological invective.  Indeed, today’s Occupy-inspired rant takes the cake.  It was a depressing and enraging preview of the next seven months, over which this president will unleash a barrage of sophistic and pernicious arguments deliberately designed to sow discord and divide Americans.  He will do so with no regard for the truth, history, or the Constitution he swore to uphold.  …

The President doesn’t really think that the Supreme Court has no business overturning an act of Congress. And he doesn’t really believe that the Republicans’ modest moves toward fiscal restraint in the Ryan budget are designed to starve children, kill old people, and poison our food, air, and water. His demagoguery is aimed at his natural constituency, those who can be led to believe these things.

For the past three years, this allegedly post-partisan, post-racial politician who was supposed to unite us all has used every possible opportunity to attack straw men, demonize anyone who opposed his policies, increase racial tensions, and promote partisan divisions. He’s redoubling these efforts for the election campaign, hoping to energize his base and fool enough of the ignorant and poorly educated to win reelection despite his administration’s disastrous record. Expect things to get even nastier.

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One Response to “Is Obama ignorant or cynical?”

  1. David Aitken said

    NeoNeoCon has a different take over at PJMedia. Worth reading.

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