It is one thing to criticize a judicial decision. Politicians do it all the time. They even criticize entire courts. Barack Obama criticized the Supreme Court a lot.
But there is a difference between attacking a decision and attacking a judge because of a decision. And while it is undoubtedly possible President Obama harbored ill-will against Samuel Alito and John Roberts, having voted against confirming both of them, he never criticized them as “Bush justices.” Donald Trump, on the other hand, has no issues with doing such things and as such, Chief Justice Roberts spoke up.
Naturally, the inclination by some, to defend Trump no matter what he says or does was there and Senator Chuck Grassley decided to jump into the fray. He tweeted:
Chief Justice Roberts rebuked Trump for a comment he made abt judge’s decision on asylum I don’t recall the Chief attacking Obama when that Prez rebuked Alito during a State of the Union
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) November 21, 2018
First of all, Obama didn’t rebuke Justice Alito. Obama made a claim (a false one to be sure – he said the court made it legal for foreign corporations to make political donations. A claim that was not true as foreign contributions were not considered in the Citizens United case) and Alito was seen mouthing, “Not true.”
As it relates to Obama being a jerk for lambasting the court decision with the members of that court seated just a few feet away, the critics are 100 percent correct. One of them was attorney Ted Olson, who argued the Citizens United case for the plaintiffs:
“He was dead wrong about the foreign money — that’s always been illegal and wasn’t a part of the case — but I found the whole thing, him attacking the justices who attend the State of the Union as a courtesy, incredibly rude.”
And people may be surprised to learn that John Roberts did speak out against it. Speaking with students at the University of Alabama days after the State of the Union address:
“First of all, anybody can criticize the Supreme Court without any qualm,” he said, adding that “some people, I think, have an obligation to criticize what we do, given their office, if they think we’ve done something wrong.”
He continued: “On the other hand, there is the issue of the setting, the circumstances and the decorum. The image of having the members of one branch of government standing up, literally surrounding the Supreme Court, cheering and hollering while the court — according to the requirements of protocol — has to sit there expressionless, I think is very troubling.”
He’s right. Watching politicians and Attorney General Eric Holder, whooping, clapping and cheering Obama’s comments with the court members having to sit there was pretty low-class. That kind of thing takes place at high school basketball games. It shouldn’t be a part of the State of the Union address.
Clarence Thomas stated it was that kind of nonsense that led him to forego attending SOTU addresses and it’s hard to blame him.
Bottom line here is, Roberts spoke out and will do so when he thinks it is appropriate. Broadsides about him wanting media attention or looking to become the next Anthony Kennedy are just silly.