January 27, 2010

State of the Union Attack on the Supreme Court Extremely Inappropriate

By Julian Dunraven, J.D., M.P.A.

Honorable Friends:

After watching the State of the Union address tonight, I notice not much has actually changed in a year. Fashion, for instance, remains a foreign concept in Congress. We were back to the standard assemblage of wretchedly dull red and blue ties for men, and uninspiring cliché shades of red and blue suits for women. One elected official sitting next to John McCain even tried to combine the standards by pairing a blue tie with a bright red vest. Unfortunately, the result was so appallingly garish that I cannot even given him token points for creativity. At least the politician uniform makes them easy to spot and avoid on the street. I suppose I should just be happy that the President chose to forgo the imperial purple he often wore during the campaign; it would have made his tone even more alarming.

Mr. Obama’s policies were also remarkably unchanged. As many other sources will discuss, he held firm to his ultra liberal commitments to impose cap and trade legislation, impose massive government intervention into the economy and financial sector, and remain firm in his efforts to impose a radical government takeover of healthcare.

Nonetheless, I must admit that the speech carried an appealingly strong tone of disgust with Washington, political games, backroom deals, and irresponsible spending. I might be more impressed if I were able to forget that Mr. Obama and the Democrats have controlled both the White House and Congress for over a year, now, and even held a super majority in the Senate until last week. If politics in Washington are a bit dodgy, one can hardly blame the Republicans or, after a year’s time, continue to whine about the old policies of Mr. Bush.

Perhaps the most amusing point in the speech came when Mr. Obama asserted that responsible budgeting and economics required that we do not reign in spending until we are actually in recovery, and until then we should pour more money into a stimulus bill, which we will now call a jobs bill. I was pleased to see I was not the only one unable to contain my laughter at this absurdity. The Republicans in the chamber all seemed to erupt into derisive chuckles. As the Republican response pointed out, the way to recovery is not through increasing government interference in the economy—not financial, not energy, and not healthcare. Nor is it to excessively spend or tax the wealthy, or increasingly grant loans which we then forgive after 20 years. Rather, it is to roll back government in general, lower taxes across the board, and allow the economy to function on its own, free of the favors or penalties of government.

Mr. Obama did mention a few positives. He seemed willing to talk about nuclear power and off shore drilling, for instance. However, if he intends to include these things as part of larger cap and trade legislation, then he poisons the well of energy before we even start drilling it. He also talked about granting gays equal treatment in the military. However, as commander in chief, he has the power to do this at the stroke of a pen. Whatever you may think of the idea, do not expect his talks with Congress and the Pentagon to produce any results on this matter. The Democrats love to assure GLBT people that they should be treated as equals while doing absolutely nothing to support that idea beyond giving speeches. His other prior work on ending torture and closing Guantanamo Bay, while laudable, was not mentioned at all. His utter lack of progress on that goal might have been a bit embarrassing, I suppose, as would his incomprehensible failure to understand how to properly balance an interest in basic human rights with the need to secure against terrorist enemy combatants. Treating them all as if they were domestic criminals is so profoundly foolish that I believe he was wise not to raise the subject.

Commentators seem to be overlooking the most disturbing aspect of Mr. Obama’s speech, though. He openly criticized the decision making of the Supreme Court and allowed the chamber to applaud his remarks on that subject. It is one thing to express disagreement with the Court on matters of policy in his role as the Chief Executive. It is another to publicly censure the decision making capabilities and the very competence of a Supreme Court decision during the State of the Union address. This was a direct attack on the credibility of the third branch of government, the branch that depends entirely upon the respect of the public for its authority. It was completely inappropriate for the President to make such remarks, and I cannot recall the last time a President made such an overt assault on the authority of a coequal branch of government. It may indeed have been FDR. I suppose I should not be surprised by yet another frightening similarity between the two. Coupled with his arrogant demand that Congress deliver a jobs bill to his desk, I am increasingly alarmed at the astonishing imperial attitude which seems to exude from Mr. Obama.

The only true change I spotted this evening was in the Republican response. Delivering the response in front of a live audience in the Virginia House of Delegates was a splendid change this year. Despite the fact that much of the speech was still pre written, it did respond to parts of the President’s address, and did a lovely job of contrasting the approach of the two parties to our national economic crisis: Democrats believe more government regulation with targeted tax incentives is the answer; Republicans believe government in general should be scaled back and taxes should be lowered across the board. Voters will decide in November which approach sounds more appealing. I have little doubt as to which option they will favor.

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