In bizarrely and disparagingly calling the U.S. Supreme Court “unelected” this week, President Obama inadvertently revealed why the justices are, indeed, unelected.
They need to be out of the reach of a hyper-political president or a fickle electorate.
Our founders understood that an independent and equal judiciary, with judges who answer to the law and to the Constitution rather than political whim, is essential to freedom.
This president seems not to understand that. If Mr. Obama had his way, the Supreme Court would bow to his desires, however incompatible with the Constitution. If only they were elected, he could charm the masses and repopulate the court in his image that much more quickly!
Alas, the confounded Constitution gets in the way yet again.
Humorously, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a Justice Department lawyer this week to produce, in writing, whether the Obama administration believes judges have the authority to overturn federal laws. It was clearly a response to the president’s inane declaration.
“Does the Department of Justice recognize that federal courts have the authority in appropriate circumstances to strike federal statutes because of one or more constitutional infirmities?” one of the appeals court judges asked the federal attorney.
In addition, it should be noted that the president, in his blatant broadside against the judicial branch, vastly overstated the health-care law’s popularity in Congress. He claimed the law was “passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.” Really? The vote in the House was 219-212 – and in the Senate, Democrats actually had to use extraordinary, highly questionable measures to stop it from being blocked.
In the midst of the debate, voters in liberal Massachusetts even elected a Republican, Scott Brown, to Ted Kennedy’s old seat in an obvious attempt to stop the bill from becoming law. Passage was so difficult that, for a time, Democrats considered “deeming” the bill passed without a vote.
What planet was the president on when that occurred?
Nor does Mr. Obama seem to comprehend the nature of judicial activism. In firing a preemptive political shot across the Supreme Court’s bow over the court’s impending ruling on the health-care law, he had this to say:
“And I’d just remind conservative commentators that, for years, what we have heard is, the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism, or a lack of judicial restraint, that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law. Well, this is a good example ...”
Good grief. Judicial activism isn’t the act of overturning laws. It’s going outside the Constitution to do so, or to come to whatever conclusion a court wishes to come to. It’s a misguided belief that the Constitution is a “living” document that says whatever we want it to say, a Jell-O mold with which to shape a jiggly government structure to suit the latest tastes.
Surely a Harvard-educated lawyer would know these things, don’t you think?