Eva Rodriguez at the WaPo:
You’re all wrong. And I mean those of you who claim that Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s “not true” during the State of the Union Wednesday night constitutes a “Joe Wilson moment.”
I actually agree. There’s always some reaction by those in attendance at State of the Union addresses. Personally, I find sitting one one’s hands and looking constipated to be the worst act of all – insulting and childish. She goes on, though:
Salon.com blogger Glenn Greenwald is the most off-base when he argues that Alito’s behavior is worse — that’s right, worse — than the “you lie” outburst of South Carolina Republican Rep. Joe Wilson during the president’s address to a joint session of Congress last year. Wilson’s shocking breach of decorum interrupted the president mid-sentence and was clearly heard by most people in the chamber and watching on TV. Remember the death-ray glare shot by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi?
Contrast that with Alito’s head shake and his mouthing of what appeared to be “not true” when Obama asserted that the Supreme Court had wiped away “a century of law” that “will open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections.” No one except those sitting immediately behind Alito likely would have been aware of the justice’s response had TV cameras not focused on him at that moment.
I do think that Greenwald also is on the mark, but for the wrong reason – not in that he quasi-excuses Wilson. Here is a longer excerpt from his Salon piece:
There’s a reason that Supreme Court Justices — along with the Joint Chiefs of Staff — never applaud or otherwise express any reaction at a State of the Union address. It’s vital — both as a matter of perception and reality — that those institutions remain apolitical, separate and detached from partisan wars. The Court’s pronouncements on (and resolutions of) the most inflammatory and passionate political disputes retain legitimacy only if they possess a credible claim to being objectively grounded in law and the Constitution, not political considerations. The Court’s credibility in this regard has — justifiably — declined substantially over the past decade….
Justice Alito’s flamboyantly insinuating himself into a pure political event, in a highly politicized manner, will only hasten that decline. On a night when both tradition and the Court’s role dictate that he sit silent and inexpressive, he instead turned himself into a partisan sideshow — a conservative Republican judge departing from protocol to openly criticize a Democratic President — with Republicans predictably defending him and Democrats doing the opposite. Alito is now a political (rather than judicial) hero to Republicans and a political enemy of Democrats, which is exactly the role a Supreme Court Justice should not occupy.
Greenwald is being a bit theoretical.
I say: Make that “should not occupy” observation a practical reality.
Alito, in essence, announced in advance – and, unlike when Scalia mouths off, Alito did so on a multi-networked national television broadcast so there’s some clear visual evidence, albeit accompanied by thin audio evidence – how he will rule on any and all future cases involving this issue.
It was clear from Sam Alito’s confirmation hearing and his record of appellate opinions that he is a dogmatic, state-revering, right-wing judge. But last night, he unmasked himself as a politicized and intemperate Republican as well. Much of the public will view his future “judicial” and “legal” conclusions — and those of his fellow Court members — with an even greater degree of cynicism.
Here’s a thought: How about ensuring – by legitimate means (a concept that really burns right-wing judicial activists) – that there aren’t any “future ‘judicial’ and ‘legal’ conclusions” from Samuel Alito?
Remember: The sole standard for removal from office for federal judges is not “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Rather…
The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour….
I’ve run across one theory positing that impeachment and conviction actually should not be necessary for removal of a federal judge who violates this standard – and I’d say that publicly announcing what your position is on cases that haven’t even been filed yet comes under the heading of not-so-good behaviour.
But, then, I presumed that going on a hunting trip with someone who has a case before your court would at least merit consideration of impeachment.