Wag the SCOTUS

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Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts last week lashed out at President Obama for his State of the Union criticism of the court’s Citizens United rulingĀ — the line where Associate Justice Samuel Alito shook his head and mouthed the words “No true.” Roberts, speaking at the University of Alabama, called Obama’s remarks “very troubling” and added that the annual speech has “degenerated to a political pep rally.”

The White House this weekend struck back, essentially calling Roberts thin skinned. From ABC’s This Wek:

ABC’s JAKE TAPPER: Doesn’t Justice Roberts have a point? Not on the substance of what President Obama was saying about the decision, obviously the president can say whatever he wants. But doesn’t he have a point about the appropriateness of that setting?

White House political adviser DAVID AXELROD: You know, I really don’t think so, and I think Justice Roberts is a student of history. You know, if he looks back 100 years, Theodore Roosevelt said of Oliver Wendell Holmes after he made a decision on an antitrust case that he didn’t believe in, that Roosevelt thought was a bad decision, he said, I could carve out of a banana a judge with a stronger spine than him. So things have been said about justices by presidents in the past that were far more personal than anything the president said here. But thinking about Teddy Roosevelt, I wonder what he would think about a bill that essentially allows for a corporate takeover of our elections, or a court decision. And that’s what we’re dealing with here. Under the ruling of the Supreme Court, any lobbyist could go into any legislator and say, if you don’t vote our way on this bill, we’re going to run a million-dollar campaign against you in your district. And that is a threat to our democracy. It’s going to further reduce the voice of the American people, and it’s something we have to push back vigorously on.

As the New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin notes in a great profile of Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, many justices have long skipped the SOTU because it is, well, political. But, then again, justices themselves (and their families) are not above a little politics themselves. As the L.A. Times reported this weekend: Associate Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife is starting a Tea Party group.

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