There's been a controversy going a lot of this week as a result of some public comments that President Obama made about the Supreme Court. I read the entire transcript of the comments he made about the Supreme Court, which were not so seemingly far out as if you took the couple sentences that the media, as they often do, chose to snip off the speech and remove it from it's context.
What Obama said was that when it came to economic issues and interstate commerce, that the Supreme Court had not overturned a law on constitutional grounds since the 1930s, and that it would be highly unusual for the Supreme Court to find that the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional. In and of itself, that point is OK for Obama to be making.
But the way he made it allowed the press to snip off the segment that it played, which sounded like Obama was saying that the Supreme Court didn't have the authority to overturn the law on constitutional grounds. That of course, is wrong. But Obama's meaning was so widely misconstrued that even a conservative appellate court brought it up in an unrelated case that the government was involved in and asked for an explanation as to whether or not Obama believed that the courts had the power to declare an act unconstitutional. And the administration actually addressed the question. Odd, to say the least.
I had previously written that I didn't think Obama had played it exactly right in confronting the Supreme Court in his state of the union address a year ago January. Under the circumstances, I am not sure that this was the best strategy. I mean, with so many people saying that it sounded like the court may be ready to hand down a 5-4 decision throwing out the entire law, it would be difficult to sit by and say nothing. But it seems to me like he could have said it in a way that would use the weight and influence of the presidency to pressure the court quietly, and not in such a clumbsy way that ends up making Obama, a former constitutional law professor, look in a very public way like he is wrong on the fundamentals of the law. It just wasn't necessary for him to stumble on this.