Constitutional law professor Barack Obama has had to soften his remarks about the Supreme Court. But the intriguing question lingers: just how much constitutional law does this young feller really know?
The president confuses the Supreme Court’s right and duty for judicial review of laws with judicial activism. John Fund puts his finger on why the president’s words were so disturbing:
The implication of [the president’s statement] was that he hasn’t heard of Marbury v. Madison, in which the Supreme Court laid down the doctrine of judicial review in 1803, and by which the Court can strike down unconstitutional laws. Indeed, since 1981, the Court has struck down 57 specific legislative acts of Congress, an average of two per year. …
So it is surreal for Obama, a former constitutional-law professor and president of the Harvard Law Review, to go after the court as if he were a demagogue seeking reelection. As the Wall Street Journal put it: “Obama’s inner community organizer seems to be winning out over the law professor.”
Even really dumb guys like George Bush never got anything quite this wrong!
The Wall Street Journal reprinted this morning in toto an editorial from the online New York Sun that takes the president to task for not knowing constitutional law. But before we get to that, Sun also captured the surreal atmosphere around the president’s remarks:
It's been a long time since we've heard a presidential demarche as outrageous as President Obama's warning to the Supreme Court not to overturn Obamacare. The president made the remarks at a press conference with the leaders of Mexico and Canada. It was an attack on the court's standing and even its integrity in a backhanded way that is typically Obamanian.
Like Fund, the editors of the Sun wonder if the president is familiar with Marbury v. Madison. The Federalists studied judicial review in great detail:
.Eventually the Supreme Court itself, in the case known as Marbury v. Madison, spelled out the logic of judicial review. We've always felt it was important to note that the Court's authority does not stem from the Court's own assertion of its own powers. It is deeper down, in the writings of the Founders themselves, and part of the American bedrock. It exists at the Federal level and in the constitutions of the states. The idea of separated powers was first put down in plain language in our laws in the constitution of Massachusetts, which noted that the aim was to have a government of laws rather than of men.
It is a mark of our cynical age that Mr. Obama would challenge these assumptions. One can attribute the error of judgment to the fear that once the Court gets its back up and decides to hold the Congress to the powers that are enumerated in the Constitution, it's not just Obamacare that is in danger but the whole regime of runaway power in Washington.
Of course, if you look at the material unearthed by the late Andrew Breitbart, you might just conclude that Professor Obama had things other than Marbury v. Madison on his mind.