President Obama’s remarks today about the Supreme Court consideration of Obamacare reminded me of this classic outtake from one of Woody Allen’s standup routines, circa 1968. Have a listen.
Here’s the relevant portion from Woody Allen:
They took my hood off and threw a rope around my neck, and they decided to hang me. And suddenly my whole life passed before my eyes. I saw myself as a kid again, in Kansas, going to school, swimming at the swimming hole, and fishing, frying up a mess o’ Catfish, going down to the general store, getting a piece of gingham for Emmy-Lou. And I realise it’s not my life. They’re gonna hang me in 2 minutes, the wrong life is passing before my eyes.
Obama’s comments, spoken during a press conference at the White House with the leaders of Mexico and Canada, gave me an out of body experience. I thought, I must be listening to the wrong president talking about someone else’s law, because this is not a recognizable description of what’s going or what happened with Obamacare. Until I realized I was hearing a bully issuing threats dressed up as commentary.
Here’s what he said:
Ultimately, I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress. And I’d just remind conservative commentators that for years what we’ve 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. And I’m pretty confident that this Court will recognize that and not take that step.
A strong majority? A STRONG MAJORITY?? The bill passed the House by 219-212 and got only 60 votes in the Senate, the very minimum number needed for any major legislation to get through.
One of the greatest sins of Obamacare is actually that the president decided to pursue legislation that would fundamentally change the country even though he didn’t have a strong majority for it in Congress.
And “judicial activism” generally refers to rulings based on emotion and political views instead of the Constitution and precedent. The judges’ questions about the health care law went right to whether it violated the Constitution. There was no “activism” on the order of, say, finding previously undiscovered meanings in the Constitution to justify a decision.
To say that ruling against an unpopular law barely passed by Congress violates “judicial restraint” would seem a strange new interpretation of the term.
Unless you have somehow convinced yourself that the vote in Congress wasn’t close, and that Woody Allen is from Kansas.
Obama’s statement is so apart from reality that it only works as rhetoric. The Supreme Court, he decreed, would be taking “an unprecedented, extraordinary step” in defying him. This is a broadside, a warning of the anti-Court vitriol to come.
It’s a rank attempt to intimidate. Let’s hope the Justices, if they haven’t voted yet, care more about the independence of the Judiciary than the public flogging Obama has in store.