But Saint Reagan Was the Nicest Man! Not Like That Vicious Thug Obama!

It won’t surprise you that I agree with Greg Sargent on the mildness of President Obama’s supposedly “unsettling” and “thug”like attack on the Supreme Court. I’m just trying to imagine how Obama’s critics would have reacted if he’d said what a certain presidential candidate said in February 1980:

Ronald Reagan … campaigning in Birmingham, Ala., Thursday, blasted the court’s most recent abortion ruling as “an abuse of power as bad as the transgression of Watergate and the bribery on Capitol Hill.” …

Equating the justices to felons? Anyone feeling unsettled?

And I’m wondering how long it would have been before impeachment articles were drafted if Eric Holder ever delivered a speech like the one described in this article from the first year of Reagan’s presidency:

Attorney General William French Smith accused the federal courts of “constitutionally dubious and unwise intrusions upon the legislative domain,” and vowed to oppose such “subjective judicial policymaking.”

He outlined the [Reagan] administration’s plan for urging greater judicial restraint in areas including abortion rights, desegregation, the constitutional rights of aliens and prisoners, and environmental protection….

Smith said the department was working “to identify those key areas in which the courts might be convinced to desist from actual policymaking,” so that “errors of the past might be corrected” and “past trends might at least be halted.” …

Smith criticized the federal courts particularly for:

* Assuming “greater power of review of government action” concerning environmental protection and other issues, by deciding cases that they could avoid altogether under judicial doctrines such as “standing, ripeness, mootness, and presence of a political question” …

“Convinced to desist”? Sounds thuggish to me!

Oh, and then there was this, from 1982:

Atty. Gen. William French Smith declared yesterday that a bill sharply limiting the power of federal courts to order school busing is constitutional….

Smith also said he would defend the constitutionality of a bill denying the high court authority to rule on state regulation of voluntary prayer in public schools and buildings….

You think today’s fainting-couch crowd could handle that? You think their heads would explode if the Obama administration started talking about court-stripping? The Republicans would just bypass impeachment and go straight to a military coup.

And I say that even though court-stripping is frequently proposed by right-wingers, most recently by presidential candidates Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich, and even though one of the principal proponents of court-stripping in the Reagan era was a young government lawyer named John Roberts, now the chief justice of the Supreme Court:

Over two decades ago, a young government lawyer named John Roberts tried — and failed — to convince the Reagan Justice Department to endorse a number of radical legislative proposals that would strip the federal courts of jurisdiction to hear cases concerning such issues as school prayer, school busing, and abortion.

Yes, the Reagan administration refrained from endorsing such bills. But it wanted to make sure everyone knew that it would declare them constitutional if someone else put them forward.

Nope, nothing thuggish about that kind of shot across the federal courts’ bow.

(X-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.)

66 replies
  1. 1
    Bob2 says:

    Part of me is wishing that the Democrats propose a joke bill using Reagan’s exact words without mentioning him and see if anyone notices it’s satire.

    I mean, the Dems have been attempting this at the state level as a joke of late.

  2. 2
    JGabriel says:

    __
    __
    SteveM @ Top:

    Equating the justices to felons? Anyone feeling unsettled?

    When Reagan did it in 1980, sure.

    If a president were to equate the right-wing justices to felons now — between Scalia not recusing himself when his duck-hunting companions appear before the court, and Thomas’s failure to report income from his wife’s partisan political activities — well, now, not so unsettling, except for its accuracy.

    .

  3. 3

    Speaking of thugs … Why is a staffer for a Michigan Republican congressman playing mini-Breitbart and trying to trip up a community organization in Harlem New York?

    Verrry curious.

  4. 4
    Egg Berry says:

    I think felons is too nice a term for them.

  5. 5
    El Cid says:

    One of the things that’s so disgusting about this is the lack of basic, basic level, primary degree honesty on the part of pundits and commentators on this matter.

    I don’t mean their dishonesty on saying Obama did something other (Republican) Presidents didn’t.

    I mean the truly basic honesty in which one thinks to ask oneself, “Is this different? Did other Presidents do this?”

    The person with a basic degree of honesty who would dare put themselves forward as worthy of talking about serious matters publicly would always want to know ‘What would I need to know to say this?’

    But we have a completely hack commentariat in the most significant press. They believe that their genes, or their instincts, or The Force, or whatever, will conduct the truth to them instantaneously, without effort, without reflection, without self-examination, because at their very heart, they’re liars, and they’re okay with lying, because they’ve trained themselves to accept as normal if not laudable that if they believe something, it’s pretty much just as good as if it were true.

    People who believe that there’s something special about themselves, that reality can issue forth from their mouths unchecked, dominate our discourse.

    They’re special, they’re better, they deserve to have us believe them on instinct, they earned somehow the right to speak thoughtlessly, and it’s our job to recognize their special right.

  6. 6

    What abortion law was the Supreme Court overturning when Ronald Reagan make those comments?
    I don’t see the any part similar to “an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”
    Which is complete BS.

  7. 7
    amk says:

    Well done, SteveM. Nice pushback against the faux poutrage from the msm, pundtwits and that idjit fifth circuit judge.

  8. 8
    Dr. Squid says:

    You think today’s fainting-couch crowd could handle that?

    IOKIYAR.

    SATSQ.

  9. 9
    Scott says:

    But it’s uncivil if you say bad but accurate things about Reagan.

  10. 10
    Comrade Javamanphil says:

    @El Cid:

    But we have a completely hack commentariat in the most significant press. They believe that their genes, or their instincts, or The Force, or whatever, will conduct the truth to them instantaneously, without effort, without reflection, without self-examination, because at their very heart, they’re liars, and they’re okay with lying, because they’ve trained themselves to accept as normal if not laudable that if they believe something, it’s pretty much just as good as if it were true.

    What’s so odd about this is while they absolutely do seem to have this view, they simultaneously seem to believe that they are powerless to create a narrative. Just this morning I heard Mara Liasson discussing how Romney’s advisor might be right and Romney can get a fresh look from the voting public as he makes the “inevitable move to the center with Latinos and women.” Gosh. If only there was some organization dedicated to pointing out to the uninformed voters that Romney is taking new and contradictory stands on issues on an almost daily basis and is rather blatantly lying about things Obama has done. They could, I don’t know, let’s make up a new word, REPORT on these things and inform the public. We could call them REPORTERS.

    Too bad we can’t have that. Oh well. For the want of a nail.

  11. 11

    Republicans these days don’t practice politics, they are trapped in a permanent stage play whereby the actors are either busy acting, or waiting anxiously for the next scene to be written by tragicomedy playrights, mostly produced by Fox News studios of many white guy sorrows , with various outlets scattered about for last minute script rewrites by the wizard clowns of RW talk radio.

    They only have a single plot where the villains are always democrats and the victims are always republicans, and Al Gore is always fat.

    Right now it is the dastardly Barack Obama, Magic Negro, plotting to feed them to the soshulist lions, at once conducting devious mayhem while drinking their vanilla milkshakes on a daily basis.

    The final scenes haven’t been penned just yet, but with any luck, should include a better apocalypse with Sarah Palin saving the day for for real murrica, and baby jeevus happy endings.

  12. 12
    Punchy says:

    Court stripping sounds like something Clarence Thomas would be in favor of. Especially if they had a VIP room and Coke cans.

  13. 13
    butler says:

    Oh please, this is bush league stuff. “Oh no, Obama was kind of stern in discussing legal precedent and the consequence of ignoring them!”

    Lincoln ignored SCOTUS rulings and considered arresting them if they kept trying to get in his way. Jackson metaphorically (and probably actually) flipped off Justice Marshall, encouraging him to enforce his decision if he loves the law so much.

    Both of them are currently in my wallet.

  14. 14
    The Snarxist Formerly Known as Kryptik says:

    It’s funny, I could swear I remember for years before Citizens United that the Supreme Court was Public Enemy #1. With many a prominent pundit even going so far as to consider them something along the lines of ‘Tyrants in Black Robes’ and whatnot.

    Now all of a sudden they’re sacrosanct….right along the time where the conservative bloc has decided to shed all pretense of objectivity and act as an overtly conservative Republican bloc.

    But I forgot, Obama is president, black, and Democrat. Obviously he’s the thuggiest of all those goddamned thugs in the history of ever.

    EDIT: Haste is the enemy of all grammar. :/

  15. 15
    gbear says:

    I mean the truly basic honesty in which one thinks to ask oneself, “Is this different? Did other Presidents do this?”

    No other presidents did this while black.

  16. 16
    JasonF says:

    Speaking of the courts, some disgustingly political behavior by a judge in the Fifth Circuit:

    http://thinkprogress.org/justi.....eme-court/

  17. 17
    Michael D. says:

    Puleeeze!

    If Reagan were president today, William French Smith wouldn’t even be allowed to be Attorney General with a name like that!

    And if Reagan dared to appoint “Frenchie” anyway, he’d be primaried in the next election cycle.

  18. 18
    The Snarxist Formerly Known as Kryptik says:

    @Michael D.:

    Cute. “If Reagan were president today”. That’s real cute. Reagan could never be president today if he was what he REALLY was instead of the deified icon the GOP built up today. He’d be run out of the party for the sin of godless soshulismses and pandering to illegals and whatnot.

  19. 19
    Steve says:

    I’m grown up enough to accept the premise that if someone pushes, someone else will inevitably push back, but still, I’m pretty stunned by that order from the Fifth Circuit panel. I’ve never seen anything like it in all my years as a lawyer and court-watcher.

    The only way it makes sense is if you think of President Obama as a dangerous Chavez-like radical with an agenda like nothing this country has ever seen before – as opposed to a mainstream Democrat with a mainstream Democratic agenda that conservatives happen to disagree with, which is the reality.

    Of course we all know many conservatives think of Obama this way, but the conventional wisdom is that only the rubes think that way and the conservatives elites are just pandering to the rubes. Heh, not quite. If anything, the conservative elites, with all their education, are more likely to suffer from this species of derangement.

  20. 20
    The Republic of Stupidity says:

    The Republicans would just bypass impeachment and go straight to a military coup good, old fashioned, country lynching.

    Badges?

    We don’t need no stinkin’ badges…

  21. 21
    The Snarxist Formerly Known as Kryptik says:

    @Steve:

    Easiest to convince a lesser of a lie if you believe it yourself, after all.

  22. 22
    tomvox1 says:

    I would just like to say that the comments section at the WaPo is not much better than that of Fox Nation. And it ain’t nut picking–about 75% on any give Obama-related editorial or article will contain borderline racist, Fox-esque attacks (New Black Panther party stole the election, Solyndra is the worst scandal evah!, Trayvon Martin wore a hoodie, Obama hates America, etc). Jesus in a sweatsuit. Is this just cuz this is Virginia’s primary paper and the rednecks are the ones most inclined to comment?

    Oh, and fuck you, Ruth Marcus, you standard bearer for journalistic mediocrity & high Broderism. You’re a disgrace.

  23. 23
    Yevgraf says:

    @Steve:

    I’m pretty stunned by that order from the Fifth Circuit panel.

    Yeah – its pretty vindictive, and really deserves some bar and judicial discipline complaints. When you consider the “legality” of the order in an appellate context, its stunning. This panel is basically mandating a punitive brief on an off-record, post-judgment political comment by one of the political branches. I’d almost say that the correct response is “with no due respect, Wingnut Judge, I’m not doing it and believe that to be an illegal order, completely outside your appellate mandate”, but the consequences of that completely justifiable contempt would be too much for a DOJ lawyer to personally bear, and he has no effective remedy with five conservatards now driving the bus at the Supreme Court.

  24. 24
    chopper says:

    @butler:

    don’t forget FDR, who threatened to change the court entirely to get the new deal going, and jefferson, who said Marbury was a “perversion” that would lead to “placing us under the despotism of an oligarchy”.

    those two are both on money as well.

  25. 25
    Punchy says:

    @Steve: Why is a judge asking for something seemingly completely unrelated to the case at hand, something that is a purely political request for a political document, again….all completely devoid of any relevance to the case?

    What happens if the DOJ tells them to get bent? Do they lose the court case b/c they didn’t complete this wholly unrelated homework assignment? WTF?

  26. 26
    Yevgraf says:

    @Punchy:

    Why is a judge asking for something seemingly completely unrelated to the case at hand, something that is a purely political request for a political document, again….all completely devoid of any relevance to the case?

    Because he correctly realized that advising the DOJ lawyer to “go tell that boy you work for that we don’t cotton to that nigra shit down here” might be sort of pushing it, even for Texas. Duh.

  27. 27
    The Snarxist Formerly Known as Kryptik says:

    @tomvox1:

    The only paper that seems not to suffer from having 70-90% raging right wing commenters is the NYT and that might be a side effect of their subscription dealie. Cripes, reading comments on a Trayvon Martin story in the Boston Globe sister site was an exercising in soul crushing despair, the racism was so thick and pervasive.

  28. 28
    SenyorDave says:

    Obama is black. That’s 90% of the explanation for the right’s attitude toward him. How else to explain describing him as arrogant, elitist, etc. He doesn’t act the way they think blacks should act.

  29. 29
    chopper says:

    @Steve:

    as opposed to a mainstream Democrat with a mainstream Democratic agenda that conservatives happen to disagree with, which is the reality.

    “disagree with now“, really. the mandate was a GOP idea 10+ years ago. that’s what really drives me up the wall. obama drives these guys so crazy they’ll turn around and yell and scream that the idea they came up with to fix the insurance system is pure communism.

  30. 30
    amk says:

    @tomvox1: The new rags’ managemint is complicit in such venom spewing posts. I tried a few times to post at nyt/wapo pointing out the vileness of the comment board and my posts were moderated out of existence. I just gave up. The fucking fourth will be one of the causes of america’s decline.

  31. 31
    Tone In DC says:

    @JasonF:

    These wingnuts are worse than I thought.
    What next, are the Fifth Circuit’s judges gonna wash the DoJ lawyer’s mouth out, with soap?

  32. 32
    redshirt says:

    @SenyorDave: It certainly is a big factor, but not the dominant factor. The Clintons suffered under similar insanity.

    They just hate any tribe they don’t self-identify with. And that can change by the hour.

  33. 33

    @Punchy: Legally, it’s a shandah, a Steve and Yergraf have observed. Given the composition of the court of last resort, however, there is effectively no remedy. That leaves me disillusioned, and furious.

    I agree it is worthy of bar discipline. I also doubt that such will be forthcoming.

  34. 34
    Fwiffo says:

    I’m surprised you didn’t bring up Tom Delay’s threats against judges.

  35. 35
    Chris says:

    @Steve:

    Of course we all know many conservatives think of Obama this way, but the conventional wisdom is that only the rubes think that way and the conservatives elites are just pandering to the rubes. Heh, not quite. If anything, the conservative elites, with all their education, are more likely to suffer from this species of derangement.

    Amen to that. Scary to think of, isn’t it?

  36. 36
    Riilism says:

    Slightly OT, but last night TDS had on Tom Goldstein from SCOTUSBlog to discuss ACA and the recent SC strip search ruling. Goldstein was the lawyer (or one of the lawyers?) arguing against strip searching everyone, even for misdemeanors FREEDOM!

    I have to say, I really liked this guy. He seems like precisely the type of person Obama needs to put on the SC (though I know little of his work outside this interview last night, and this being BJ, I’m quite certain someone will calmly explain why Goldstein is much, much worse than {insert despised political/historical figure}).

    Argues passionately and honestly and yet still maintains a sense of humor (as well as a respect for the SC as an institution). I’ll have to start reading SCOTUSBlog…

  37. 37
    geg6 says:

    @butler:

    This.

    Heh, indeedy.

  38. 38
    BillCinSD says:

    @WWStBreitbartD: I’m not sure but Bellotti v. Baird was redecided in July 1979. This was about parental consent law in Massachusetts

  39. 39
    Hill Dweller says:

    It’s hilarious watching the media/wingers pretend a former law professor doesn’t understand judicial review.

    Obama was obviously talking about overturning a law regulating commerce. But he made a mistake by assuming the wingers/media would put 2 and 2 together.

  40. 40
    danielx says:

    Ronald Reagan never did that, you’re making it up! And he never raised taxes either! And the moon is made of extremely edible green cheese, too!

    There are few things more amazing than the ability of wingnuts to claim that history never happened, and this will be no different. Either they will proclaim that Reagan never said or did any such thing regardless of evidence to the contrary, or….IOKIYAR.

  41. 41
    Jerzy Russian says:

    @El Cid:

    I mean the truly basic honesty in which one thinks to ask oneself, “Is this different? Did other Presidents do this?”

    The person with a basic degree of honesty who would dare put themselves forward as worthy of talking about serious matters publicly would always want to know ‘What would I need to know to say this?’

    To be fair, none of these people have access to Nexus, google, or an old fashioned library.

  42. 42
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Kennedy, Scalia, and Thomas should have all been removed from the court for Bush v Gore, for deliberate violation of their oaths of office.

  43. 43

    @Steve:

    I’m grown up enough to accept the premise that if someone pushes, someone else will inevitably push back, but still, I’m pretty stunned by that order from the Fifth Circuit panel. I’ve never seen anything like it in all my years as a lawyer and court-watcher.

    I naively thought that a judge had to have something ‘brought before them’ before they could rule on it. And that whomever did the bringing-before needed at least some kind of legal standing to do so.
    __
    On what authority does the Fifth Circuit just come out of nowhere and demand something from DoJ?

  44. 44
    Some Loser says:

    @Judas Escargot, Your Postmodern Neighbor:

    Respect for the institution? I don’t think the Fifth Circuit has any power over the Department of Justice. They’re just throwing a temper tantrum. Which is sad.

  45. 45
    Maude says:

    Local RW radio host was going on about the teleprompter and also implied that Obama is uppity.

  46. 46
    Cacti says:

    The POTUS has such an amazing ability to send his opponents round the bend.

    Between Richard Cebull’s e-mail “joke”, Scalia’s broccoli questions, and the 5th Circuit’s tantrum, they’re making the point quite nicely that Repub-appointed judges are political extremists.

  47. 47
    Steve says:

    @Judas Escargot, Your Postmodern Neighbor: As a technical matter, a court is entitled to take “judicial notice” of certain things that happen outside the courtroom, like newsworthy events, developments in other court cases, etc. But I can’t remember any other case where a judge took some extrajudicial statement to be a challenge to his jurisdiction or whatnot. It’s a very thin-skinned action by the judge, to say the least.

    This is pretty obviously a partisan snipe, but also, there’s definitely a double standard out there when it comes to these issues. Everyone knows conservatives hate the courts, the media, etc., and so as a result, no one thinks twice when they criticize those institutions all day long. Tom DeLay can call the courts illegitimate instruments of tyranny and it’s like shrug, that’s just how conservatives talk. But let a Democrat question the courts or the media or any of those same institutions and it’s time for the fainting couch.

  48. 48
    Cacti says:

    Given the brazen political partisanship of the Judicial Branch’s right wing, I keep having this ominous feeling that the PPACA decision is going to be a Dred Scott-esque overreach, that endorses a Lochner-era interpretation of the commerce clause.

  49. 49

    @Cacti: That’s always been the fear – that this court wants to overturn Lochner.

  50. 50
    Uncular 1 says:

    You don’t have to go all the way back to Reagan. I have two words for you: Justice Sunday. I also have three words: Justice Sunday 2, and let’s not forget Justice Sunday 3. =/

  51. 51
    RalfW says:

    It is completely unfair to use history to make your argument!

    Just like it is utterly liberal and rude and faintly European to use science to discuss climate change.

    Only approved, carefully edited myths and hagiographies may be employed to make points. Anything from the actual record is just Jon Stewart grandstanding, oh and pushy and obnoxious.

    So just stop it you guys.

    You guys… Stoooop iiiit. Really, I mean it.

    Mo-o-o-om!

  52. 52
    bogdan says:

    Nice to get historical perspective once in awhile. Seems the Republicans were afraid of the Supreme Court then like we are now so I guess this is nothing new. Sucks to be on the wrong side of it though.

  53. 53
    Some Loser says:

    @bogdan:

    Liberals fear/hate the Supreme Court when they don’t do their jobs.

    Conservatives fear/hate the Supreme Court when they do.

    This is a little different from the average Republican freakout for when the court decides cases. This will have a significant effect on pretty much everything. They aren’t discussing the ACA; they’re discussing the commerce clause. If they do not literally uphold the ACA with a majority, the legitimacy of the Court is at danger because Congress is not letting that powerful clause go to waste.

    (Well, I may be wrong. But I hear the argument for the ACA is strongly tied to the commerce clause. From my understanding, it’ll be hard to attack the one without adversely affecting the other.)

  54. 54
    Bruce S says:

    The more appropriate Reagan comparison is that Reagan wasn’t nearly as much of a thug, a cynic or a sociopath as the current crop of “conservatives” who claim him as their icon but have actually abandoned even Ronnie’s brand of governance by Right-wing windbaggery leavened with some authentic pragmatism.

  55. 55
    28 Percent says:

    So… question: when Ronnie said that, did any judges assign attorneys <a href="http://home.myhughesnet.com/ne.....38;rip_id=“>RedState-style homework essays in response?

  56. 56
    28 Percent says:

    Try this again: <a href="http://home.myhughesnet.com/ne.....38;rip_id=“>RedState-style homework essays razzin-frazzin WP…

  57. 57
  58. 58
    El Cid says:

    C’mon, let’s give Reagan some credit: he was among our most blood-thirsty, gleeful slaughterers and genocidalists of civilians we’ve ever had in office, rivaling in spirit — though not quite as much in scale — good old beloved commentator and Wise Man of American politics, Henry Kissinger.

    He loved the wonderful, evangelical new, literally genocidal tyrant leaders of Guatemala. Very impressed with their ability to quote their love of Jesus and the Bible in true Protestant style (not that Catholic weirdness) and their commitment to slaughter liberation theology priests and bash Indian babies’ heads against rocks.

    So Reagan was indeed among the absolute best of thugs — he just reserved the grand majority of his wild bloodletting for areas outside the US borders — I mean, if you’re not including the porous movement in and out of his hired slaughterers, drug lords, and genocidalists.

  59. 59
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @28 Percent:

    dammit

     
    Old saying: If at first you don’t succeed, don’t take up skydiving as a hobby.

  60. 60

    […] SteveM points out, even Saint Reagan and John Roberts were in on the game to denounce and curtail judicial power: I’m just trying to imagine how […]

  61. 61
    Robert says:

    You overlooked a good one:

    “I intend to go right on appointing highly qualified individuals of the highest personal integrity to the bench, individuals who understand the danger of short-circuiting the electoral process and disenfranchising the people through judicial activism.” -Ronald Reagan

    I guess Jerry Smith didn’t agree with Reagan either.

  62. 62
    mjshep says:

    @butler: You’re lucky.

    I just have a Lincoln and two Washingtons.

  63. 63
    David Koch says:

    Now, THIS was a great post.

    This was baaadaaass.

    Bravo, Steve.

    Take a bow.

    She how good you can be when you’re in attack mode and not in worrywart mode.

    Do me a favor — email this to that cunt Ruth Marcus.

  64. 64

    […] the radical conservative movement would cultivate this kind of toxic language directed at judges? But Saint Reagan Was the Nicest Man! Not Like That Vicious Thug Obama! And I say that even though court-stripping is frequently proposed by right-wingers, most recently […]

  65. 65
    Patrick Pine says:

    @RalfW:

    By far the best comment in this entire thread…

  66. 66

    […] Reagan, as a candidate (via Balloon Juice): Ronald Reagan … campaigning in Birmingham, Ala., Thursday, blasted the court’s most […]

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  2. […] the radical conservative movement would cultivate this kind of toxic language directed at judges? But Saint Reagan Was the Nicest Man! Not Like That Vicious Thug Obama! And I say that even though court-stripping is frequently proposed by right-wingers, most recently […]

  3. […] SteveM points out, even Saint Reagan and John Roberts were in on the game to denounce and curtail judicial power: I’m just trying to imagine how […]

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