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Obama v The Supreme Court
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Part way through tonight’s State of the Union address, President Obama took the extraordinary step of first upbraiding the Supreme Court for its Citizens United decision, and then urging Congress to pass legislation to fix it. Although he did not cite the case by name, there was no doubt as to his intent when he talked about overturning a century’s worth of laws governing campaign finance. He went on to say “Well I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, and worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.”

The cameras panned across the members of the Court sitting up front where expressions ranged from amused, to angry to deadpan.

It was a stunning moment and I can’t remember ever seeing a President take on the Court in so direct a fashion in the State of the Union. He seemed uncomfortable asking Congress to limit the effects of the decision, perhaps himself aware that he was edging into dangerous territory.

  
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Update: The quote above comes from a draft released prior to the speech. In the actual speech Obama ended with “…a bill that helps to correct some of these problems”. His apparent discomfort may have had more to do with losing his place on the teleprompter and having to adlib, or with editing on the fly than with the content – it’s hard to tell for sure.



 

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