Freedom of What?

Astounded by the headlines this morning. 
Probably because I so rarely read the headlines or maybe because I'm totally ignorant of political protocol, but I was under the impression that we yet lived in a country founded upon such basic principles as freedom of expression. 
I have no idea who Justice Samuel Alito is, or what the supreme court ruling about campaign funds entailed.  I couldn't begin to argue the man's politics or personality with you. 
What does seem clear is that the man disagreed with something Obama said in his State of the Union address last night. And Justice Alito frowned.  He may have even muttered something. Pundits are in disagreement what that might have been or to what part, exactly, of Obama's remarks the man's muttering referred to. Because the man hasn't actually publicly said anything. Indeed, he refuses to comment on the President's speech at all. 
But no matter. Everyone is distraught over his behavior. "There were days when judges stayed out of politics," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, "It would be nice to go back to those days."
Pray tell me, at what point did Alito intrude into "politics" where he so clearly doesn't belong? Was it in having an opinion or in having so human a face that it betrayed some of his private feelings? Was it in attending the State of the Union at all? Should ski-masks for official figures be standard issue at the door next year?
Apparently the president can disagree with–even scold–the court publicly, but the members of the court cannot disagree back.  They may clap enthusiastically–but not frown. 
Since when does agreeing with the President constitute proper etiquette, and disagreeing with him get you lambasted  for stepping out of the bounds of your proper public office? 
Is Obama so thin-skinned and fragile or the very office of the President of the United States so precariously situated that one man's facial expression constitutes a remarkable threat? 
Has the media really come to such a ridiculous state as to pick this up?
No wonder I don't read the news. 
PS: Since posting, I have been called on my political ignorance. I did not know that Justices are not to join in the general clapping, etc.  Intriguing. Nor did I know it wasn't okay for Obama to address the court in the manner he did. I'm intrigued and disturbed by comments made on both sides of the issue on many websites. Should a justice stand up (or frown) for truth, even if it breaks rules of decorum? Should the leader of the free world worry about decorum, or should he use the stage to spotlight truth, regardless?

I'm not interested in arguing about whether Alito or Obama had actual truth on his side. What I want to know, is what if the courts had ruled something atrocious–say promoted genocide or something–would the President be wrong to break the rules of decorum to point it out on such a public occasion? Or, if the President really did tell an all-out lie, would it be wrong for a senator or a Justice or you or me to throw politeness to the wind and challenge him publicly, or maybe even just mutter in disgust in full view of the cameras? 

Or would it be more wrong–in either situation–to obey the laws of decorum and tradition during the public meeting and overlook the wrongdoing?

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10 responses to “Freedom of What?

  • Waterbaby

    Kimber: I will put this in perspective for you. It is common for Supreme Court Justices to attend the SofU speeches. They do not applaud, show emotion or express favor or disfavor in order to maintain neutrality appropriate to their judicial positions. Obama stated an outright lie when he cited the campaign funds ruling (I advise you to educate yourself on it if you care to). Further, and even more importantly, he dissed and scolded the Supreme Court and the separation of judicial and legislative power on which the United States if founded, an unpardonable sin. That would be equivalent to you dining with a VIP or leader of any nation and calling him a mother****** to his face.I always encourage political awareness and self-education so that incidences like that during SofU speech are understood in their context. That single silent utterance spoke volumes, Kimber.

  • Waterbaby

    "Apparently the president can disagree with–even scold–the court publicly," — NO!!! That is *exactly* the point … that he did so, and in a State of the Union speech!!! Again, analogy: You're lunching with the queen of England and call her a bitch to her face.

  • Kimber

    Seriously? I had no idea! I didn't know there were rules about this–but this makes the stories even more puzzling then, doesn't it? Why are they flailing Alito instead of Obama?!

  • Waterbaby

    Liberal state-run media who rally around Obama like minions around a thug. It's what they do.Here's some commentary that might bring this into further perspective for you:"There was, however, one part of the president’s 70-minute speech
    that is deserving of serious opprobrium; and this has nothing to do
    with partisanship. In a truly unprecedented display of incivility,
    Obama in his speech explicitly criticized a particular, recent decision
    by the Supreme Court of the United States, and then called on the
    Congress to pass legislation overturning the decision. He did this
    with the nine justices of the Court sitting directly in front of him. Not only did the president display a gross lack of grace in doing this,
    but many members of Congress in the audience surrounding the seated
    justices threw fuel on the fire by standing and pointedly applauding
    the president's remarks directed at the justices.
    This unpresidential display of rudeness far exceeds in infamy last
    year’s outburst of ”you lie” made by one Republican congressman during
    a less-weighty address to a joint House-Senate audience.
    What the president was doing was taking a cheap, political shot at
    the Supreme Court – or at least one aimed at the five justices who
    voted in the majority opinion last week overturning a portion of the
    federal election laws that had made it illegal for corporations and
    labor unions to spend money to disseminate political views. In his
    insulting remarks to the justices seated in front of him, the president
    falsely claimed that the High Court ruling would “open the floodgates
    for special interests” to spend unlimited amounts in support of
    candidates. In fact, the ruling did nothing of the sort; it did not
    even address contributions to candidates.

  • ken

    thank you!!!! it was wrong of obama to even mention it in such a direct way,to say in the full house that it was wrong was against every tradition we have,herr obama made a mistake and i hope he gets called on it,insulting the supreme court and treating the republicans like children is going to get him some reactions if not from the media then the the senate will not forgive or forget it.

  • Waterbaby

    To your update: You're not getting it. It is not the role or place of the president to pass judgment on judicial decisions during the State of the Union address. It IS his role and place to summarize the state of the union and, like a captain of a ship, state where he aims to sail it. The SOTU speech is the highest speech of the land, given once a year. The event is one of long-established decorum that is to be respected, not challenged, and CERTAINLY no place for an attack on the Supreme Court. I wonder whether you have ever observed or attended a funeral or procession for a head of state or person of the military. The procedures are explicit, the rules of decorum provided and no one would dare use it as an opportunity to politicize one's own agenda. And that is that.

  • Kimber

    Sigh. My ignorance just keeps getting deeper and deeper…Clearly they didn't grant me citizenship because I knew the first thing about American govt! Then again, how did Obama get in there…

  • Waterbaby

    Knowing the first, second and third thing about American government is a choice. As to how Obama got in, reckon that was stated rhetorically so won't venture the answer …

  • Flamingo Dancer

    I watched Obama's State of the Nation address and saw how the judges sat motionless, emotionless like statues for the entire time. I would have twitched and scratched at least! What if the poop man had wind or a stomach ache and that is what made him frown…what is happening to the world? It is like the salem witch hunts all over again. It all just serves to tie people up in to chains that stop any progress. Creating moral panic is a great conservatve tool.

  • Ginger

    hahahahhaah Oh Canada! My home and native land! Where Harper just up and decides to cancel parliment until after the olympics!

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