Supreme Court Times Decision to Deny Future Criticism

Today, the Supreme Court struck down major portions of Arizona’s controversial immigration law. My post today is not meant to argue the merits of that law, #SB1070, but to highlight what I think was a brilliant strategic stroke by the Supreme Court in the timing of its decision.

For the past two years, and especially since the Citizens United decision, the Administration and leading Democrats have been attacking the legitimacy of the Supreme Court. Remember the President criticizing the members of the Supreme Court … as they sat directly in front of him during the 2010 State of the Union address? Rather than emulate the Court, they have chosen to emasculate it and undercut its integrity.

Now, of course, President Obama is not the first President to be critical of the Supreme Court’s decision on key issues. Nor will he likely be the last. But even President Nixon (no real fan of the Supreme Court, or Congress for that matter) heeded the judges’ decisions on the Watergate tapes and decided to resign rather than challenge the legitimacy of the Court’s decision. The Chief Executive walks a fine line in arguing to change rules that he or she does not agree with… and complying with an order from a co-equal branch of government to comply with a rule he or she may not like.

Today’s ruling cut major portions out of the controversial Arizona law. In the ruling, the Court signaled agreement with the Obama Administration of the key provisions it saw as so offensive. In other words, it ruled based on the arguments presented, its deep study of federal and state power balance and the United States Constitution. It was not a partisan decision, but a legal decision.

And it set up the decision, now anticipated for Thursday, on President Obama’s signature issue, the Affordable Care Act. If key provisions of the law are struck down (which I now firmly believe they will be), liberals who favor the law will attack the decision and conservatives will applaud. Basically, it will be the polar opposite of what is happening today, with conservative groups gnashing their teeth and liberals rejoicing. The Supreme Court, with the timing of its ruling today on the immigration law, took a large step towards denying its critics the ability to attack its legitimacy. You can’t rejoice in their collective brilliance on Monday, and then attack them as right wing activists on Thursday…

Democrats are not the only ones who have been attacking the Court, or the court system over the past few years. Republicans have been more than willing to join in the fray. Both parties, and partisan groups, should take a pause and think about this week’s decisions from the Supreme Court.

We may not like some of their decisions, and we may disagree with their legal reasoning. But in a nation of laws, and one in which we attempt to honor our federal and state constitutions, we have to comply with their rulings and interpretations.

Even Richard Nixon agreed with that premise.


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