Wash Post Fact Check: Obama 'Dead Wrong' on Supreme Court

Monday, 09 Apr 2012 10:33 AM

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President Barack Obama was “dead wrong” in his comments about the Supreme Court and what action it might take in deciding the constitutionality of his signature healthcare legislation. Obama had initially said it would be “unprecedented” for the court to overrule the law passed “by a strong majority of Congress,” The Washington Post said in a fact check of the president’s comments.

“It’s clear that Obama’s ‘unprecedented’ comment was dead wrong, because the Supreme Court’s very purpose is to review laws that are passed by the nation’s democratically elected Congress — regardless of how popular or well-intentioned those laws may be,” the Post wrote.

“This concept of judicial review was established in 1803 with Marbury v. Madison, a case that Obama should have been familiar with as a former law school lecturer and previous president of Harvard Law Review.”

The Post also noted that Congress “didn’t pass the Affordable Care Act with a strong majority. The vote in the House of Representatives, for instance, was 219 to 212, with no Republicans supporting and 34 Democrats opposing the measure.”

Obama later clarified the remarks to back off the “unprecedented” statement and said, “We have not seen a court overturn a law that was passed by Congress on an economic issue, like healthcare, that I think most people would clearly consider commerce — a law like that has not been overturned at least since Lochner. Right? So we’re going back to the '30s, pre-New Deal.”

The Post points out that Lochner went to the Supreme Court in 1905 and dealt with a state law on regulation of workers’ hours.

“It’s also interesting that Obama brought up the Lochner case when the White House claims he was making a point about national economic legislation all along,” the Post wrote. “Lochner dealt with a state law, so it seems like an inappropriate reference, at least by the president’s own narrow standards. It certainly fit nicely with his narrative about judicial activism.”

In conclusion, the Post said, “Ordinarily, we would not expect a president to know the intricacies of Supreme Court cases, but we hold Obama to a high standard because he used to teach law and because in his remarks he tossed around references to particular cases.

“On balance, the president earns two Pinocchios—which means creating ‘a false, misleading impression by playing with words and using legalistic language that means little to ordinary people’—for his comments about the pending Supreme Court decision.”

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