Isn't it exciting, in a guilty-pleasure kind of way, when celebrities live down to your worst opinion of them? You know, like Britney Spears, Charlie Sheen, and Chief Justice John Roberts?
Texas Professor Lucas Powe predicted the justices would skip the State of the Union next year because their feelings were hurt that the mere President of the United States said, rather more concisely, what their own most senior colleague had just said about the Onion-worthy campaign finance decision. (See post 424.)
And, sure enough, Chief Petty is threatening to watch from home next year so he can keep his finger on the mute button.
Incidentally, the President's annual message to Congress, which the chief ridiculed as juvenile stuff - "a pep rally" - is actually required by the Constitution. Unlike, say, the campaign finance ruling, or indeed most of what the Supreme Court does with its days.
"Onion-worthy" isn't an insult. The Onion has high standards. For instance:
WASHINGTON—In a landmark decision that overturned decades of legal precedent, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Tuesday to remove all restrictions that had previously barred corporations from holding public office. "This is an unfair, ill-advised, and tragic mistake," Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said before boarding a flight to Arizona in response to primary poll numbers that show him trailing the Phoenix-based company PetSmart by a double-digit margin.
Why, after all, can't insurance companies hold political office directly, instead of buying their seats through intermediaries? We have it on the authority of Justice Whatshisname, the one with the glasses, that corporations are persons. How can "the Government" (as he calls popular rule) be permitted to discriminate between persons based on nothing but their reality or unreality?
The constitutional logic of the campaign finance ruling is that the people of the United States aren't permitted to make decisions concerning their own democracy, unless any five members of the Pantheon think it's a good idea.
Compare this facade to this, make yourself forget that "facade" has a non-architectural meaning, and perhaps you can put yourself in the right frame of mind to believe the Constitution actually requires that result. But I doubt it.
Anyway, by ridiculing the very institutions of the Presidency and Congress, suggesting it's beneath the justices' dignity to step down from their friezes to mingle with that noisy rabble of elected representatives, Roberts underscored the anti-democratic essence of the decision, and indeed of all constitutional rulings. The Supreme Court exists to protect the United States from democracy.
Roberts' very public defensiveness, like Alito's (see post 424), reveals his lack of confidence in the legal merits of the opinion he joined. The opinion does speak for itself, but unfortunately it sounds like a young Jerry Lewis.
And by mixing it up on the political stage in this way, Roberts confirms his enemies' point: he's a political actor, and the ruling was a political act.
His point is that it's not just power without responsibility. It's without accountability, too. And don't you forget it.