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Jan. 28 2010 - 12:38 am | 1,119 views | 2 recommendations | 5 comments

Alito’s Reaction: Much Ado About Nodding

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There’s only been a few hours since the end of the President’s State of the Union and already it’s clear what will be heading up the news cycle tomorrow: Justice Alito’s Joe Wilson moment.

In case you missed it, which wasn’t hard since it was a few milliseconds of reaction, Justice Sam Alito shook his head and said “not true” after President Obama criticized the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Citizen’s United.

It’s easy to get pulled along in the tide of outrage. The Supreme Court after all, is at least supposed to pretend to be neutral arbiters. AMERICAblog wrote it. Glenn Greenwald immediately twittered it. Huffington Post re-posted it. Talking Points Memo grabbed the vid.

But then comes Linda Greenhouse at the New York Times, as a voice of reason:

. . . Justice Alito shook his head as if to rebut the president’s characterization of the Citizens United decision, and seemed to mouth the words “not true.” Indeed, Mr. Obama’s description of the holding of the case was imprecise. He said the court had “reversed a century of law.”

The law that Congress enacted in the populist days of the early 20th century prohibited direct corporate contributions to political campaigns. That law was not at issue in the Citizens United case, and is still on the books. Rather, the court struck down a more complicated statute that barred corporations and unions from spending money directly from their treasuries — as opposed to their political action committees — on television advertising to urge a vote for or against a federal candidate in the period immediately before the election. It is true, though, that the majority wrote so broadly about corporate free speech rights as to call into question other limitations as well — although not necessarily the existing ban on direct contributions.

Watching the video, it’s hard not to agree  that Alito’s nodding was most likely in reaction to Obama’s inaccurate characterization.  But, as Greenhouse herself states at the end of the article, this is not an explanation that lends itself to sound-bite. If I wake up tomorrow morning and Justice Sam Alito is the new Joe Wilson, I won’t be one bit surprised.


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  1. collapse expand

    That makes it apparent why we have never seen Obama’s college or law school records. I wonder what are in his medical records that warrants keeping them sealed?

  2. collapse expand

    I agree with Jeff, Kate. That headline is beautiful.

  3. collapse expand

    All this proves is that lying to the American people is okay if it’s a liberal who does it. In Obama’s world, good intentions are more important than truth.

  4. collapse expand

    what’s your point? don’t tell me you think it’s good that corporations have more power? why not just admit then that you don’t believe in democracy, since corporations don’t represent people at all, and freedom of speech was meant for people, living breathing people, not IBM or Haliburton. but whatever, most people’s opinions today are such drivel, include the majority supreme court which are neanderthal proto-fascists.

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    About Me

    While working at Talking Points Memo Muckraker during the 2008 Election, I covered the Justice Department politicization, voting rights law and the insanity of Alaska politics. I loved the beat which was somewhere between the wonky side of politics and the law. The realization was enough to send me off to law school in D.C. -- which seems to be a perfect combination of both.

    Though I've covered everything from birth control to blenders in my few years in journalism, this blog will be a compilation of stories related to the Supreme Court, federal courts, and the law generally. With an occasional story about Sarah Palin or Ted Stevens thrown in for good measure.

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