U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. has announced, while speaking to the very conservative Manhattan Institute for Policy Research that he will not likely be in attendance at President Obama’s next State of the Union Address, scheduled for January of 2011. It seems Alito was insulted by something the president said at the last State of the Union Address. As it happens, I remember it well, the justices had voted to give lobbyists and special interest groups, domestic and foreign, unparalleled rights to donate any sums of money, without transparency, to any candidate for Congress, or for the judiciary. Barack Obama in an atypical moment in his delivery expressed displeasure and disappointment. That particular ruling in favor of the corporations, which was spearheaded by Alito, and elevated by Alito to the point where the Supreme Court ruling was called for, reversed decades of precedent limiting those corporate rights. Alito and the court were influenced by the concept of the right of free speech for corporations.
This notion of free speech for corporations catches my attention. Individual Americans have interests in protecting their security, their rights, their freedoms, their right to have an unobstructed future. A domestic corporation has no such interest. A domestic corporation has as a goal the achievement of high profit, less expense, and we assume, to have certain leeway in dealing with corporate employees. Even a foreign corporation has more personality. A foreign corporation may have interests that modern corporate executives would hold in disdain. Some of these interests could include, for example, the issue of settlement building in Israel, or conversely, the issue of maintaining the status quo on settlement building. A foreign corporation might be interested in influencing American drug laws; import, sale, legality, that kind of thing. A foreign corporation may favor selling weapons to Taiwan, or Saudi Arabia. The list goes on forever. With these thoughts in mind, the president may have been well motivated in his displeasure.
James Madison the father of the Constitution, discussed and advocated a tripartite system of American government. It should have three branches; the legislative, the executive, and the judicial. Each branch has its own set of responsibilities. The legislative makes the laws, the executive enforces the laws, and the judicial explains and applies the laws. Madison said, “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elected, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”
Beyond that, the Constitution establishes a system of checks and balances. Madison writes: “The only answer that can be given is, that as all these exterior provisions are found to be inadequate, the defect must be supplied, by so contriving the interior structure of the government as that its several constituent parts may, by their mutual relations, be the means of keeping each other in their proper places”. Whew! Simply stated, the three branches keep close watch one over the other, like a crouching tiger, awaiting the slightest breech, and when a breech is noted, the watcher comes forth with a strong and corrective response.
As a Supreme Court associate justice, Alito would be aware of that. When President Obama, the executive branch, criticizes the Supreme Court, the judicial branch, this is a clear example of the application and utilization of the balance of power principle. Some extreme thinkers might even criticize the president for not taking the matter far enough! Instead, Alito will follow in the footsteps of his patron, George W. Bush, and simply refuse to listen!Powered by Sidelines