It wasn’t exactly a Joe Wilson moment. But Justice Samuel Alito, too, publicly disagreed with the president during a speech before Congress.
When President Obama said during a speech on health care that illegal immigrants would not be covered, the South Carolina congressman famously shouted, "You lie."
Justice Alito was a little more subtle. When Obama said, "With all due deference to the separation of powers, last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong," the audience stood and applauded, but Alito frowned and shook head. He appeared to be quietly mouthing the phrase "not true."
Alito was in the 5-4 majority in Citizen United v. Federal Elections Commission, which struck down laws limiting how much and when corporations and unions may spend on messages pertaining to political issues and candidates.
Chief Justice Roberts wrote a concurring opinion with which Alito joined. That opinion started:
"The Government urges us in this case to uphold a direct prohibition on political speech. It asks us to embrace a theory of the First Amendment that would allow censorship not only of television and radio broadcasts, but of pamphlets, posters, the Internet, and virtually any other medium that corporations and unions might find useful inexpressing their views on matters of public concern. Its theory, if accepted, would empower the Government toprohibit newspapers from running editorials or opinion pieces supporting or opposing candidates for office, so long as the newspapers were owned by corporations — as the major ones are. First Amendment rights could be confined to individuals, subverting the vibrant public discourse that is at the foundation of our democracy.
"The Court properly rejects that theory, and I join its opinion in full."
The question is: What law can Congress write and Obama sign that would overcome: "Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press …"?
If the Chinese want to spend some of our treasury notes on television commercials and newspaper ads, instead of giving directly to the Clintons, we could use the investment. Americans may embrace the message … or not.
President Barack Obama arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington to deliver his State of the Union address. Supreme Court Justices applauding, from left are, Anthony Kennedy, Samuel Alito, front left, and Chief Justice John Roberts. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)