The Pros And Cons Of The New Deal

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Critics have lambasted the President for insulting the Justices who were present for his address. Chief Justice John Roberts declared that President Obama’s comments were “very troubling,” and that his State of the Union “degenerated into a political pep rally.”[2] Professor Randy Barnett asked: “In the history of the State of the Union has any President ever called out the Supreme Court by name, and egged on the Congress to jeer a Supreme Court decision, while the Justices were seated politely before him surrounded by hundreds [of] Congressmen?”[3] Others have indicated that the President’s rhetoric was moderate and a normal reaction to judicial rulings the chief executive thought were wrong. Jack Balkin observed that Franklin Roosevelt skewered the Supreme Court during the New Deal far more aggressively than the present chief executive.[4] Linda Greenhouse observed: “The president’s tone was mild compared to the animation in some other parts of the speech.”[5]

Commentators might better appreciate the recent constitutional winter (“of our discontent”?) by remembering that Macbeth speaks of the “poor player” who “struts and frets his hour upon the stage” immediately before his famous observation that life is “a tale [t]old by an idiot.”[6] Presidents only have a brief time to remake politics in their image. Time is short both because constitutional rules limit the chief executive to a maximum of two four-year terms and because, in American politics, the political window