The Supreme Court has included good writers and bad writers during the past two centuries, but the literarily challenged justices have always had a comfortable majority. In the Court’s early days, one of its clumsiest writers was Samuel Chase, who, in addition to being impeached for excessive partisanship, had a weakness for random italics.
Barack Obama is gunning for a confrontation with the Supreme Court, and Chief Justice John Roberts has signaled that he welcomes the fight. Last week, the chief justice described the president’s State of the Union condemnation of the Citizens United decision as “very troubling” and complained that the speech had “degenerated to a political pep rally.” Roberts was making an argument about etiquette--dissent was fine, he said, but Obama had somehow transgressed the boundaries of civilized discourse by delivering his attack to a captive audience.
"He talks a great game, and right now 55 percent of the people view him as a moderate. We need to change that. That's why we're talking about his liberal judges." --Bob Dole, The Wall Street Journal, May 3, 1996. Judicial bashing, by and large, is a wholesome tradition in American democracy. Jefferson's attacks on the "sappers and miners" of the Federalist judiciary helped to chasten a rabidly partisan Justice Samuel Chase. FDR's saber-rattling hastened the "switch-in-time" that saved the New Deal.