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Instead of sugary Peeps, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley gave us an acidic tweet over the Easter weekend.
Grassley, whose freewheeling use of Twitter is legendary, unloaded on President Obama's suggestion a week ago that a Supreme Court ruling tossing out his health care reform effort would smack of “judicial activism.”
“Constituents askd why i am not outraged at PresO attack on supreme court independence. Bcause Am ppl r not stupid as this x prof con law,” Grassley tweeted.
This, of course, made some news.
I like Grassley's raw, unbridled tweets, if not his grammar. And calling presidents stupid is our right, ever since they started doing stupid things, roughly 5 minutes after Washington's oath. As a parent of young children, I might have told the president that I don't really think he's stupid. I just wish he wouldn't do stupid things.
And what Obama suggested, that the high court would somehow exceed its authority by striking down reform, was dumb. The court may churn out what the left sees as a revolting stack of political hackery, but it clearly has the authority to do so. Obama knows this, and has since backtracked.
You wanna get the judges? Here's how you get them. They pull a ruling you don't like. You pull out “unelected, illegitimate tyrannical power-grabbers bent on destroying civilization.” They politely point to the equal protection clause. You slap their faces on a “Judge Bus” and send their judicial careers to the morgue. That's the Iowa way.
It's true, the untouchables on the U.S. Supreme Court don't face retention votes, but still, Obama sounds downright wimpy compared to the scorched earth judge-hunting we do out here.
And with Grassley's full blessing. In November 2011, he bragged to the Senate Judiciary Committee about how Iowans rose up in 2010 to throw out state Supreme Court justices who “made up a constitutional right” to gay marriage and who “ignored the constitution and applied their own views.” Sounds a lot like Bob Vander Plaats.
When a court rules in a way you don't like, pound it into submission with baseless, even “stupid,” assertions that its ruling is illegitimate and invalid. But when a court is potentially poised to rule your way, bravely defend “court independence,” tweets a' blazin.'
Basically, PresO and Grassley have shown, once again, just how tiresome, meaningless and hypocritical the charge of “judicial activism” really is. It's low-brow politics not high-minded civics. And it's about as substantive as a Peep.
UPDATE -- Gov. Terry Branstad chimes in this morning at his press confab to side with Grassley:
“I thought it was incredible that somebody that is a graduate of a law school would make the kind of outlandish statements that the president of the United States said,” Branstad told reporters this morning. “…The issue of the Supreme Court being able to decide constitutionality was decided in Marbury v Madison in 1803 and anybody that's gone to law school knows that.”
Radio Iowa's O. Kay Henderson suggested to Branstad that maybe Obama was listening to Vander Plaats, who famously argued that court rulings in Iowa can be oveturned by gubernatorial executive orders. Branstad reiterated that he doesn't share that view.
But I think another good question for Branstad would be, if he cares so much about judicial review and court independence, why did he remain silent throughout the fall of 2010 while BVP and his crusaders campaigned to oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices, including one he appointed.
Our editorial board asked him about the retention campaign in Oct. 2010:
Q - You chose a legal career in the beginning, and you appointed one of the (justices) that's on the ballot this fall. Why not take a stand on this retention question?
“Because it's a ballot issue and it's up to the people to decide. And so I think people should vote their own convictions on this.
“And let me say this about a legal career. I recently spoke at the Drake law school. And certainly I don't regret (chuckles) getting a legal education. But I never imagined it would lead to being president of a medical school. But, a legal education, you can be an FBI agent, you can do a lot of different things. In my case, I've had a wonderful career.
“But I don't think that I should try to influence, uh…First of all, I'm running for governor. That's a big, important office, and I'm focused on what I think is the most important issues facing the people of Iowa, jobs and restoring fiscal responsibility. And I think these other issues that are ballot issues, and there are several of them on the ballot, should be up to the voters to decide.”
Q - But it's a pretty big public policy question. And I think a lot of folks see your silence as sort of a tacit endorsement of the effort to oust those judges…
“No. I mean, in the primary, there was a lot of pressure put on me, and one of my opponents is leading the effort against the judges, and I took the position in the primary that it should be the people's decision on that and that I was running for governor, not to oversee the court. But I do think the people do have a right to make those decisions. I respect that, and I respect the fact that it's on the ballot for retention and people should vote their convictions.”
Sure, but what are your convictions? Again, stick up for justices who rule the way you like. When they don't, throw them under the Judge Bus and reap the political rewards.
UPDATE II -- And under the headings small world and great timing, LegalTimes writer Todd Ruger, who was a Gazette Statehouse intern back in the day, posted this Q and A with Grassley on his unique Twitter stylings on Friday, just before the weekend developments.