(Clips of Tom Delay and John Cornyn quoted below start after the 1:00 mark.)
On Monday, President Obama unsurprisingly expressed confidence that the Supreme Court would uphold the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Even less remarkable, Obama rightly reminded Americans that "conservative commentators" have for years said "the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint -- that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law." Nevertheless, Republicans quickly accused the President of "unprecedented" effort to "intimidate the Supreme Court."
Of course, this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black (to put it mildly). After all, denouncing "judicial activism" has been a GOP talking point for years. Not content to rest there, the party's members of Congress and presidential candidates have pushed to limit the federal judiciary's jurisdiction on a range of issues, abortion not least among them. And as their incendiary rhetoric during the Terri Schiavo saga and other episodes reveals, Republican leaders didn't hesitate to issue none-too-thinly veiled threats of violence against the nation's judges.
Following the President's statement, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell led the GOP charge:
"This president's attempt to intimidate the Supreme Court falls well beyond distasteful politics. It demonstrates a fundamental lack of respect for our system of checks and balances."
While Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Karl Rove all called the President a "thug," McConnell doubled-down on Thursday, insisting Obama should "back off" because "the independence of the court must be defended."
Of course, back in 2005, McConnell played a pivotal role in the GOP effort to disregard the 19 rulings by Florida and federal courts, including the Supreme Court, in the case of Terri Schiavo. As he explained to an incredulous Brit Hume of Fox News:
What we simply did was grant to the courts an opportunity to review the case, something they do in habeas corpus petitions in death penalty cases all the time. It's not unusual for a death decision. And in effect, that's what's happening here.
A decision to let Ms. Schiavo die would be reviewed in the courts. That's all Congress did. The courts took a look at it, decided not to review it. And this tragic matter obviously is soon going to come to an end.
Not if Texas Senator John Cornyn had his way. Cornyn, himself a former chief judge of the Texas Supreme Court and author in 2010 of an attack on Obama nominee Elena Kagan titled, "I Sense a Judicial Activist," took the Republican assault on the judiciary to a new and frightening level. Cornyn was one of the GOP standard bearers in the conservative fight against so-called "judicial activism" in the wake of the Republicans' disastrous intervention in the Terri Schiavo affair. On April 4th, Cornyn took to the Senate floor to issue a dark warning to judges opposing his reactionary agenda. Just days after the murders of judge in Atlanta and another's family members in Chicago, Cornyn offered his endorsement of judicial intimidation:
"I don't know if there is a cause-and-effect connection, but we have seen some recent episodes of courthouse violence in this country...And I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters, on some occasions, where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in, engage in violence."
Facing criticism for his remarks seemingly endorsing right-wing retribution against judges, Cornyn held his ground. "I didn't make the link," he said on Fox News Sunday, adding with a note of sarcasm:
"It was taken out of context. I regret it was taken out of context and misinterpreted."
As it turns out, Cornyn was merely echoing the words of the soon-to-be indicted House Majority Leader Tom Delay. On March 31st, Delay issued a statement regarding the consistent rulings in favor of Michael Schiavo by all federal and state court judges involved:
"The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today."
As the New York Times reported:
Saying that the courts ''thumbed their nose at Congress and the president,'' Mr. DeLay, of Texas, suggested Congress was exploring responses and declined to rule out the possibility of Congressional impeachment of the judges involved.