Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., during an interview in Washington, July 24, 2009.
Evan Vucci/AP Photo

Lieberman flubs Legal Analysis 101

Updated
The talking point seemed to start with a National Review piece two weeks ago. John Fund wrote, “Did you know the Obama administration’s position has been defeated in at least 13 – thirteen – cases before the Supreme Court since January 2012 that were unanimous decisions?”
 
The claim was accurate, though the right seemed to lose track of the key part of the sentence. Fund noted that the Obama administration’s “position” came up short at the high court, which conservatives then interpreted as the Obama administration itself losing.
 
A few days later, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said on Fox News that the Supreme Court has voted 13 times “that the president has exceeded his constitutional authority,” and in each case, the justices voted “nine to nothing.” But most of the 13 cases had nothing to do with the president’s constitutional authority – indeed, some of the cases, including the “buffer zone” case, had nothing to do with the executive branch at all.
 
Goodlatte, an attorney and the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, simply had no idea what he was talking about.
 
Neither, it turns out, does former Sen. Joe Lieberman, who appeared last week on something called Newsmax TV, a conservative outlet, to push the same bogus argument.
The nation is blessed to have the legal wisdom of the U.S. Supreme Court in the wake of the 13 rulings it has made against the Obama administration in the past 18 months, former Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut tells.
 
“It’s unusual or maybe even unprecedented to have that many decisions,” Lieberman said Thursday on “The Steve Malzberg Show.” […]
 
Lieberman adds that while not perfect, it works quite well in keeping the White House in check. “It’s not a perfect system but when you’ve got an ideologically split court and 13 cases saying 9-0 the president or the administration exceeded its constitutional authority, that says something very powerful,” Lieberman said.
This isn’t in the realm of opinion. Whatever Lieberman, who was also a lawyer, may think of the president, this entire argument is based on ignorance and confusion – which is apparently spreading.
 
Let’s make this plain:
* The administration’s stated position has lost 13 times at the Supreme Court since January 2012, but in many of these cases, the administration was not a party to the case.
* Lieberman and Republicans believe each of the cases related to the White House’s constitutional authority. That’s incorrect.
 
The right is so invested in the notion that President Obama is an out-of-control tyrant that conservatives have manufactured a talking point predicated on nonsense. It’s almost sad to watch, actually.
 
That’s not to say Fund’s original point, which was accurate before Lieberman & Co. screwed it up, is of no value. In fact, what we’ve learned is that on many of the key legal questions of the day, the Obama administration is on one side and the five-member conservative majority on the Supreme Court is on the other.
 
Then again, I think we knew that already.
 
For Republicans, conservative media, and Joe Lieberman, this is necessarily proof that the president’s wrong – and overreaching. But given their own evidence, this bogus talking point is absurd.
 

Barack Obama, Bob Goodlatte, Joe Lieberman and Supreme Court

Lieberman flubs Legal Analysis 101

Updated