At a White House event yesterday, a reporter asked President Obama about the health care case at the Supreme Court, and he addressed the matter publicly for the first time since last week's arguments. If you missed it, here's the clip.
The comments were provocative, but hardly shocking. Obama noted that there's a broad legal consensus that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and the law is already making a positive difference in the lives of millions of Americans.
Specifically regarding the high court, the president added:
"Ultimately, I'm confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress. And I'd just remind conservative commentators that for years what we've heard is, 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."
This has apparently sent some Republicans looking for the fainting couch. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) told Fox News Radio that Obama may have been "trying to intimidate the Supreme Court" with comments Smith feared may have been "threatening." Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), still trying to prove his hysterical bona fides to his party base, sounded a similar alarm, saying it's "unprecedented" for any president to try to "intimidate the Supreme Court."
Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) parroted the same talking points this morning -- it's almost as if a memo went out -- saying in reference to the president's comments, "It is threatening, it is intimidating."
Even for the right, this is all a bit silly.
There weren't even veiled threats in Obama's impromptu comments yesterday. Republicans are pretending to be outraged because, well, I think they enjoy living in a state of near-constant fake outrage.
If I had to guess, I'd say the GOP message is intended for fringe activists who are convinced Obama is trying to become all-powerful tyrant, hell bent on autocratic rule. This talk about the president "threatening" and "intimidating" the judiciary probably helps feed the fever swamp.
But that doesn't make any of this credible. As Greg Sargent explained, "If you really want to hear an 'attack' on the court, go check out F.D.R.'s 1937 address, in which he accused the Court of wanting to banish the nation to a 'No-Man's Land of final futility.' Or check out his Fireside Chat about his court-packing scheme, in which he warned that it was time to 'save the Constitution from the Court' and accused the courts of operating in 'direct contradiction of the high purposes of the framers of the Constitution.'"
When Obama's rhetoric reaches this stage, I'll gladly take the GOP's press releases seriously.