Should Supreme Court Justices Attend the State of the Union?


Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito skipped last year's State of the Union Address so he could give a speech in Hawaii, though his absence was perhaps also inspired by his annoyance at President Barack Obama during the 2010 address, where Alito famously mouthed the words "not true" when Obama misstated the facts about the Court's Citizens United decision. But that's all water under the bridge, right? Won't Alito at least turn up for tomorrow night's State of the Union proceedings? Don't count on it, writes Adam Liptak of The New York Times, who notes that Alito thinks the whole State of the Union format is ripe for abuse:

Attendance can be stressful. The justices say they must make careful and largely coordinated choices about what statements from the president are uncontroversial enough to warrant applause.

That is hard, Justice Alito said, because presidents "will fake you out." They may start with something bland, he said, like, " 'Isn't this the greatest country in the world?'"

"So you get up and you start to clap," he said, "and the president will say, 'because we are conducting a surge in Iraq' or 'because we are going to enact health care reform' and then you immediately have to stop."

Judicial fake-out sounds to me like a promising new category in Reason's State of the Union drinking game. But just in case we don't get anything that enjoyable tomorrow night, why not relive the Alito-Obama showdown one more time right now:

NEXT: Ira Stoll on Mitt Romney's Dishonest MediScare Talk

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  1. So it's like judicial Simon Says?

  2. Isn't that a Springsteen song?

    Pennsylvania Ave. Fake-Out

  3. Top right corner: Gingrich in drag?

    1. Pretty sure that's Paula Poundstone. But I have no idea why she was there.

  4. I've got five of the nine attending:

    Roberts (because Chief Justice, that's why)

    Ginsburg, I'm thinking, isn't feeling too well, and will give it a skip.

    Alito, Thomas and Scalia - no way.

    1. Scalia stopped going years ago, after he realized he was no more than a prop. He has stated so in interviews - he didn't like having to "sit there like a bump on a log" while the president said all kinds of ridiculous shit.

  5. No.

    In the Internet Age, I can't see the point of the whole State of the Union dog and pony show, anyway.

    1. Right -- a spending cut that *nobody* should object to.

    2. supposedly it's in the constitution, but the presidents of yore just showed up in congress from time to time (as prescribed).

      1. I believe an email would satisfy the Constitutional requirement.

      2. Its in the Constitution, but no requirement that he actually show up.

        1. This is what it says:

          Article II

          Section 3 - State of the Union, Convening Congress

          He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient;

          1. As I recall, the President used to just send a memo. Again, campaign look-at-me whistle stop.

            1. Dear Congress:

              Things are kind of crazy in the Union right now. A couple of months ago, as you might be aware, New York City was carpet-bombed for five days by the combined air forces of France, Burkina Faso, and Hungary. Though no damage has been reported, it is believed that some people were kept awake by the noise.

              So when you get done with the hookers and booze down there, maybe you want to do something to address this. Just a recommendation.

              The President

              1. Too much presidential micro-managing. More like this:

                Dear Congress:

                Try to keep the noise down. It hurts my head after a long night of drinking.

                I remain most cordially,
                The President

      3. Jefferson did it by letter to Congress.

        1. Obama should just phone it in, like he has done with most everything else in his life, except for making grandiose speeches and playing golf. He should just stick to golf, and skip the speeches.

          Gerald Ford liked golf, too. He didn't get re-elected, but he gets a nice pension and, to this day, nobody hates Gerald Ford. That's more than most ex-Presidents have ever been able to say.

          1. Dude, he was TEAM RED. That's more than enough reason for TEAM BLUE to hate his guts. He could have cured cancer and brought about world peace, and they still would hate the guy.

  6. it's another Obama campaign speech. You don't suppose the Justices have seen one of those before, do you?

  7. Drinking games are fun and all, but I think I've got higher priorities, like playing video games. I can do that and still drink. I'll just skim the transcript Wednesday (while drinking).

    1. SOTU is a campaign whistle stop. Nothing more. Word on the video games. I'll be playing Battlefield 3.

      1. Star Wars: The Old Republic.

        Vanguard on the Davik Estates server incase any of you are Imps who want to get seriously destroyed.

        1. I don't play the pay-2-play MMORPGs anymore. Not because I don't think they're good. But because I can't dedicate the time required to keep up with the young people.

          1. I wouldn't bother. In a year it will F2P and then you'll feel like a chump for having a sub for so long.

          2. You'll know the economy's really bad when they quit the pay-to-play model and start putting up billboards in-game for real life products/services.

    2. Sounds like just the motivation I need to get the rest of the Dragon Priest masks. Maybe get some more Words while I'm at it.

      Hit the mother lode this morning - all three Words and a mask (and, of course, a dead dragon) in one place.

  8. Republicans should just skip it en masse. Fight, fight fight!

  9. The president should just deliver a state of the union letter to Congress, like the early presidents did. A televised campaign speech is unnecessary and a waste of prime viewing hours.

  10. What would Ron Paul do with this SOTU power?

    He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union...

    With this subjective time frame, it seems he could filibuster the Congress the entire 4 years. Fuck that veto thing.

    1. That would be pretty fucking hilarious. And might actually make c-span worth watching.

      1. No reason the President can't delegate the speech giving.

  11. Should Supreme Court Justices Attend the State of the Union?

    Should anyone?

  12. I'm spending too much time on the Internet. My eyes see SOTU but my mind sees STFU.

    1. Same thing. At least, that's the reaction I have anytime I see Obama on TV about to open his festering cakehole.

  13. If no one attended the STOTU address, would Obama still lie?

    1. You remind me of this one: If a man in the forest says something but there's no woman there to hear him..........is he still wrong?

  14. yup. cuz stevens missing the SotU in 2004 woulda got him deported to triple gitmo!

    query - yes. just like anytime W talked, it was a lie. Like clinton before him... etc. etc. etc. They're politicians

  15. But your 15-minute standing-O is going to make me barf.

  16. I think that if the President can preach to the Senate the Senate should subpoena the President several times a year.

  17. Fuckit. I haven't listened to a State of the Union Address since Bush I (I was in high school civics) and I don't intend to start again soon. I read all the transcripts, but I see no value in watching the spectacle. The content should be what matters, not the show.

  18. As a long time Pens fan and Bruins hater, I have to give it to Tim Thomas, and will be a Thomas fan forever because of this.

  19. The generals and admirals who attend never stand or applaud. They sit, listen, and maintain a set expression throughout. The Supreme Court justices could do the same.

    1. Yeah the judges and Generals should be silent. But, the Senators should learn to heckle.

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