But watch the video at the link. O'Connor is almost robotic as she steps carefully through a bland transition back to her prepared text — watch her look down at her notes — which seems to the usual civics lesson about the framers and the Constitution:
“It’s unfortunate. Because I think comments like that demonstrate only too well a lack of understanding that some of our citizens have about the role of the judicial branch, and I think the framers of our federal Constitution did a great job in understanding themselves that the judicial branch needed to be able to make independent decisions and the legitimacy — the lawfulness — of actions at the state and federal level...."But the news media got their sound bite: Unfortunate!
She was also prompted give the other side a sound bite:
Once Leahy was done, Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the committee's senior Republican, wondered whether the real threat to judicial independence came from Obama's remarks in early April, after the court heard arguments in the health care case but nearly three months before it was decided.Not ideal! Take that!
"If there's a pending decision at the Supreme Court and the president was to express his views along those lines it would be surprising," O'Connor said. "I guess it could happen, but it's not what we expect and it's not ideal."
Grassley also wanted to know what O'Connor thought about Obama's criticism during his 2010 State of the Union speech, with several justices in attendance, of the court's 5-4 decision in the Citizens United case that freed corporations and labor unions of most limits on political spending.It's unusual... not how that time is usually spent....
"I don't know if it threatens judicial independence. It's just not what a citizen expects to hear," she said. "It's unusual. It's not how that time is usually spent by presidents."
I'm guessing Justice O'Connor thinks it's unfortunate that her time, when called upon to testify about civics education, was used by politicians to extract politically useful statements from her, but that is how the time of politicians is usually spent, and it is exactly what a citizen expects to hear.
Ironically, that's a civics lesson.