I’m not a constitutional scholar and I never went to law school. Heck, I’m pretty certain I would have had to struggle to get in. But President Obama – supposedly – has an academic foundation in constitutional law and within minutes he’s found to be full of crap after referring to Lochner during the AP luncheon yesterday.
From his remarks…
MR. SINGLETON: Mr. President, you said yesterday that it would be unprecedented for a Supreme Court to overturn laws passed by an elected Congress. But that is exactly what the Court has done during its entire existence. If the Court were to overturn individual mandate, what would you do, or propose to do, for the 30 million people who wouldn’t have health care after that ruling?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, let me be very specific. We have not seen a Court overturn a law that was passed by Congress on a economic issue, like health care, that I think most people would clearly consider commerce — a law like that has not been overturned at least since Lochner. Right? So we’re going back to the ’30s, pre New Deal.
The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto writes.
In fact, Lochner–about which more in a moment–was decided in 1905. Thirty years later, after the New Deal had begun, the high court unanimously struck down one of its main components, the National Industrial Recovery Act, as exceeding Congress’s authority under the Interstate Commerce Clause. The case was A.L.A. Schechter Poultry Corp. v. U.S. (1935).
But Obama’s even more than just 30 years off. Note the name of the case … Lochner v. New York. It was a state law, not a law passed by Congress.
The full name of the case, Lochner v. New York, should be a sufficient tip-off. In Lochner the court invalidated a state labor regulation on the ground that it violated the “liberty of contract,” which the court held was an aspect of liberty protected by the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause. (The legal doctrine at issue, “substantive due process,” refers to the meaning of “life, liberty and property” under the Due Process Clause.)
Lochner, which was effectively reversed in a series of post-New Deal decisions, did not involve a federal law–contrary to the president’s claim–and thus had nothing to do with the Commerce Clause, which concerns only the powers of Congress.
It’s appalling that any president would have the effrontery to lecture the Supreme Court about a pending case. It’s astounding that this president, who was once a professor of constitutional law at an elite university, would do so in such an ignorant fashion.
I’m not sure why Taranto is surprised our astounded. It’s exactly what I expect from this guy. He just speaks without knowing what the heck he’s talking about. He’s living in some sort of parallel universe where – in his own mind – he’s always right and nobody will question him.
But people are starting to question him.
Yesterday’s question was one that was asked to clarify a statement he made the other day, strongly suggesting the Supreme Court best not mess with his health care legislation. Today’s question – if someone has the guts to ask it – should be centered on Lochner, explaining why he thinks it has anything to do with a federal law.