During CNN’s post-State of Union coverage on Wednesday night, three liberal commentators- Paul Begala, James Carville, and Roland Martin- put up an energetic defense of President Obama’s rebuke of the Supreme Court during the address. Begala and Carville took issue with Republican panelist Alex Castellanos’s reproof of the President, while Martin rebuked Justice Samuel Alito’s reaction.
Anchor Wolf Blitzer played a clip of the relevant portion of the President’s speech, where Mr. Obama condemned the Court for its recent decision on campaign finance regulations, and highlighted how Justice Alito shook his head and mouthed “not true” in response. Blitzer then turned to the panel for its take on the moment. His fellow anchor Campbell Brown, who was moderating the panel, first questioned Castellanos on Alito’s reaction: “Was that appropriate, Alex Castellanos, to have that kind of reaction from Alito when he said that?”
After raising a hypothetical, Castellanos launched a defense of the justice and a rebuke of the President, which drew responses from the three liberal panelists. Carville and Martin in particular reacted fiercely to Castellanos.
CASTELLANOS: Well, just think if George Bush had basically attacked a Supreme Court ruling, the Supreme Court, in that same room, what would have happened? Well, I think the left would have gone nuts. The newspapers would have destroyed him for doing so.
ROLAND MARTIN (off-camera, and off-mike): Answer the question. (unintelligible)
CASTELLANOS: In all due respect for-
MARTIN: Answer the question.
CASTELLANOS: I am answering the question. In all due respect for the separation of powers, and then he tramples right over it. It wasn’t Alito’s fault for reacting to it. Obama shouldn’t have done what he did.
MARTIN: So answer the question.(unintelligible)
BROWN: All right. Go ahead.
BEGALA: Bush wasn’t going to attack the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court made him president after he got fewer votes than Al Gore. (Martin laughs) That’s not going to happen, dude.
CARVILLE: I have to say, in my entire life- and I have nothing but respect for Alex- I have never heard anything like you can’t attack a Supreme Court decision. That is the most ludicrous thing I have ever heard. Of course you can attack a Supreme Court decision. I have never heard of that.
CASTELLANOS: So tell me James- so James agree then- if George Bush had said that, no one would have touched him. It would have glossed right over, right? (unintelligible crosstalk by many on the panel)
BROWN: Ok. Ok. Ok.
CARVILLE: The idea that you shouldn’t attack a Supreme Court decision, Alex, is just patently ludicrous on its face. People attack Supreme Court decisions all the time.
Later in the segment, Martin again pressed Castellanos on whether Alito’s response was appropriate, and in turn, slammed the associate Supreme Court justice for daring to show his displeasure with the President:
MARTIN: [I]t’s very simple, Alex- yes or no, should he have responded that way? Don’t give me the George W. Bush stuff-
CASTELLANOS: Yes. Sure.
MARTIN: So you’re saying he should have responded that way?
BROWN: Alex clearly thinks yes.
MARTIN: Well, you know what- guess what? When you make a decision in your lifetime appointment, you can get criticized. But the bottom line is if it’s a part of their deal where you don’t respond, then you don’t respond. It’s simple as that.
Well, I’m not aware of any “deal” where the members of the Court explicitly announce their intent to refrain from not making any kind of response. It’s just an unwritten rule of State of Union addresses.