Late last week, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, suggested in a tweet that President Obama is “stupid” because Grassley objected to the president’s recent comments on judicial activism. President Obama’s comments warned that conservatives have historically rejected the idea that an “unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law” — a position that Grassley himself held as recently as 2011.
At an event in Dubuque, Iowa yesterday, Grassley backed off his claim that the first black president of the Harvard Law Review lacks intelligence:
“I had a comment; I should have been a little more diplomatic,” Grassley said, referring to his controversial tweet and drawing laughter from the gathering of about 50 people, “because the president is an intelligent man.”
Grassley added later, “He said something stupid. I say something stupid. We all say something stupid from time to time.” . . .
“What bothers me is the fact that (Obama) knows all about Marbury v. Madison (a historic case that established judicial review) and the Constitution allowing the courts to be independent and in the process of independence to declare acts of Congress unconstitutional,” Grassley said. “He shouldn’t have done it, and he knows that. And I think that he ought to apologize to the American people for not respecting the independence of the judiciary.”
Grassley is right that all people, including elected officials, sometimes misspeak and say something that does not accurately convey their meaning. In Obama’s case, he said something which could plausibly be interpreted as claiming that judges can never strike down a federal law, and then elaborated on that comment shortly thereafter to clarify that he did not intend something that is obviously false. President Obama’s full statement, that there are no modern precedents for judges second guessing Congress’ economic policy judgment such as the Affordable Care Act, cannot reasonably be disputed.
Nevertheless, Grassley seems determined not to take his own advice, even as he backs off his most insulting claim that Obama is “stupid.” Grassley’s claim that Obama needs to apologize is ridiculous, especially because it is hard to distinguish Obama’s remarks from years of anti-judicial rhetoric from George W. Bush.