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April 03, 2012

Unprecedented?

Yesterday in dramatic tones President Obama expressed his confidence that the Supreme Court would not strike down ObamaCare.

"Ultimately, I am confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress," Obama said at a news conference with the leaders of Canada and Mexico.

Over on the left they like to mention that Obama was a constitutional law professor.  In fact, Obama said it himself, so I think we can say with a certainty that it's true — Obama is way over there on the left.  As to the part about him being a "constitutional law professor," well maybe not quite.

Sen. Obama, who has taught courses in constitutional law at the University of Chicago, has regularly referred to himself as "a constitutional law professor," most famously at a March 30, 2007, fundraiser when he said, "I was a constitutional law professor, which means unlike the current president I actually respect the Constitution." A spokesman for the Republican National Committee immediately took exception to Obama’s remarks, pointing out that Obama’s title at the University of Chicago was "senior lecturer" and not "professor."

Recently, Hillary Clinton’s campaign has picked up on this charge. In a March 27 conference call with reporters, Clinton spokesman Phil Singer claimed:

Singer (March 27): Sen. Obama has often referred to himself as “a constitutional law professor” out on the campaign trail. He never held any such title. And I think anyone, if you ask anyone in academia the distinction between a professor who has tenure and an instructor that does not, you’ll find that there is … you’ll get quite an emotional response.

The campaign also sent out an e-mail quoting an Aug. 8, 2004, column in the Chicago Sun-Times that criticized Obama for calling himself a professor when, in fact, the University of Chicago faculty page listed him as “a senior lecturer (now on leave)." The Sun-Times said, "In academia, there is a vast difference between the two titles. Details matter."

Yes, details do matter.  One particular detail leaps out at me and that's the part where Obama said that the Supreme Court would be taking "an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress."  The "constitutional law professor's" words.

I wonder if the University of Chicago Law School is embarrassed about that.  You would think someone calling himself a constitutional law professor would know that the Supreme Court has overturned laws in the past.  Unprecedented?  According to Answers.com,  between 1789 and 2002 the Supreme Court struck down a total of 1,315 laws because they were found to be unconstitutional.  Of those, 158 were Acts of Congress. 

The first time the Court declared a federal law unconstitutional was in Chief Justice John Marshall's opinion for Marbury v. Madison, 5 US 137 (1803), in which he asserted Section 13 of the Judiciary Act of 1789 was unconstitutional because it extended to the Supreme Court an act of original jurisdiction not explicitly granted by the Constitution.

Unconstitutional and Preempted Laws 1789-2002
According to the GPO (Government Printing Office Database):

1789-2002 Acts of Congress Held as Unconstitutional..............................158

1789-2002 State Statutes held unconstitutional......................................935

1789-2002 City Ordinances held unconstitutional....................................222

1789-2002 State and City laws preempted by Federal laws.......................224

Total State, Local and Federal Laws Declared Unconstitutional................1,315

Total State and Local Law Preempted by Federal Laws..............................224

Total Laws Overturned, all governments..............................................1,539

"Unprecedented," he called it.  I wonder if that counts as a gaffe.  Naw.  Obama is brilliant and learned. So they say on the left.

Posted by Tom Bowler at 06:44 AM | Permalink

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