Two months into his presidency, as he did often on the campaign trial, President Joe Biden asked America to embrace the legitimacy of government.
“Put trust and faith in our government to fulfill its most important function, which is protecting the American people,” the 46th president implored his country in a March 2021 speech on the anniversary of the COVID-19 lockdowns.
On Friday, after being stung by abortion and gun rights rulings by the Supreme Court that he disagreed with, the president changed his tune and launched a verbal assault on America’s judicial branch of government and its iconic marbled court of nine justices.
The president took a blowtorch to the Supreme Court in language clearly designed to undermine its legitimacy. He accused the justices of waging a “deliberate effort over decades to upset the balance of our law" and decried their “extreme and dangerous path", as he insisted the nation’s highest court had made the “United States an outlier among developed nations” by reversing the half-century-old Roe v. Wade decision.
A day earlier, he slammed the court’s verdict that the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms extended to carrying in public, calling that decision “unconstitutional.”
In so doing, Biden trampled his own promise to embrace government and the rule of law. He also veered from the civility most presidents and senior political leaders have shown the court, even when it ruled against their wishes.
Barack Obama, for instance, didn’t like the famed Heller gun ruling in 2008 that overturned DC’s restrictive handgun laws, but issued a statement that suggested good people could find common ground in it.
“I will uphold the Constitutional rights of law-abiding gun-owners, hunters, and sportsmen,” Obama said. “I know that what works in Chicago may not work in Cheyenne. We can work together to enact common-sense laws.”
George W. Bush showed the same deference when the justices rejected his arguments that Guantanamo Bay terrorist prisoners didn’t deserve full rights in the courts. “We’ll abide by the court’s decision,” Bush said. “That doesn’t mean I have to agree with it.”
Likewise, Al Gore upheld the legitimacy of the legal system after losing the 2000 election in an epic Supreme Court ruling: ““I accept the finality of the outcome … And tonight, for the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession,” the then-vice president said.
Biden’s angry strike at the court’s legitimacy drew a rebuke from many corridors, including from a famed liberal law professor who voted for him.
“I am concerned about that,” Harvard University law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz told "Just the News, Not Noise" television program Friday night when asked about Biden’s reaction.
Dershowitz said Democrats have a legitimate gripe that Republicans blocked a Democrat nominee to the Supreme Court in the 2016 election year but approved their own nominee in 2020, but said that did not warrant assaulting the legitimacy of a court that for two-plus centuries has kept law and order in the country while disappointing both parties over its history.
"The Supreme Court itself is a legitimate institution. And we should not undercut it,” he said. “It's done a lot of good for civil liberties, for human rights, for civil rights. It's also done some bad like any other institutions in government. It has a mixed record. And we should try to work within the institution of the Supreme Court.”
Adding to many concerns, prior presidents who showed deference to justices didn’t have the backdrop of Biden’s last year, in which a deranged assassin plotted to kill Justice Brett Kavanaugh while Democrats legitimately considered packing the court just to change its ideological makeup.
“I think the worst thing we could do is try to pack the court,” Dershowitz said.
Biden’s anti-court rhetoric was shared across the Democratic spectrum, a display worrisome to those who don’t believe a legal loss should be used to undermine an entire court system.
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., a party elder, called on Americans to ignore the court’s authority. “The hell with the Supreme Court. We will defy them,” she said, adding a twist of race to her argument. “Women will be in control of their bodies. And if they think Black women are intimidated or afraid, they got another thought coming."
Young firebrand Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes, D- N.Y., protested outside the court by repeatedly chanting the justices were “illegitimate” while urging Americans to take to the streets.
Such attacks carried to the media, where Bloomberg columnist Noah Feldman penned an article declaring the abortion ruling was “suicidal for the Supreme Court.”
Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., said political leaders have a responsibility to cool tempers and emotions in America's tinder-dry political environment.
"I've been concerned about violence for a long time," he told Just the News on Friday.
"We've got America very divided, deeply divided from a political ideology standpoint. And this division is starting to boil over, and it has been for a long time. There are people on the left and people on the right, who [are] just getting more aggressive in their criticism of public officials, whether they be members of Congress or Supreme Court justices. So, you know, it's certainly a concern. I think that we need to certainly instill a lot of security around Washington DC right now. And hopefully, this will cool down, but the temperature is very high."