WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court justices may never show up again, journalist Chris Matthews is on the defensive and Republicans are taking issue with being chided for their partisanship.
State of the union addresses historically disappear into the ether, having not the slightest impact on a president’s standing in the polls, given a cynical public that considers the events little more than primetime advertisements for the current administration.
But inside the beltway on Thursday, Obama’s speech and its aftermath was the talk of the town — in particular, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s response to Obama’s criticism about a recent high court ruling to roll back limits on corporate spending on political campaigns.
In keeping with tradition, the other five judges in attendance sat stone-faced through much of the address; an ailing Ruth Ginsburg even nodded off. Supreme Court justices, after all, must not appear to be partisan.
But Alito, a George W. Bush appointee, shook his head, furrowed his brow and uttered “not true, not true” when Obama said, erroneously, that the court had reversed a century of law with its decision.
It was considered a breach of decorum on behalf of both Alito and Obama — Alito for responding, and Obama for criticizing the court, even though Abraham Lincoln once expressed his disgust for a pro-slavery Supreme Court ruling.
But one noted Supreme Court historian told ABC News he’d be surprised if the justices showed up for next year’s state of the union.
“It was really unusual in my mind to see the president going after the Supreme Court in such a forum,” Lucas Powe said. “I’m willing to bet a lot of money there will be no Supreme Court justice at the next state of the union speech.”
Matthews, the MSNBC host, was under fire for the remark he made while praising Obama’s “post-racial” presidency and his role in helping to end racial prejudice: “I forgot he was black.”
Those five words immediately caused a frenzy on Twitter and in the blogosphere, with hundreds of commenters either questioning what Matthews meant or openly accusing him of racism.
Matthews returned to the air soon after to explain himself — in short, that it was a thrill for him, having grown up during the civil rights movement, to watch a black president address a Congressional gathering made up of mostly white people.
Nonetheless, the Washington satirical blog Wonkette.com continued to mock the man they’ve nicknamed “Tweety” on Thursday with the swipe: “Oh Tweety, it’s fine, really. If we were Boomers, we would forget that people were black sometimes too.”
Republicans, meantime, were still smarting Thursday after being scolded by Obama for voting against every piece of legislation “just because they can.”
It doesn’t make much sense, they said, to ask for a new spirit of bipartisanship while lambasting those opposed to his policies.