I admit it. I overuse the word unprecedented. I wrote a book by that title, and frequently invoke it when I’m discussing constitutional law with reporters or journalists. Much to my surprise, the New York Post’s editorial page quoted me in an article titled, of all things, “Time to stop calling everything Trump does ‘unprecedented.’”
On CNN, Dean Obeidallah called it “bone-chilling” and warned of a “dictatorship.” Slate termed it a “temper tantrum.” Others saw an unprecedented attempt to “delegitimize” the judiciary (never mind all the lefties insisting Trump is not their president).
But, as law prof Josh Blackman gently puts it, Trump is far from the only president to “question the legitimacy of judicial decisions.” Obama publicly — during a State of the Union Address, no less — bashed the Supreme Court justices (to their faces) after their Citizens United ruling.
More to the point, as challenges to his health-care law moved through the courts, he warned of “unelected” justices nixing a law passed by “a democratically elected Congress.” (And other top Democrats suggested they’d even call the high court’s legitimacy into question if it ruled the “wrong” way.) Blackman, based on careful study, calls Obama the worst “offender in modern history” when it comes to opining on pending Supreme Court cases.
Well here, Trump’s statements are not unprecedented.