Justice Breyer: I’ll Attend The State Of The Union ‘Even If I’m The Only One’

By Kate McCarthy

Sep 14, 2010 8:25am

That’s what Justice Stephen Breyer told me when I asked if he, like Chief Justice Roberts, is rethinking future attendance at the State of the Union in light of President Obama’s criticism in his 2010 address of one of the court’s rulings.

“I think the reason that I want to go and I think that the reason we should be there is because, particularly today, where for better or for worse, people get lots of their information visually. It shows in that room, ‘This is your federal government,’” Breyer told me. “The President is there. The cabinet is there. The Congress is there.  The Joint Chiefs are there.’ And I’d like some of the judges to be there, too. Because the judges have a role in this government.”

Click here to read what Justice Breyer said about the threat of Koran burning and if it is like shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.

When Obama criticized the high court’s ruling in the Citizens United case he said it “reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests, including foreign corporations, to spend without limit in our elections.”

As Obama spoke Justice Alito shook his head and appeared to mouth “not true.” Chief Justice John Roberts called the situation “very troubling” and later questioned whether the Justices should even attend the speech. Former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor also weighed in telling me she would have preferred to skip the event because it was “not pleasant.”

But Breyer – who just released his book “Making Democracy Work” — said all of that didn’t matter. Instead when I asked if he also found Obama’s comments “troubling” he laughed and said, “I’ve been there for a while.”
“I want those 12th graders, even if they’re just watching that State of the Union, even if they don’t get it perfectly in school.  I want them to say, ‘Who are those odd-looking people in black robes?’  And they’ll get an answer.  And they’ll know something more about how our government works,” he said.

“Even if you’re the only one there,” I asked.

“Even if I’m the only one,” he told me. “I’ll be the only one. But I’ll do that, because I believe very, very strongly in this.”

George Stephanopoulos

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