Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia criticized the annual State of the Union ritual Tuesday night, calling the presidential speech something worth skipping because it is a "rather silly affair."
Pictured: Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia will not be present at President Obama's State of the Union Address. (Photo: Paul Morigi, Getty Images)
One of three justices who did not attend President Obama's speech at the U.S. Capitol -- along with Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito -- Scalia bemoaned that "it has turned into a childish spectacle, and I don't think that I want to be there to lend dignity to it."
"The State of the Union is not something I write on my calendar," Scalia said during his own remarks before the Smithsonian Associates at George Washington University. But he quipped, "I didn't set this up tonight just to upstage the president."
Scalia's views are shared by Chief Justice John Roberts and Alito, both nominated to the bench by President George W. Bush. Roberts once said the presidential speech has "denigrated into a political pep rally" and added that it was "troubling" to expect members of the high court to sit there expressionless.
Indeed, Alito was seen on TV cameras during Obama's 2010 remarks shaking his head and mouthing the words "not true" when the president criticized the high court's ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which upheld the right of corporations and unions to make unlimited, independent political expenditures.
Next to a presidential inauguration, the State of the Union Address has similar stagecraft and drama. The president speaks before a joint session of Congress, and the justices, Cabinet members, foreign diplomats and assorted guests are in attendance in the packed House chambers.
Scalia, the Supreme Court's senior member and a Ronald Reagan appointee, noted that it's not uncommon for justices to skip the event. William Rehnquist often did not attend toward the end of his tenure as chief justice, he said, and former associate justice John Paul Stevens never showed up. Scalia confirmed he has not attended since 1997.
SOURCE: Richard Wolf and Catalina Camia