A just-unearthed 2001 interview with Obama on Chicago public radio reveals as much. Then a law school instructor and state legislator, Obama offered an eloquent indictment of the Warren Court for not being radical enough. While the court rightly gave blacks traditional rights, argued Obama, "the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth." Unfortunately, according to Obama, "it didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution."The only problem is it JUST AIN’T SO!
Obama criticized neither the Constitution nor the Supreme Court in the aforementioned interview. If anything, he criticized the civil rights movement for focusing on litigation to the exclusion of political action that might have achieved more of the movement’s goals. Here are Obama’s comments as quoted on World Net Daily:
If you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy in the court, I think where it succeeded was to invest formal rights in previously dispossessed people, so that now I would have the right to vote. I would now be able to sit at the lunch counter and order and as long as I could pay for it I’d be OK.
But, the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and of more basic issues such as political and economic justice in society. To that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn't that radical. It didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as it's been interpreted, and the Warren Court interpreted in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. Says what the states can't do to you. Says what the federal government can't do to you, but doesn't say what the federal government or state government must do on your behalf.
And that hasn't shifted and one of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was because the civil rights movement became so court-focused I think there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change. In some ways we still suffer from that.At this point the YouTube video of the interview carries this dishonest caption: “Yes he just said it’s a tragedy the Constitution wasn’t radically interpreted to force redistribution of wealth for African Americans.” NO HE DID NOT! There is no criticism of the Supreme Court or the Constitution there. The tragedy, according to Obama, was the failure of the civil rights movement to pursue change through the political process. He is acknowledging that the courts were not the answer to all the problems.
Obama made this point again when asked whether legislation or litigation was the appropriate way to bring about change:
The court's not very good at it. I'm not optimistic about bringing about major redistributive change through the courts. You know, the institution just isn’t structured that way. You start getting into all sorts of separation of powers issues, the court … engaging in a process that essentially is administrative.Once again, no call for changing the courts or the Constitution.