Gaffe Track: Bernie's Supreme Confusion

Jim Young / Reuters
Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

The candidate: Bernie Sanders (making his first Gaffe Track appearance—congratulations!)

The gaffe: Thursday was the sixth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, and the Vermont senator delivered a tweet storm lamenting it, including this:

That’s not how Supreme Court decisions work, of course—justices can only review questions that come before the court, and can’t simply decide to revisit old precedent unbidden.

The defense: Schoolhouse Rock’s ditty on how bills become laws is a classic, but their song about Marbury v. Madison was a dud.

Why it matters (or doesn’t): Sanders, a second-term senator and veteran representative, surely knows how the Court works. But at a time when Hillary Clinton and her allies are arguing that Sanders’s promises to voters are unrealistic, making silly claims about the Supreme Court plays right into their hands.

The lesson: Overpromise about judges not, lest ye be judged.