To Thursday's Supreme Court decision.
The court upheld President Obama’s health-care mandate on Thursday, handing the White House a major victory but providing Republicans—who’ve already vowed to repeal the law—with ammo for the upcoming election. Four justices dissented, but Chief Justice Roberts joined the majority opinion, ruling that the mandate is constitutional. Andrew Sullivan, Michael Tomasky, David Frum, Peter Beinart and more Daily Beast writers weigh in on the decision.
Jeffrey Toobin makes a strong case that the partisan, activist, fiercely Republican chief justice is the anti-Obama, whose battle against the president is one of the most defining conflicts of the day, shaping America for years to come. But then health care threw him a curveball. By Jimmy So.
Who does John Roberts think he is?
Who knows? Not after June 28, 2012, anyway. Not after Roberts delivered the majority opinion in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, which upheld President Barack Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by a five-to-four margin. The healthcare ruling changed everything.
Michael Loccisano / Getty Images for HBO
But let us go back before that day. Before the health-care ruling, John Roberts was the stealth hardliner, the activist judge par excellence. At the age of 57, he could for many more years carry the conservative legacy of George W. Bush, the man who appointed him as chief justice of the Supreme Court in 2005. He towers above his colleagues in his intelligence, savvy, and understanding of history. Jeffrey Toobin, the always clear-eyed legal-affairs writer for The New Yorker, seems like the man most likely to give us a measured, studied portrait of the justice. And Toobin shows us, in The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court, that Roberts has a partisan agenda—even a Republican agenda. He is “an apostle of change” who sees the Constitution in a very different way than previous justices have, and his assault on the precedence of the Court would be heavy. For liberals, this is a frightening look at a man who has the power to shape American lives for decades.
President Barack Obama, on the other hand, is the mirror image, his liberal intellectual equal. The clash of these two titans tugs America’s political and social future to and fro on issues from campaign finance, health care, abortion, affirmative action, gay marriage, to the nature of the Court itself. Fairly early in book, Toobin breaks down the differences between the two men: “One believed in change; the other in stability. One looked forward; the other harkened back. One was, in a real sense, a visionary; the other was, when it came to the law, a conservative.”
The punch line is that the one who believes in change, who looks forward, who is the visionary, is Roberts. “He was the one who wanted to usher in a new understanding of the Constitution, with dramatic implications for both the law and the larger society,” Toobin writes. It was Obama “who was determined to hold on to an older version of the meaning of the Constitution. Obama was the fellow who was, in the words of a famous conservative, standing athwart history yelling ‘Stop!’”
The fiercest battleground in this war was Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. On March 24, 2009, the writing was on the wall that the conservatives on the Court would be joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy in overturning the McCain-Feingold Act, striking down the ban on corporate contributions to political campaigns. The question was whether the justices would do it narrowly, in a decision that would just pertain only to the Citizens United case, or if they could issue a sweeping ruling, which would rewrite decades of constitutional law.
Roberts assigned himself the majority, and he initially wrote a narrow opinion, knowing that a sweeping ruling would shock the liberals and divide the Court. Kennedy was given the concurring opinion, which said the Court should have gone much further. But Roberts witnessed most of the conservatives rallying to Kennedy’s resolution, and under pressure, he withdrew his text, making Kennedy’s the majority opinion.
A lifetime of order, upended by Obamacare. How Chief Justice John Roberts will handle it.
The day after the Supreme Court announced its bombshell health-care decision, Chief Justice John Roberts joked that he would be fleeing to Malta. It’s “an impregnable fortress island,” he quipped at a judges’ conference in Pennsylvania. “It seemed like a good idea.”
Jim Watsom / AFP-Getty Images
Roberts did indeed leave Washington for the Mediterranean island nation, where he taught a two-week class on the history of the Supreme Court. His real refuge, however, was Hupper Island—a small bit of land nearly kissing the coast of Maine where he and his family bought a modest vacation home in 2006. Roberts arrived on Hupper Island in early August and quickly settled into the soothing summer rituals that help him unwind and escape the pressures of his job. He puttered around in his little outboard motorboat, hiked along the island’s winding trails through lush meadows and birch groves, and took the kids to the nearby general store for ice-cream cones. But this year there was an addition to the routine: Roberts had a security detail trailing his every move. With the toxic climate that followed the health-care decision, court officials were leaving nothing to chance.
For many Democrats, Roberts’s Obamacare ruling was an act of judicial statesmanship that saved the Supreme Court from becoming a virtual arm of the Republican Party. For the right, which had championed his elevation to chief justice, it was an ideological stab in the back. But for Roberts himself, it was arguably the apotheosis of a jurisprudential and personal struggle years in the making—between his staunch conservatism and his attachment to predictability, social harmony, decorum, and propriety. “John’s caution is very deep-seated,” says a former colleague who would speak about the chief justice only on the condition of anonymity. “He doesn’t like surprises.” In voting to uphold health-care reform, Roberts showed deference to the elected branches of government, averted a direct clash with a president from an opposing party in the heat of a national election, and strengthened the court’s institutional legitimacy as a neutral arbiter of the law. The court’s public image, however, remains extremely divisive. And inside the court, Roberts’s own last-minute vote change seems to have inflamed his conservative colleagues. Now, as the chief justice prepares to take up the gavel for his eighth term, tackling such politically fraught issues as affirmative action, gay marriage, and voting rights, he presides over a court awash in recriminations and leaks: just the kind of disorder and unseemliness that John Roberts has spent his whole life avoiding.
To understand Roberts’s psychology, it helps to begin with a moment that he would probably like to forget: his administering of the presidential oath to Barack Obama.
A rock-ribbed Republican, Roberts almost certainly did not vote for Obama. But he enjoys the pomp and ceremony of his job and was looking forward to the small but highly visible constitutional role he would play during the swearing-in ceremony. A new book on the relationship between Roberts and the Obama White House by journalist Jeffrey Toobin reconstructs the elaborate planning that led up to the quadrennial ritual in cinematic detail. Toobin reports that Roberts relentlessly rehearsed the 35-word oath. His wife, Jane, joked that her husband had repeated the oath in their suburban home so many times, “the dog thinks it’s the president.” During a run-through a few days before the inauguration, Roberts shunned a notecard that had the text of the oath on it. He would rely on his memory. (A Supreme Court spokeswoman said she was unable to confirm Toobin’s account.)
But when the moment came, Roberts bungled it. Obama briefly jumped the gun, which flustered the chief justice. He dropped some words and said others out of order. After Justice Department lawyers researched the constitutional implications of a botched oath, the White House decided on a do-over.
Two sources close to Roberts told me he was deeply embarrassed by the fumble and unhappy that the White House insisted on a mulligan, which he thought was unnecessary. Their recollections reflect Roberts’s trademark sense of propriety. “The Constitution assigns a significant chunk of the national government’s power to the court, and it’s his job to husband that, and I think he takes that extremely seriously,” says a prominent Supreme Court practitioner. “And I do think matters of decorum matter to him a lot.”
Expected to die in the Senate.
The House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to repeal President Obama’s signature piece of legislation, the healthcare reform bill, 244-185. But Obamacare’s detractors shouldn’t rejoice yet: the repeal is expected to die in the Democratically-controlled Senate. The debate over the repeal lasted five hours over the course of two days, and five Democrats supported the repeal in the final vote. Republicans insisted on going ahead with the repeal vote even after the Supreme Court had upheld the constitutionality of the law at the end of June, and House Speaker John Boehner used the House vote as an opportunity to claim the Senate will oppose what the American people want.
With the House ready to symbolically slay the law again and a new poll showing more public support, some Democrats are urging Obama to belatedly make the case for his controversial reform. Eleanor Clift reports.
A do-over is rare in politics, and the Supreme Court handed one to President Obama by upholding his much-maligned health-care law.
President Barack Obama speaks at Dobbins Elementary School in Poland, Ohio, July 6, 2012, during his Betting on America campaign tour. (Scott R. Galvin / AP Photo)
Backers of the president and the health-care reform that he pushed through—and which cost Democrats the House—would like the administration and its campaign allies to move more aggressively and take advantage of the judicial thumbs-up.
“It’s their own Etch a Sketch moment here,” says Matt Bennett of the centrist Democratic group Third Way. “It’s an opportunity to completely redefine what it’s going to mean for insured people and really sell this giant new legislative gift that Congress has given them.”
Bennett chose his words carefully, selecting the target audience that Obama needs to reach: people with insurance, not the estimated 30 million without insurance who presumably don’t need convincing. Those who are covered through an employer or on their own worry that they will lose out as the system is stretched to cover everybody else.
A new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that the legislation is now viewed less negatively than it was before the court ruling, with 47 percent supporting the law and 47 percent opposing it. In April only 39 percent backed the Affordable Care Act while 53 percent opposed it, suggesting that voters are beginning to connect the dots of positive health-care benefits—such as keeping adult children on their policy until age 26—with the new law.
House Republicans are voting Wednesday for the 31st time to repeal all or part of Obamacare, providing what Democratic pollster Mark Mellman calls “fodder for Democrats on what they’re voting to take away.” After two years of being on the defensive over the law, some Democrats feel the politics may have shifted to putting the onus on Republicans. A little-noticed amendment to the measure ends federal health-care benefits for lawmakers once they leave Congress and requires that they purchase insurance, like their constituents, on the health-care exchanges, or marketplaces, that are being set up under the law. Democrats have portrayed Republicans as wanting to end benefits for everybody else while keeping their own “generous” plans.
The GOP, meanwhile, is doubling down. Paul Lindsay, communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee, predicts that no member of his party will oppose repeal in the House vote. “It’s not an issue we’re afraid to talk about,” he says.
In the social-media age—when millions of Americans can instantaneously express their views to our elected officials—courts shouldn’t be policing the boundaries of political power, writes David Dow.
Now that the dust has settled over the Supreme Court’s health-care ruling, it’s time to consider the central lesson of that decision: The fate of the most significant piece of domestic legislation of the past 50 years hinged on the viewpoint of a single man.
Alex Wong / Getty Images
Put another way: It’s time to rethink judicial review.
As someone who supported the Affordable Care Act and had confidence it was constitutional, the decision upholding the law did not gore my ox. That the Court got it right, however, cannot paper over the increasingly apparent antidemocratic nature of judicial review, and the increased willingness of the justices to override the judgment of the other two branches of the federal government.
Of course, we’ve had judicial review in the United States since even before Chief Justice John Marshall’s landmark 1803 opinion in Marbury v. Madison. But it was Marbury that cemented the idea in our legal culture that federal courts can nullify acts of Congress. At a time in our history when neither blacks nor women could vote, and when even white males could not vote until they were 21, it was difficult to characterize judicial review as any less democratic than ordinary legislation. A decision by one group of middle-aged white men (Supreme Court justices) to strike down something enacted by another group of middle-aged white men (members of Congress) threatened democracy far less than when the courts act today.
But in an age of social media—when millions of Americans can instantaneously express their views to our elected officials and can easily mobilize to act—the idea that the courts are needed to police the boundaries of political power is truly obsolete. An institution that might have protected us two hundred years ago has become a shackle.
The moment is propitious for reform. Two of the left-leaning justices (Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg), and two of their counterparts on the right (Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia), are getting up there in years. It is conceivable that any might retire before the end of the next presidential term. And who will serve that term—Barack Obama or Mitt Romney—is a coin flip. In other words, both Democrats and Republicans have a mutual interest in fixing this problem now.
So what can we do? Term limits is, of course, an old and terrific idea, but it requires a constitutional amendment, and that’s a time-consuming and cumbersome ordeal. But there are several other fixes Congress could implement on its own.
John Roberts’ change of heart in the Obamacare case is a reminder of how important the chief justice’s decision can be. David Miles on the historical roots of his controversial move.
So, did John G. Roberts Jr. change his mind in deciding to uphold President Obama’s health-care law? That would make him only the second Roberts on the Supreme Court in 75 years to switch his vote under mysterious circumstances.
Chief Justice John Roberts arrives for a lecture on the history of the US Supreme Court at the Old University of Malta, in Valletta, Tuesday, July 3, 2012. Roberts' cast the key vote last week to uphold President Obama's health care law. (Lino Arrigo Azzopardi / AP Photo)
Prior to the ruling coming down, the possibility of Chief Justice Roberts deciding the fate of the legislation seemed unlikely, with many observers arguing that if the health-care law survived, it would probably be thanks to the more predictable swing vote of Justice Anthony Kennedy. Yet if the tumultuous history of the Supreme Court tells us anything, it is that the role of chief justice can matter a great deal in constitutionally significant cases such as this one.
Marbury v. Madison (1803), the case which established the precedent, if not the authority, for the court to nullify congressional acts, has inevitably been mentioned since the decision on the Affordable Care Act came down. The analogy is correct in as much as Roberts seems to have been emulating Chief Justice John Marshall’s practice of articulating the court’s claim to specific powers over the co-dependent branches, but then diffusing any tension by ruling in favor of them. In the health-care opinion, Roberts drew a clear line in the sand for the future regarding the limits of congressional power under the Commerce Clause and the Necessary and Proper Clause, but then gave the other branches the victory on the legally shaky justification that the individual mandate could be construed as a tax.
While Marbury (which Roberts cited in his opinion) may help explain the ‘how’ behind the health-care decision, it doesn’t really explain the ‘why’. That case, after all, was decided at one of the court’s weakest moments. Jefferson’s Republicans were just waiting for the right moment or the wrong decision to cut the federal judiciary permanently down to size either by launching impeachment proceedings against individual justices or, even worse, ignoring the court’s rulings.
In the 20th Century, though, the Supreme Court has often taken on presidents and flexed its political muscle, effectively forcing Richard Nixon from office after its unanimous ruling on the Watergate tapes in U.S. v Nixon (1974), and installing George W. Bush in office in 2000. Roberts, then, was hardly likely to be fearful that the court’s rulings would be ignored anymore. So why did he feel it necessary to uphold a piece of legislation which he must surely have found troubling?
One possible reason is that modern chief justices undoubtedly feel the burden of history and no chief justice wants the stature of the court to be diminished on their watch. Roberts knows just how hard won the current authority of the judicial branch has been and the stakes remain high. As law professor Michael Stokes Paulsen observed, the consequences of losing “a political-constitutional battle just once, in a case that matters” might be sufficient to return the court to an early 19th Century state of enfeeblement.
If there is one period in the court’s history that Roberts is acutely sensitive to, perhaps even more than the Marshall era, it is the 1930s when the Hughes court invalidated much of Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation. Although Roberts has spoken of the debt that today’s court owes Hughes for defending the institution against FDR’s court packing plan, he is also aware of how his predecessor waged an equally vigorous campaign to convince Justice Owen Roberts to support the New Deal - the famous “switch in time which saved the nine.”
Amid the cheers and boos following last week’s Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act, one question remained unanswered: What the heck does it mean for ME? For now, not much, considering most of the law won’t go into effect until 2014. But when it does, many of us are in for some big—and affordable—changes. Here, a user-friendly guide to the numbers.
The wily House minority leader ramrodded the health-care act through Congress and was confident the Supreme Court would uphold it, says Eleanor Clift.
Ted Kennedy had long been the inspiration for health care as a right, not a privilege, calling it “the cause of my life,” and Nancy Pelosi, in her role as the first woman speaker of the House, had made it happen. Rushing to a hastily called meeting of her caucus shortly after the Supreme Court announced its decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act, Pelosi encountered California Rep. George Miller, one of her staunchest allies. “What a great victory!” she said. “You bet your ass (it is)” he said. “I did,” she replied, as they both laughed.
Pelosi put everything on the line to push for passage of the ACA. She had confronted Rahm Emanuel, then the White House chief of staff, who was urging President Obama to adopt a scaled-back version that would cover only children. She dubbed it “Kiddie Care,” likening it to the “eensy, weensy spider, teeny tiny,” a legislative effort so small it wasn’t worth her bother. Emanuel told the Chicago Tribune after the vote that he had advised the president about the political cost of doing this. “And thank God for the country, he didn’t listen to me.”
NewsBeast reports the historic Supreme Court decision.
On decision day last week, Pelosi wore her lucky purple pumps, the same ones she had on when the ACA passed on March 21, 2010. When Obama called, she held the receiver up so he could hear the cheers from the Democratic Caucus. She and her staff later celebrated with brownie bites and cake from Costco (not paid for at taxpayer expense, an aide points out). The festivities were a far cry from the reception she received after the 2010 election, when 52 Democrats lost their seats, many blaming the unpopular health-care bill, and by implication, their leader, for browbeating them into voting for the legislation.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California relays the breaking news to her staff that the Supreme Court had just upheld the Affordable Care Act, on Capitol Hill, June 28, 2012. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP Photo )
“The politics be damned, this is about what we came to do,” she said at a news conference following the high-court decision. “And any time we want to waste time seeing it through a prism of what does this mean in terms of the election, we undermine our purpose in coming here and acting upon our beliefs. We are very, very excited about this day. It is historic. It ranks right up there when they passed Social Security and Medicare, and now being upheld by five justices of the Supreme Court.”
Pelosi never voiced any regrets about her single-minded focus on getting the health-care bill, and it’s doubtful she had any. As with FDR, one of her political heroes, the opposition she faced along with the demonization in the last election is proof-positive that she did the right thing. And lots of other Democrats seem to feel the same way, even those who were burned by their backing for the bill. When Politico went back in the wake of the SCOTUS decision to interview a dozen of the 2010 losers, they found “virtually no second-guessing and hardly any regrets.”
Account clashes with earlier CBS report.
In Jan Crawford’s weekend CBS article on the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act, sources inside the court said while Chief Justice Roberts changed his mind on the issue, he had no part in the drafting the minority’s eventual unusual joint dissent. But now Salon is reporting that a source within the Court is claiming otherwise, reporting that “most of the material in the first three quarters of the joint dissent was drafted in Chief Justice Roberts’ chambers in April and May.” If true, it would mean that Roberts drafted large swathes of both opinions—which, in addition to the fact that he has become Public Enemy Number One for conservatives, might explain why he looks so tired.
Two networks got it wrong when announcing the Supreme Court’s health-care decision last week—a reminder that although it didn’t happen this time, media mistakes can actually change outcomes in live news events such as a national election, writes Michael Medved.
Outrageous mistakes in cable-network coverage of last week’s Obamacare decision should raise major concerns about far more consequential errors that easily could mar election-night reporting this November. And while erroneous announcements by Fox News and CNN say something deeply unsettling about the current state of broadcast journalism, those same humiliations convey a profoundly reassuring message about the Supreme Court itself.
Journalists run out of the Supreme Court after the court's ruling on President Barack Obama's health-care law was announced on June 28 (David Goldman / AP Photos)
When two of the nation’s most influential news organizations both misinformed the public (briefly) about the very essence of the court’s ruling, it’s a powerful indication that no one in media or politics received an advance tip-off about what the justices were going to announce. In other words, the nation’s most powerful judicial institution remains an admirably leak-proof operation. Leading analysts never anticipated that the chief justice would find a taxing-power justification for Obamacare, so Fox and CNN both rushed to the mistaken conclusion (and to epically embarrassing headlines) that since the justices found no authorization under the Commerce Clause, the Affordable Care Act had failed to pass constitutional muster altogether. Within 10 minutes, after more accurate assessment of the text of the big decision, both news outlets had corrected their blunders. But the fact that they had gotten it so terribly wrong at the outset indicated that they had never received advance notice of the decision’s substance. At a time when both the legislative and executive branches of government engage in inexcusable, self-serving leaks that undermine national security and even put American lives in danger, it’s praiseworthy that the highest court in the land scrupulously kept its own counsel on a matter of impassioned public interest. Neither law clerks, nor secretaries, nor computer hackers, nor any of the nine justices themselves defused the element of surprise in Chief Justice Roberts’ startling decision. Regardless of one’s response to the substance of his judgment, the maintenance of complete secrecy in the face of relentless media probes provided an impressive demonstration of institutional integrity for a court whose battered reputation the chief seemed obsessed with repairing and defending.
Meanwhile, the reputation of cable-news outlets received a few dents with their erroneous announcements, but for the most part these networks damaged no one but themselves. Yes, a few politicians rushed precipitously to microphones to hail or lament the purported demise of Obamacare, but they quickly corrected themselves and put the blame on “the lame-stream media” (favorite target of conservatives) or on Fox News (favorite target of everyone else). But even if the sloppy performance last Thursday morning won’t become a big chapter in media history, it should alert all responsible parties to the much greater dangers looming in November. Incorrect reporting on an already rendered Supreme Court decision won’t change a jot or tittle of that ruling but misleading, premature projections on election night can do serious damage to the electoral process.
The miserably mishandled reporting of the Bush–Gore battle on November 7, 2000, provides the most painful proof of the destructive power of such media mistakes. As it happened, I participated personally in some of the on-air embarrassment.
After finishing my midday, nationally syndicated radio broadcast, I spent another six hours hosting election-night coverage for our local affiliate in Seattle. At 4:49 p.m. Pacific time, NBC called Florida for Al Gore and both CBS and ABC followed suit within three minutes. I announced the news to our listeners, together with the conclusion that Electoral College math made it virtually impossible for Bush to win a majority without carrying Florida. Within two hours, and with polls still open in the State of Washington and throughout the West, Vice President Gore himself joined me on the air and I congratulated him on his apparent status as president-elect. He chortled amiably, but then adopted his scolding kindergarten-teacher-tone to caution against premature pronouncements of victory while repeatedly urging his supporters to make their way to the polls while their votes still counted. Before we concluded the interview, CBS shocked the world by retracting the award of Florida’s electoral votes to Gore, a dramatic development I passed on to the vice president, live, on the air. As an enthusiastic Bush supporter, I could scarcely conceal my glee but the stolid Mr. Gore took the new information as proof of his point that the presidency still hung in the balance.
But even he would have been shocked that the issue would remain unresolved for another five weeks, especially since the networks all awarded Florida, and the presidency, to Bush by 11:20 p.m. Pacific time, or 2:20 a.m. in the nation’s capital.
In other words, with their three calls of Florida on election night, the nation’s top broadcast news organizations had all been wrong twice, and right only once: they were wrong when they projected Florida for Gore and wrong again when they gave it to Bush, and right only with their in-between position that the Sunshine State counted as much too close to call.
Conservative justices refused to compromise with Roberts on Obamacare in the same way that congressional Republicans have said no to everything the president has proposed—a primal instinct driven by rage that gets them nothing.
You have surely by now read or at least read of the report by Jan Crawford of CBS in which Supreme Court sources tell her that John Roberts switched his views on the health-care bill about a month ago.
Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts greets President Barack Obama on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 24, 2012, prior to the president's State of the Union address. (J. Scott Applewhite / AP Photo )
It’s an astonishing report for a number of reasons, and we’ll catalog them all. But the most astonishing thing, and the point I haven’t seen made, is that it highlights once again that this bullheaded conservatism obstinacy and totalism, this all-or-nothing posture that the wingnut base so adores and demands, has actually cost conservatism victories. And, I report with pleasure, it will do so again, likely starting this November.
It’s an amazing document, Crawford’s article. John Roberts initially supported striking down the law, but about a month ago, he changed his mind. The conservative four—led, interestingly, by a “relentless” Anthony Kennedy—kept haranguing him to switch back. They then told him, in essence, “You’re on your own.” Crawford writes: “The conservatives refused to join any aspect of his opinion, including sections with which they agreed ... Instead, the four joined forces and crafted a highly unusual, unsigned joint dissent. They deliberately ignored Roberts's decision, the sources said, as if they were no longer even willing to engage with him in debate.”
Paul Ryan criticizes John Roberts for the decision.
Think that over. These are deliberations of the Supreme Court we’re talking about, not Dancing With the Stars judges. The pettiness is amazing. And then consider that it seems plainly obvious that Crawford’s sources were clerks of the court’s conservative (how I still smile when typing this word!) minority. So they behaved like this, and they wanted it known! To embarrass Roberts; to stoke the sale of those anti-Roberts T-shirts; to make him pay a price with the base; to let the base know that this wasn’t their fault.
But all that’s revealed here is what children they are. I wrote last week that I suspected Roberts would have gone along with striking down the mandate, but the other four insisted that no, we must obliterate the entire thing, like Moses’s name from Pharaoh’s obelisks. Sure enough, Crawford’s report supports my guess entirely. It suggests that Roberts would’ve gone with striking down the mandate on Commerce Clause grounds if the other conservatives would have upheld some aspects of the law. No, nyet, nein. Not with us, pal. All or nothing.
Sound familiar? Ought to. Congressional GOP: No, no tax increases. No revenue at all. No compromise. No, we don’t want to negotiate your health bill. Chuck Grassley said in April 2009 that there was bipartisan consensus on the individual mandate? The hell with that. We’ll have him tweeting about killing Grandma in a few weeks’ time. Exxon Mobil supports a carbon tax? We don’t care. They’re a bunch of squishes. No. No. No no no no no no no.
The GOP’s delusional conspiracy theories about the chief justice’s health-care ruling is yet more evidence that this is a party now loyal only to its own self-righteous dogmatism, says Robert Shrum.
The reaction to Chief Justice John Roberts’s majority opinion on health-care reform suggests that the GOP is morphing into the Monster Raving Loony Party—which actually exists in Britain but has never won a seat in Parliament. It also provides more evidence for the delusional conviction of today’s Republicans that they are ordained to rule—and if they don’t, it’s because of conspiracy, betrayal, and the sinister subversion of what they see as American ideals and the ideal America.
Don Heupel / AP Photo
The editorial page of The Wall Street Journal, which channels a combination of its owner, Rupert Murdoch, and its ideological heroes, from Friedrich Hayek to Robert Bork, said Roberts had been “intimidated” by “the political class and legal left” and “swayed from [his] constitutional duties.” The chief justice was criticized for caring about the perceived legitimacy of the Supreme Court, which presumably is and should be one of his most important responsibilities.
The columnist Charles Krauthammer had already accused President Obama of “bully[ing]” the court after the administration had “lost” the oral arguments on the Affordable Care Act. It was a preemptive critique that ultimately proved to be remarkably unprescient. In any event, what terrible vengeance could Obama and his allies inflict on the court if the statute was overturned?
This kind of whining was at the milder end of the loony spectrum. Right-wing radio talker Michael Savage claimed that Roberts’s epilepsy medicine had triggered “cognitive dissociation in what he is saying.” Glenn Beck called the chief justice a coward. There were calls for his impeachment.
Republican politicians eagerly joined in. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a prospective Romney running mate, said Roberts was “just playing to the editorial pages of The Washington Post and The New York Times,” recycling the shibboleth about the nefarious influence of the so-called liberal media—which incidentally is no longer an apt description of the Post’s editorial page. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul picked up the decades-old mantra of massive resistance to the court’s decisions on immigration and declared that the justices can’t decide what’s constitutional. And House Majority Leader Eric Cantor denounced the “black robes” for what they had just done to America. One is tempted to respond: better that than the white robes who once gathered at night in Cantor’s Virginia.
Mitt Romney, who apparently learned constitutional law at the Harvard Business School, or studied it in-between job destruction and offshoring deals, confidently proclaimed that health-care reform should have been thrown out: “I disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision.” He promised to get rid of Obamacare on “day one” of his presidency, a constitutional and political impossibility. Not to be outdone, House Republicans pledged to vote again this month on repeal, a political stunt that will have no effect other than to distract the House from dealing with jobs and the economy.
Hell hath no fury like a Tea Party GOP steamed that a majority of the Supreme Court refused to drink the right-wing Kool-Aid. Isn’t it conceivable that the Republicans lost the case on the merits, just as they lost fair and square in Congress on the stimulus, financial reform, and the health-care law itself? That view is essential to a functioning democracy, but alien to an opposition now loyal only to its own self-righteous dogmatism.
Hardline approach unpopular among independents, poll finds.
It wasn’t all good news last week for supporters of the Affordable Care Act. While upholding the ACA’s beefing-up of Medicaid to more low-income Americans, the Supreme Court also ruled that the federal government cannot punish states that refuse to expand Medicaid eligibility by withholding funding elsewhere. This is likely to embolden GOP governors opposed to the law, and a ThinkProgress poll on Monday reveals that ten of them claim they will definitely refuse ACA funding for Medicaid. If they follow through, ThinkProgress estimates, almost 3.5 million people who would have been eligible for coverage will be denied it. Meanwhile, a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation suggests that this hardline approach may turn off middle-of-the-road voters, who will be vital in a close election. Fifty-one percent of independent voters, the poll found, agreed that the GOP should “stop their efforts to block the law and move on to other national problems.”
The man who saved the president’s health-care law is the new liberal heartthrob. Howard Kurtz on how a single vote recast the chief justice’s image and riled the right.
The liberal lionization of John Roberts is roaring through the media.
He is, after all, the man who saved Obamacare for a president who opposed his confirmation.
Tina Brown, John Avlon, and Paul Callan on John Roberts' historic decision.
One moment he is the bête noire of the left, a right-wing legal hack who lied about being a neutral umpire, and the next he is a profile in courage, rising above petty partisanship to do the right thing.
Is this a classic case of what many on the right carp about—that conservatives are depicted as having “grown” and “evolved” only when they move to the left?
In some ways, sure. But the story is more complicated than that, turning on a justice’s nuanced view of his role and that of the high court.
And while some conservatives are angry at Roberts—a few have even called him a traitor—the right-wing media have been remarkably restrained in reporting on the chief justice’s apostasy.
Brooks Kraft / Corbis
After months of waiting, Obamacare has been upheld by the Supreme Court. The Daily Beast reviews the legal circus.
An insider’s guide to the Supreme Court’s dramatic ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act. By Jesse Wegman.
Cable TV anchors might have made serious gaffes reporting the wrong healthcare decision, but not everyone was scratching their heads. Newsweek & The Daily Beast's Lloyd Grove reports from the Supreme Court that the Fox technical crew were ready—after setting up their equipment in the middle of lawn sprinklers.
It’s the end of liberty! It’s the beginning of freedom! Either way you slice it, the court’s ruling on Thursday was momentous.
Birth control without copays starts in August.
Minutes after the Supreme Court announced that Obamacare was upheld, we asked our Facebook readers to give their reactions in one word. Here are the results.
Fox News’s reaction to SCOTUS’s ruling took a notably somber tone. Watch its anchors’ descent into gloom.
You know that kid in your class who always talks but never actually does the reading? Well, today, that was CNN and Fox News. In a rush to beat their opponents to report the Supreme Court’s health care decision, both cable networks broadcast the wrong information—and then had to awkwardly retract their statements.
Scalia and Ginsburg go to the opera together and more Supreme Court trivia.