Thankfully, no one can quibble with the effectiveness of Roberts’s strategy.
After all, had Roberts joined center-right associate justices Sam Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas in drop-kicking Obamacare into the Potomac, it would have unleashed a torrent of angry commentary, scathing op-eds, and general gnashing of molars among American liberals. Instead, by joining center-left associate justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor in keeping Obamacare alive and well, Roberts unleashed a torrent of angry commentary, scathing op-eds, and general gnashing of molars among American conservatives.
By demonstrating that he cannot endure even such potential disapproval as would have paled beside, say, the accusations that hounded GOP candidate Herman Cain off the campaign trail, Roberts has steered SCOTUS into an even more precarious spot.
Rather than an entity that reputedly is blind to everything except the written briefs that its members read and the oral arguments that they hear, the Supreme Court suddenly seems responsive to public-opinion surveys, menacing political rhetoric, and the tirades of nationally syndicated columnists.
Specifically, liberals have a new path to victory before the Court, at least in major cases: As the Supremes deliberate, left-wing rabble rousers will gather outside their offices and scream: “Do as we say, or you’re a racist, sexist, homophobic unit of the Republican National Committee!” Roberts, evidently allergic to such juvenile name-calling, might buckle anew. After all, softer words worked this time.
The caption beneath a photo of Roberts in Chait’s New York article exposed the Left’s playbook: “We will never complain about you again. Until next term.”
Roberts seemingly was intimidated by President Obama’s April 2 Rose Garden statement:
I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress. And I’d just remind conservative commentators that for years what we’ve heard is, the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint — that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law. Well, this is a good example. And I’m pretty confident that this court will recognize that and not take that step.
Instead of fright, Obama’s remarks generated ridicule. How, tens of millions laughed, could a former University of Chicago law professor not understand that Supreme Court justices overturn laws for a living? Furthermore, a “strong majority” did not enact Obamacare. It earned only 60 yeas in the U.S. Senate (the bare minimum needed to derail the GOP’s filibuster and its 39 nays) and 219 ayes in the House (versus 212 noes from 178 Republicans and 34 Democrats). With the single exception of Joseph Cao of Louisiana (who later lost his reelction bid), all the pro-Obamacare votes were Democratic, since Republicans did not want their names on this legislative garbage bag.
For this, John Roberts broke down and cried on Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s shoulder?
“This sort of makes Roberts a coward, if it was Obama’s pressure that did it,” Quin Hillyer, a Court watcher and senior editor with The American Spectator,writes me. “Most chief justices would have ‘gotten their backs up’ and become even more determined to resist the politicized pressure — and then find a way later on to leak, or even make veiled reference in a speech to, the impropriety of such presidential behavior.”