The Week

(Roman Genn)


According to Haaretz, the New York Times of Israel, President Obama told a group of American Jewish leaders some interesting things. He “stressed he probably knows about Judaism more than any other president, because he read about it.” He also said “he had so many Jewish friends in Chicago at the beginning of his political career that he was accused of being a puppet of the Israel lobby.” He has also been accused of having a self-regard that knows no bounds. One of those charges has proven more enduring than the other.

Liberals — Senator Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), assorted scribblers — are trying to exert pressure on Chief Justice John Roberts in the Obamacare case, warning him that he will be seen as a partisan if the Court strikes down its individual mandate. He will, they say, be labeled a right-wing activist who is threatening to undo the New Deal from the federal bench. He will know better: The issue in Obamacare is unprecedented, the federal government never having tried to make the purchase of a product compulsory without specific constitutional warrant, and therefore the Court has no need to overturn any precedents to rule that the legislation exceeds the legitimate powers of Congress. In any event, public confidence in the Court has survived previous fits of liberal rage at alleged conservative activism, and seems likely to do so in a case where all polls suggest that the public wants the Court to side with conservatives. We’re sure that the chief justice is touched by liberals’ newfound concern for his reputation. We’re also pretty sure he will give their advice the brush-off it deserves.

Forty-three Catholic institutions filed twelve lawsuits against the Obama administration’s attempt to force them, and nearly all other employers, to provide insurance that covers contraception, surgical sterilization, and abortion drugs. The editors of the New York Times describe the suits as a “dramatic stunt” and a “partisan play.” This is not, needless to say, the Times’s usual reaction when groups that believe their rights have been violated seek a judicial determination of the question. Evidently we are to believe that the administrators of the University of Notre Dame, one of the plaintiffs, went from giving President Obama an honorary degree and a chance to address its students at commencement to being a willing cog in Karl Rove’s machine. In the real world, there is a law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and it requires the federal government, when it infringes on religious conscience, to act in the “least restrictive” manner needed to pursue a “compelling interest.” Forcing employers to violate their consciences in order to effect a marginal increase in access to contraception cannot meet any fair reading of that test. Expect more hyperventilation from the Times as courts, and voters, reject the administration’s diktat.

A federal court struck down a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act, in part by invoking an opportunistic and incoherent theory of federalism increasingly favored by proponents of same-sex marriage. The act defines marriage, for purposes of federal law, as the union of a man and a woman. A state may choose to recognize other types of union as marriages in its own law. But a state may not force taxpayers everywhere else to give the parties to same-sex unions the Social Security benefits federal law reserves to spouses. The court claims that the act “intrudes extensively” into a state domain. But all the federal government is doing is defining the terms of its own laws. The absurd result of the court’s argument would be that the Constitution grants states a right to determine the flow of federal benefits to their citizens. Nobody can seriously believe that, and nobody will once this claim has finished being useful to the cause of redefining marriage.

June 25, 2012    |     Volume LXIV, No. 12

Books, Arts & Manners
  • Michael Knox Beran reviews Barack Obama: The Story, by David Maraniss.
  • Joseph Postell reviews It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism, by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein.
  • Amir Taheri reviews Patriot of Persia: Muhammad Mossadegh and a Tragic Anglo-American Coup, by Christopher de Bellaigue.
  • Claire Berlinski reviews How Civilizations Die (And Why Islam Is Dying Too), by David P. Goldman.
  • Ryan T. Anderson reviews Natural Law and the Antislavery Constitutional Tradition, by Justin Buckley Dyer.
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Happy Warrior  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .