Goldberg analyzes Roberts’ choice

Jonah Goldberg‘s latest National Review Online column examines the reasons for U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts’ decision to side with the Supreme Court’s liberal bloc to uphold the federal health care reform law.

To reach this decision, Roberts had to embrace a position denied by the White House, Congress, and vast swaths of the legal punditocracy: that the mandate is a tax for the purposes of constitutional consideration but not a tax according to the Anti-Injunction Act (which bars lawsuits against taxes until after they’re levied). Roberts’s effort, wrote Justice Antonin Scalia in dissent, “carries verbal wizardry too far, deep into the forbidden land of the sophists.” …

… Of course, there are substantive arguments in favor of Roberts’s reasoning. But as far as I can tell, no one is confident, never mind certain, that Roberts actually believes his own position. And among supporters of Obamacare, from the White House on down, no one cares whether he does.

President Obama — self-praised constitutional scholar — mocked those who called the fees and penalties under Obamacare a tax. Now he celebrates a decision that mocks him back. Democratic National Committee executive director (and former White House aide) Patrick Gaspard seemed to summarize the depth of concern on his side of the aisle when he responded to the ruling on Twitter: “it’s constitutional. B—-es.”

More sober-eyed liberal legal experts took similar positions. Roberts’s opinion was “statesmanlike,” they claimed, and, more bizarrely, “apolitical.” Some, such as constitutional scholar Jeffrey Rosen, speaking on National Public Radio, even celebrated Roberts’s brilliance at finding a way to save the reputation of the court by deploying what Thomas Jefferson called “twistifications.”

Indeed, before and after the ruling, much of the journalistic and legal establishment argued that a 5–4 ruling to overturn Obamacare would be “political” because the majority would be comprised entirely of Republican appointees. But a 5–4 ruling to uphold Obamacare would be apolitical because, well, it just would be.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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