WASHINGTON, July 1, 2012 — Chief Justice John Roberts’s decision on behalf of the Supreme Court was gutsy. No doubt about it. He literally saved the august body from careening forever more into Right Wing Land. It was hell-bent on a self-destructive course that was already shattering its reputation.
Conservatives have been gloating that they have a lock on the Supreme Court with Justice Kennedy sometimes going stray, but for the most part doing what they considered the Right Thing. In fact, this court was not the Roberts Court, but the Antonin Scalia Court. The scowling, vituperative justice loved showering hot embers of sarcasm on the lawyers who appeared before the Court. Justice Scalia relished being the wrath of the Right. He and colleagues Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito had basically hijacked the Court.
That is until the fateful Thursday in late June when Roberts boldly reclaimed the Court as his and began the job of securing his legacy.
We can only imagine the thunderbolts the Threesome hurled his way during discussions. Collegial? Doubtful. Would have been wonderful to be a fly on the wall during those discussions.
So now, Justice Roberts is being torn asunder by the Right Wingers in Congress, in their blogs, on talk radio, on Fox News, wherever they can grab the ear of the American people. And it ain’t pretty. Roberts has been branded a traitor and a coward, everything but a baby murderer, and there have been calls for his impeachment. We always thought that kind of invective was reserved for Liberals. But to hurl such venom at the Chief Justice because he made a decision they disagreed with? Yikes!
No wonder Justice Roberts said he was headed for “an impregnable island fortress. It seemed like a good idea.” Actually he plans to teach a class on Malta, a little island nation off of Italy in the Mediterranean. It looks like he made a wise decision to skedaddle out of town with the Right Wing vigilantes hot on his trail, shaking their pitchforks at him.
So what made Justice Roberts “betray” his Conservative values as the Right vehemently maintains he did?
Theories Abound From Both Sides
1. Epileptic seizures and meds:
Michael Savage, a froth-at-the-mouth radio commentator who tries to out Rush Limbaugh himself, came up with that one.
Yes, Roberts has had two seizures in his lifetime, the last one five years ago, but it was never determined that it was caused by epilepsy nor is there any indication that he takes epilepsy medication. So much for that cockamamie theory. Guess it was too much for a guy from the Right to admit that Roberts was in his right mind and thinking for himself.
2. Chief Justice Roberts changed his mind after a discussion with his conservative colleagues.
He originally wrote the decision to strike down the individual mandate and the use of commerce clause, agreeing with his conservative colleagues. However, he was worried that even as a conservative that to throw the baby out with the bath water was not a good idea since it did not show judicial restraint. Again, a theory because there were no flies on the wall when all this transpired. But insiders say he had a change of heart after some lively discussions with the others.
3. Roberts worried about what would happen to millions of Americans.
It appears that the Chief Justice knew that to strip the law of all constitutionality would send millions of Americans who are already benefiting from Obamacare — from seniors to young people to the poor — back into Health Insurance No Man’s Land. What to do? The Out was in the oral argument made by Solicitor General Donald Verrilli that Congress has the power of the purse or taxing powers. And so Roberts wove a tapestry of jurisprudence and restraint, trying to straddle the question while not destroying the law. Tricky, but finally doable.
4. The Supreme Court was becoming a run-away train and Roberts applied the brakes.
From the day the Supreme Court interferred back in 2000 and helped decide the election for George W. Bush, its role has become suspect. Then with the decision on Citizens United last year, the Right Wing agenda was in full flower with results that are now polluting our elections with the flow of unlimited, undocumented money. But it has been a steady march to the Right for the last 12 years and Roberts’ appointment in 2005 by President George W. Bush only accelerated the progression.
No wonder Conservatives boasted that they owned the Court and were already popping the champagne and breaking out the caviar in celebration of the overturning of Obamacare. Now they are drinking cheap beer and eating crow. Did Roberts worry that the Court was headed into Extremism with a capital E?
5. Public opinion of the Court has fallen drastically.
Americans’ opinion of the Supreme Court, which had always been historically high, has fallen over the years as the Right Wing activism has come to dominate its decisions. Rasmussen Report (a conservative pollster) just took the pulse of the American public and found that only 33% of Americans say the Court is doing a good or excellent job and that 56% believe the justices pursue their own political agenda rather than ruling impartially.
While Roberts is probably not following polls, he does read the newspapers and has to know that the faith of the American people has been shaken by this Court, his Court. This is one way to restore some of that faith.
And so it comes back to Chief Justice Roberts establishing himself as the man in charge and not Justice Scalia. It comes back to reclaiming this as the Roberts Court. It comes back to history and Roberts place in it. It comes back to his legacy. No opinion can be written without a finger on the pulse of the country and an eye on history, an unforgiving taskmaster.
Is this a swing towards moderation? Don’t hold your breath, but the Roberts ruling did slow the runaway train…for now.
To contact Catherine Poe, see above. Her work appears in Ad Lib at the Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. She can also be heard on Democrats for America’s Future. She is also a contributor to broadcast, print and online media.
This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.