WASHINGTON, D.C, June 29 (DPI) — The Left remains in shock and much of the Right feels betrayed by the surprise decision by Chief Justice John Roberts to uphold Congress’ right to pass the key elements of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
Pundits, especially those supporting President Obama, are lauding the Chief Justice for his restraint — or his activism, depending on which side interprets events.
Justice Roberts upheld the constitutionality of the law — part of which requires an individual pay a health care insurance premium, or pay a penalty to the government — based on Congress’ right to tax. Somewhat ironically, President Obama of course has insisted the mandate was not a tax.
But Roberts’ brilliance was not his ideological dexterity — it was his capacity to protect his judicial body from further disrepute, and push the issue back into the political sphere, where most in the nation feel it belongs.
No commentator seemed to recognize that better than The Washington Post’s Charles Krauthammer.
As Krauthammer wrote: “Obamacare is now essentially upheld. There’s only one way it can be overturned. The same way it was passed — elect a new president and a new Congress. That’s undoubtedly what Roberts is telling the nation: Your job, not mine. I won’t make it easy for you.”
The NY Times and The Wall Street Journal, in their analyses and Op-Eds, largely missed the point that Justice Roberts was trying to protect and perhaps even save the Supreme Court from further erosion of credibility and independence. (Editors Note: On June 30, the day after this post, Howard Friedman of The Times focused on this issue.)
But Krauthammer, the longtime conservative Washington Post columnist, captured that essential implication of the ruling, and won plaudits from readers – many of whom usually abhor his views:
“That being said, I don’t expect to see Justice Roberts as a newly converted moderate or liberal anytime soon. When it comes to decisions that require INTERPRETING the law, Justice Roberts will continue to be the Conservative he is and we can expect no other. But I do think, our nation owes him a deep thank you for rescuing the Supreme Court from its sad descent into decisions based on politics over jurisprudence. At least for now, jurisprudence reigns “Supreme” once again.”
Krauthammer received more than 2100 comments in less than a day, about five times the usual volume of replies to a column.
Of course, by ruling that the mandate is nothing more than a tax, the public debate — and the issues in the coming presidential campaign — become more explicit. The major theme of campaign is now in full relief: Will the American people vote in the current president again and endorse his 2010 landmark legislation, or will they vote in a new president who has vowed to overturn it?