by Jonah Goldberg
Why not just cut open a goat and be done with it?
In ancient Rome, a special kind of priest called a haruspex would "read" the entrails of sheep to divine the will of the gods, the health of the growing season, or whatever else was weighing on the minds of men. Because animal guts don't, in fact, impart that much information about, say, next year's wheat harvest, the haruspices (called "auspices" in Latin -- from which we get the English word) could pretty much make it up as they went along. The same went for the auguries (priests who studied the flight of birds). Ultimately, the auspices and auguries made their decisions based upon the whims, vicissitudes and demands of politics in one form or another. If the rulers were happy with the result, they didn't much care what the guts actually said.
Fast-forward to chief haruspex John Roberts.
In the majority opinion written by Roberts, the
The upshot is that
To reach this decision, Roberts had to embrace a position denied by the
Let the record show that the sophists were valued defenders of entrail-reading.
Of course, there are substantive arguments in favor of Roberts' 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
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.
More sober-eyed liberal legal experts took similar positions. Roberts' opinion was "statesmanlike," they claimed, and, more bizarrely, "apolitical." Some, such as constitutional scholar Jeffrey Rosen, speaking on
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.
In other words, if five conservative justices rule according to their well-known convictions, it's illegitimate. But if Roberts twists himself like an illustration in the Kama Sutra to find a way to uphold the law, then that amounts to "leadership."
Now, I don't know what's in Roberts' heart, but no court watcher I've heard from puts much weight on the idea that Roberts did anything other than reason backward from the result he wanted in order to buy respect from the court's critics at the expense of his own beliefs.
At least that's one thing both fans and critics of this ruling can largely agree on.
Some of Roberts' defenders claim he's outmaneuvered everyone. By upholding ObamaCare, he's made future conservative decisions unassailable. He's poisoned the well of the commerce clause for liberals. He's removed the court as an election-year issue. He's gift-wrapped for Mitt Romney the attack that Obama has raised taxes massively, violating a host of promises and assurances. And, again, he's saved the legitimacy of the court.
That's all very interesting, but it leaves aside the real issue: None of those concerns are what was asked of the court. That so few people seem to care augurs poorly for the rule of law and the auspices of our republic.
Justice Roberts' Ruling Took Guts | Politics