WASHINGTON, D.C., June 29, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – For once, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews spoke for most conservatives. “There must be a strange feeling down in Texas right now in the Bush family,” Matthews said after President George W. Bush’s choice for chief justice, John Roberts, ruled to uphold the health care law, the signature bill of the Obama administration.
The decision by a justice one thought to be reliably conservative has left pundits grasping for an explanation, citing everything from social approval, to a desire to subvert Congressional authority. Sources who spoke with LifeSiteNews cited everything from the Left’s bullying of the Court to “the rise of a corporate-state.”
Tom Fitton, president of the investigative powerhouse Judicial Watch, told LifeSiteNews.com Roberts may have been bowed by“the unprecedented left-wing assault on the Court.”
“The president participated personally in this pressure campaign,” Fitton said.
“You have to wonder whether or not [Roberts] bent to that pressure,” he said. “He didn’t want the Court to be to subjected to the whims of these attacks anymore and one way to do that was not only to preserve ObamaCare, but to help the Obama administration in its lawless immigration policy, as well.”
Before Thursday’s ruling, few questioned the 57-year-old’s credentials. He clerked for Chief Justice William Rehnquist, served as a legal adviser in the Reagan administration, and was appointed by President George H.W. Bush as deputy solicitor general and a federal appeals court judge.
After Thursday’s ruling, when he ruled the health care law’s mandate that individuals purchase insurance passed constitutional muster if it is understood as a tax, Young America’s Foundation spokesman Ron Meyer told The Daily Caller, “Our Constitution is dead, and we can thank our chief justice for that.”
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Adding to the confusion are signs Roberts switched his vote at the last minute.
Howard Kurtz, Newsweek‘s Washington bureau chief, wrote that Roberts’ “acquaintances say[he] cares deeply about how he is portrayed in the press.”
In April, President Obama took the unusual step of preemptively criticizing the Supreme Court’s decision. He said invalidating his law would amount to “judicial activism, or a lack of judicial restraint,” and he was “pretty confident that this court will recognize that and not take that step.”
It was part of an escalating pattern of tongue-lashings the president had administered to that co-equal branch of government. In the 2010 State of the Union Address, with the justices present, Obama referenced the Supreme Court’s Citizens United case, saying, “The Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections.” Justice Samuel Alito visibly mouthed that the statement was “not true.”
Such directed attacks may have their roots in the president’s theory of executive power. In a 2001 public radio interview, Obama stated the High Court should “take judicial notice of” societal phenomena and interpret the Constitution accordingly. “[Y]ou’ve got a whole host of social conditions that the Court inevitably is influenced by,” he stated with approval.
Others worry of more dangerous steps ahead. “The Court has certainly been facing increasing political attacks from both sides of the aisle, so it’s possible that Roberts was attempting to save face,” John Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, told LifeSiteNews.com. However, he worries “the Court has completely lost focus of what powers the government is entitled to per the Constitution, and is willing to defer to the government is almost all cases.”
“We are seeing the rise of a corporate-state, one which is slowly dismantling the legal rights of the states and the people in favor of a unilateral, top-down form of governance,” he said.
If Roberts’ motivation is good press, his decision succeeded wildly.
Kurtz wrote that Roberts “proved himself capable of rising above ideology and following what he believed to be the law.”
Yale Law constitutional professor, and Elena Kagan’s former teacher, William Eskridge told Forbes Roberts’ opinion on Obamacare was one of the most skillful opinions he had ever read.
Bloomberg News columnist and Harvard University law professor Noah Feldman wrote, “Roberts now enters the pantheon of true judicial conservatives, judges who hold back from activist results no matter how it affects presidential politics. By helping the court avoid making history, Roberts’s place in history is assured.”
Had Roberts “joined the four right-wing judges in striking down the entire law,” it would have been read as an endorsement of Mr. Romney’s presidential candidacy,” wrote New York Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal. The chief justice, he wrote, was “on the verge of writing himself a reputation after seven years in office as a highly partisan player who was using see-saw majorities to further not just a conservative judicial philosophy but also the broad aims of the neo-conservative wing of the Republican Party.”
Fitton told LifeSiteNews Roberts has written himself a different legacy. “Between the assault on the sovereignty of the people in the Arizona case and in the ObamaCare case you can’t fairly describe Roberts as being part of the conservative bloc on these key issues anymore,” he said.