Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The obscure motives of John Roberts

Conservatives can't understand why Roberts deserted them when deciding that the Obamacare mandate was constitutional. Only a few take his opinion at face value as "a fully plausible case." Here's a list of the some of the reasons conservatives suggest for Roberts' betrayal:
  1. Roberts was prone to political pressure, but other justices aren't
  2. The liberal media was pushing the idea that the court was political and that it was a political choice to overturn this liberal legislation, and Roberts folded under the pressure
  3. The president humiliated the justices at the State of the Union address, and Roberts caved under this pressure.
  4. Roberts saved the court from charges of political division and helped salvage the reputation of the court, but at the cost of deciding the issue on constitutional grounds.
  5. Roberts saved the court from charge of political division so the court can be even more conservative in its next term.
  6. Roberts was bribed or blackmailed, and there really should be an investigation of this most foul crime.
  7. The jinxed theory - Several supposedly conservative justices have turned moderate or even liberal, but not the other way.
  8. Here's an even longer list, if you aren't tired already.

Critiques of (some of) the theories

#2. The belief that he was intimidated by the liberal media is laughable. There are enough conservatives around so he wouldn't feel outnumbered. He's shown no signs before of being intimidated before, even on a big case like Citizens United. No, this speculation smacks of "blame the media" overreach. The idea that a lifetime appointee to the highest court in the country will be meek and wishy-washy, and base a ruling on gabbing bloggers, reporters, and anchors is crazy. The justice may be beholden to the president who nominated him or a particularly strong senate supporter, but to the media in our fragmented news age?  Come on.

#4. People who generally like John Roberts want to ascribe a noble motive, and the favorite choice is that  he wanted to salvage the reputation of the court by not striking down this highly political program. The supporters of this theory are at least moderate in their criticism, instead of being in the "string him up" camp. They are also realistic in acknowledging the specter of Bush v. Gore.

#6. This a black helicopters/jackboots/demonic-Democratic party conspiracy theory that will be impossible to disprove even when there's absolutely no evidence. So it must be true.

#7. The 'jinx' theory is more a superstition than a logical theory. However, it's a particular favorite of mine. It seems odd that only the good ones (conservatives) become possessed, never the bad ones being possessed by good spirits.  However, back in reality, there's a different explanation: Souter was always moderate; O'Connor was always a woman, and women will see some things differently; Kennedy reportedly has a libertarian streak; Earl Warren--I don't know.

Slippery Logic

All the theories ignore the opinion itself, which lays out the logical reasons for his choices, including precedents on which he relied. As I've said before, these positions are logical, both pro and con. It's not as though one is clearly logical and the other illogical. Instead, it's a matter of how much value you put on this argument versus that one, this outcome vs. that one.

I'm Guilty too

I offered my own theory--that Roberts wanted to salvage some of the Obamacare law, and only the liberals would then talk with him. Who knows, and would they tell us? Probably not, but I'm used to unsolved mysteries and truth that remains hidden. Speculation is OK as long as it's treated as such. I wonder in six months whether there will be any buzz at all about this issue. I hope so, because I believe the Supreme Court is too political, and I'd like to see the dynamic change even more. Oops, now I've really set myself up for disappointment... again. It's the bane of the optimist.

They forgot to look here for the reasons.

 PS. I haven't exhausted my thoughts on the ACA ruling yet. I hope others share my fascination with this twist in American politics and jurisprudence.

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