Conservatives were right about John Roberts.
Not this year, obviously: nobody expected the Chief Justice to fall for the White House’s most laughable justification of ObamaCare’s individual mandate. But we were right in 2005, when George W. Bush nominated the blank-slate jurist to the Supreme Court. Ann Coulter warned us that “stealth nominees have never turned out to be a pleasant surprise for conservatives.” I’ve previously voiced my fear that Roberts worships at the altar of stare decisis.
Despite Roberts’ reasoning, the mandate is manifestly not a tax. As the bill's text and legislative history clearly show, it’s a penalty expressly justified as a regulation of interstate commerce. Barack Obama himself emphatically denied that it was a tax. Hell, the Court itself acknowledged it’s not a tax—for the purpose of ruling on a different part of ObamaCare. As Anthony Kennedy’s dissenting opinion says, “to say that the Individual Mandate merely imposes a tax is not to interpret the statute but to rewrite it.” (To say nothing of the real elephant in the room: even if it was a tax, it still wouldn't fall under enumerated powers.)
Jay Cost looks on the bright side: the Court rejected the mandate’s Commerce and Necessary & Proper Clause rationales, which sets valuable precedent. They also affirmed that states can’t be denied Medicaid funds for noncompliance.
That’s all well and good…but is one constitutional provision really protected when government can get away with the same thing by simply calling it something else? Brent Bozell is right: “there will be no rehabilitating” of John Roberts’ new image “as a traitor to his philosophy.” Thanks, Dubya!
Make no mistake: today was a defeat for constitutional fidelity, individual liberty, limited government, and true healthcare reform. But the American people may yet have the last laugh.
The general public deeply, deeply opposes ObamaCare, and doctors keep reaffirming that it’ll make American healthcare worse. The Court just guaranteed that a clear loser for Obama will remain a prominent issue throughout the rest of the campaign. We’re already seeing signs that conservatives are giving Mitt Romney a much-needed enthusiasm boost.
Beyond that, the ruling added two brand-new wrinkles to the narrative, neither of which works to Team Obama’s benefit. First, the mandate can now be characterized as a tax increase, an argument Sen. Marco Rubio is already expertly deploying. Second, Obama now has a new circle to square: were you lying about the mandate not being a tax then, or are you lying now?
Hopefully Romney will incorporate these details into his rhetoric sooner rather than later (his pre-scripted reaction to the ruling desperately needs a tune-up). Either way, the bottom line is that it’s more important than ever for conservatives to dedicating ourselves to keeping the House, retaking the Senate, and—and here’s the part some conservatives still want to suicidally ignore—retaking the White House. Only by electing Mitt Romney can we hope to repeal ObamaCare and appoint justices with greater respect for the Constitution.
Let’s get to work.