'Roberts Upheld the Integrity of the Court'

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With the big news out of the Supreme Court today it's not surprising that debates raged in our comments section. On Eric Randall's round-up of analysts' takes some of the chatter was focused around the typically conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, who was the key vote in upholding the individual mandate. 

Commenter lib1 cheered the justice: 

Roberts upheld the integrity of the Court. Unlike the "Four Conservative Horsemen" Roberts based his opinion on precedent and meticulous constitutional analysis. Although I agree with Justice Ginsburg that the law passes muster pursuant to the Commerce Clause, I also agree with Justice Roberts that the law is unconstitutional if argued under the Necessary and Proper Clause. I can see it as a tax rather than a mandate however.

But not everyone reading was so wholly positive on Roberts. Commenter ShadrachSmith wrote: 

WTF? It's a tax? No kidding?

This is one of those rulings that everyone with any sense wishes wasn't. Obama voted against Robert's confirmation for the stated reason that Robert's might restrict the Commerce Clause. And Roberts just did exactly that in the process of finding Obamacare legal as a tax: which is simply incomprehensible.

It will take some time to make sense of this ruling, and for good reason. Has Roberts closed the commerce clause door, but opened another to do the same thing? This will be one of those cases where law professors tell the class, "So, in response to this crisis,  SCOTUS made everything less clear." 

This isn't the first time SCOTUS has gone inscrutable on us. But this is the clearest case of upholding a law while striking down the rationale for the law that I have ever seen.

And yet another commenter, Marie_Antoinette, saw his apparently liberal-leaning actions, as downright conservative:  

Ah, the voices that were crying mere hours ago for the end of lifetime appointments to the high court when they were not decrying Roberts as a flunky of the Republicans now extol his wise leadership. 

But it is truly conservative to say, as he does, that our elected legislators are in the driver's seat.  And it is wise to throw the fate of this law back to the people while there is still time for them to weigh in.  And by writing the decision he controls the language and shapes the law and any possible response to it.  He is like the third witch in Sleeping Beauty who deflects the Evil Witch's spell and averts death in favor of a deep, fateful sleep.

Swords down, people.  We live to fight another day.

John Roberts: an inscrutable figure for commenters. 


This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.