Solicitor General Donald Verrilli has become the left's fall guy for wilting like a flower in front of the Supreme Court today while defending the Obama administration's individual mandate, a key provision of the Democrats' health reform bill. Until today, conventional wisdom held that the court would uphold ObamaCare's individual mandate by a close 5-4 vote. But Verrilli's bruising performance in front of conservative justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and others has transformed the media calculus and observers are letting him know it.
"Reading the transcript of today's Supreme Court hearing, it suddenly hit me: Donald Verrilli is the new Billy Cundiff," tweeted The New Yorker's Alex Koppelman, in a reference to the star-crossed Baltimore Ravens placekicker. Offering up an alternative sports analogy, The Huffington Post's Jason Linkins tweeted "Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. is apparently the JaVale McGee of Solicitor Generals," referring to the Denver Nuggets' troubled center. Remarking on his cadence, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Jamie Dupree wrote "from the outset, Verrilli seemed nervous, as he coughed during one of his opening lines, re-started his presentation to the Justices, and then interrupted himself to reach down for a glass of water." He adds, "his voice seemed to warble while he almost stammered at times in a search for words." The Washington Post's Ezra Klein says like-minded justices even tried to help him out as he struggled along. "You can mark -- p 14 -- when liberal justices decide Verrilli is screwing up and step in," he tweets. "Yup. It's an incredible moment," adds writer Alex Klein. BuzzFeed's Zeke Miller went ahead and spliced together all of his stumbles and stutters, and uploaded it to YouTube.
"Indeed, his unflappability and keen intellect were so appreciated by the White House that the president stole Verrilli for his own staff, making him deputy White House counsel," said Totenberg who had only nice things to say as she ticked off his success representing large commercial interests alongside pro bono causes. "Those who knew his work sang his praises, while he remained largely unknown to most of official Washington. When it came to nominating a new solicitor general to replace now-Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, there was never much doubt in the West Wing as to who would get the job. For 'no drama Obama,' the quiet and intellectual Verrilli was perfect."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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