Last week’s Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act (aka the ACA, aka Obamacare, aka TreasonHitlerStalin) caught nearly everyone by surprise.
Among rightbloggers, most of whom had filled balloons and strung festive banners for a big post-overturn victory party, the scenes of shock and horror were like something out of Jacobean tragedy — indeed, out of Tex Avery.
They’ve already started to reimagine the ruling as Good News for Mitt Romney. But before they’re forgotten, let us savor their delightful early reactions.
Prior to the decision, most pundits of any stripe expected the mandate, if not the whole law, to be ruled unconstitutional. So did rightbloggers, who held a giddy tailgate party in the run-up to Thursday’s announcement.
“Liberals never considered that their viewpoint feelings could not only be wrong, but unconstitutional,” giggled Rightwing News’ William Teach as he fired up the hibachi. “Of course, when the Mandate, and possibly the whole law… goes down, we’ll be treated to a litany of talking points aimed at those ‘conservative judges’ and how they are something something and something something else. Use your imagination, they’ll have lots of the same petty arguments, such as raaaaacism…”
“Cocky Journalists Declared ObamaCare Would Be Upheld, Maybe by a 8-1 Vote,” chuckled Scott Whitlock as he popped a cool one at NewsBusters. “If the Supreme Court strikes down all or part of Obamacare, Thursday, will these journalists admit they weren’t quite the constitutional experts they claimed to be?”
Sigh; now we’ll never know.
The Wall Street Journal‘s Daniel Henninger, being a fastidious, major media type, declined to predict victory, but spoke of the ACA in the past tense as sad relic of the New Deal. “Anyone who had to wait for the Supreme Court to tell them what the Affordable Care Act represents is too far behind the curve to ever catch up,” he sniffed. “Alas, that includes Barack Obama, the president that time forgot.”
Henninger then explained that Obama’s reform was trad, dad, “swimming against the tides of history… a legislative monolith out of sync with an iPad world.” All the hipsters knew that “entertainment, apps, social media, appliances — pretty much anything that escapes the cold hands of a public agency” were the model for modern, a-go-go conservative health policy. “In the era of the smartphone,” Henninger head-shook, “ObamaCare was rotary-dial health reform,” fit only for the recycling bin of history.
Some were prepared for an extraconstitutional assault if when the Court ruled against Obama.
“Is there any doubt that if nullified Obama would still attempt to push forward with the law anyway?” asked Dustin Hawkins at About.com. “Is it possible Obama would simply declare that portions of the law (or heck, the whole law!) was now the law, per an executive order? Surely there would be many lectures about how it’s okay because ‘it is the right thing to do.’ Whether or not he can do it is meaningless. He’s already dictating or ignoring law regularly anyway.”
Plus there were those treacherous Republicans-In-Name-Only to worry about. “Not all Republicans want [the ACA] to be gutted in its entirety,” warned Julie Borowski at tea party factory FreedomWorks. “Some prominent Republicans are pledging to preserve the so-called most ‘popular’ provisions even if the monstrous law is overturned.”
These so-called-popular provisions included the one that let kids stay on their parents’ insurance till age 26 (which, as it happens, is not so-called but actually popular). Borowski nonetheless dismissed this as the “slacker mandate” and insisted, polls and RINO squishes be damned, that “every single provision in the massive 2,801 page law infringes on the liberty of all Americans. The entire law should be thrown out–no exceptions.”
Once the word came down from SCOTUS, if you listened closely, you could hear a million rightblogger hearts freeze and crack.
CNN was famously caught flatfooted, at first announcing the mandate’s overturn, but they were properly embarrassed about it. Not so rightbloggers. Here’s Gateway Pundit Jim Hoft’s celebratory tweet:
At his site, Hoft quickly made failade out of fail with a unique interpretation of events: “The Supreme Court ruled Obamacare mandate UNCONSTITUTIONAL today but it Survives As A Tax!!” Eat your heart out, CNN.
No longer tittering over the obvious unconstitutionality of Obamacare, a struggling William Teach vamped, “There are other parts of Obamacare that have been shot down and others upheld. That said, the ruling on the Mandate is not necessarily a win for Obama and the Democrats…” Later, he elaborated on this with a painting of Obama burning the Constitution.
Legal Insurrection’s Anne Sorock saw that, after the decision, the Obama Twitter feed advertised a “Health Reform: Still a BFD” t-shirt, and became mortally offended. “So in case you thought gloating was beneath the POTUS,” she thundered, “consider this proof to the contrary. Obama is not ashamed to hawk t-shirts through twitter the same day a divisive Supreme Court decision further divided the country that he claimed he was here to unite.” Worse yet — on Friday the White House was still giving tours! Like nothing ever happened!
Down in the lower depths of the right-blogosphere, things were crazier still.
One yawp that got a lot of play in the media was the tweet by Breitbart’s Ben Shapiro calling the decision “the greatest destruction of individual liberty since Dred Scott. This is the end of America as we know it. No exaggeration.”
Amazingly, Shapiro was not the only rightblogger who was reminded of Dred Scott. “Whenever there is a controversial subject, the court ignores both the Constitution and most dictionaries in favor of a new language that only they can parse,” wept Robert A. Teegarden. “It happened in Dred Scott…” “Will go down in legal history as the worst Supreme Court decision since 1857’s Dred Scott v. Sandford,” thundered Thomas J. Lucente Jr. under the evocative title “Another great society joins the trash heap of history.”
“The Supreme Court’s health-care decision, June 27, 2012, is similar to its Dred Scott decision, March 6, 1857,” looked-up Bill Federer at WorldNetDaily. “Is a civil war next?”
“Dred Scott v. Sandford was a black mark on the judiciary for decades, and it largely stood alone as a nightmare of error,” sighed John F. Di Leo at Illinois Review. “But in the twentieth century, bad decisions, weak decisions, foolish decisions started to multiply…” He listed these decisions: Griswold v. Connecticut, Roe v. Wade, “…and now NFIB v. Sebelius, with its idea that anything is Constitutional if it has a financial aspect.”
Dred Scott, in case you forgot, was a slave who ran away from his master because he forced him to have health insurance.
Dave Carter at hip new internet thing Ricochet took the decision very personally. Carter quoted Shakespeare, then reported, “these weren’t the first words that came to mind when I heard the Supreme Court’s ruling on Obamacare. No, nothing that profound came immediately to mind. Unfortunately, the first phrase I uttered, while driving an 18 wheeler through Scranton, was unprintable.” What an interesting person he seems!
Carter went on: “My refusal to be pushed around and bullied by an out of control government is yet another thing I have in common with Patrick Henry.” (Not to mention, his photograph suggests, Larry the Cable Guy.) Carter scorned as “tyranny” the enforcement of universal healthcare, and promised, “I will not compromise with it, accommodate it, lend it the veneer of euphemism, nor counsel acquiescence to it. I will instead fight it, mock it, and scorn it with every means at my disposal.” Give him liberty or Git-R-Done!
It seems to have occurred to some of the brethren that shaking their fist at Obama and the Democrats might make them look like sore losers. Many redirected their wrath upon the author of the decision, Chief Justice John Roberts, whose impeccable rightwing credentials might be said to have made his apostasy especially maddening, were rightbloggers not already totally mad.
Roberts came in for a lot of abuse as the unexpected swing vote in the case. Even lofty outlets such as Politico took notice of internet commenters’ daffy opinions about Roberts. But why trawl comment boxes for lunacy when you can find similarly lunatic statements above the fold?
Radio host Michael Savage suggested that Justice Roberts’ decision was influenced by his epilepsy medication. Reliapundit and Harry Brooks suggested Roberts voted wrong because Obama threatened to kill his children. (White House Dossier’s Keith Koffler tried to play it cagey — “There is no way to prove that Chief Justice John Roberts was intimidated,” he said, tapping the side of his nose. “Even Roberts may not fully understand why he made the decision he did”).
At Commentary, Jonathan S. Tobin thought the lifetime appointee Roberts was trying to make liberals like him, for some reason, and warned Roberts that if he “thinks the left will embrace him the way they did other Republicans who joined the liberals, this will have to be only the first of a series of betrayals of conservative positions on his part.” It never ends, John Roberts! Remember that!
Also: “Roberts is wrong to think this decision will protect the Court from the kind of criticism it got after Citizens United…” Here Tobin rather buried the lede, not sharing with us the interview in which Roberts revealed his motives to the columnist.
He wasn’t the only one. Reading Roberts’ mind became a popular gambit with rightbloggers.
“Roberts went out in search of some way, any way, to find the mandate constitutional,” table-tapped Rich Lowry at the New York Post. (Lowry’s column also contained this grand cataclysm of metaphors: “The umpire called a balk, but gave the pitcher a do-over. The ref called a foul, but didn’t interrupt the play… On ObamaCare, the umpire struck out.” Then he called himself for goaltending over the blue line and got a red card.)
The Wall Street Journal editors were more cautious in their clairvoyance. “The political class and legal left conducted an extraordinary campaign to define [a negative] decision as partisan and illegitimate,” they explained. “If the Chief Justice capitulated to this pressure, it shows the Court can be intimidated and swayed from its constitutional duties.” Also, if skunks had a college, they’d call it P.U.
Elsewhere at the Journal, Bush era torture enthusiast John Yoo said Roberts “may have sacrificed the Constitution’s last remaining limits on federal power for very little — a little peace and quiet from attacks during a presidential election year,” noise-canceling headphones apparently being sold out in the District of Columbia.
At National Review, Jonah Goldberg’s innovation was to affect to read the minds of others who had read the mind of Roberts. As befit his legendary work ethic, he didn’t even bother to name them.
“There are substantive arguments in favor of Roberts’s reasoning,” Goldberg wrote. “But as far as I can tell, no one is confident, never mind certain, that Roberts actually believes his own position.” Later he added, “I don’t know what’s in Roberts’s heart, but no court watcher I’ve heard from puts much weight on the idea that Roberts did anything other than reason backward from the result he wanted in order to buy respect from the court’s critics at the expense of his own beliefs.” Goldberg then surveyed his spectral sources and declared: “At least that’s one thing both fans and critics of this ruling can largely agree on.”
Goldberg found a silver lining, though: “President Obama — self-praised constitutional scholar — mocked those who called the fees and penalties under Obamacare a tax. Now he celebrates a decision that mocks him back.” That’ll show him!
“Why Did John Roberts Play Brutus In The Shakespearean Tragedy Of ObamaCare?” asked Start Thinking Right, and answered, “Chief Justice John Roberts, to his great personal disgrace, put the ‘reputation’ of the Supreme Court ahead of the law, the Constitution, and the nation… Call it the Stockholm Syndrome, which amounts to the desire for a captive to please the terrorists in order to stay alive.” (This 2,446-word item ends, “the beast will come. When he does America will vote for him. And then worship him. And then take his mark. And then burn in hell forever and ever.”)
Over time a more optimistic interpretation of John Roberts’ Secret Message was promulgated.
CNN commentator Erick Erickson declared that “John Roberts, the man who gave us the Citizens United case has now, with a laughably inane ruling, told us we have to fight politically.” John Podhoretz at the New York Post chin-stroked, “Roberts’ grotesque offense against elementary logic is so bald-faced, I’m almost tempted to believe he left it there on purpose, either out of perversity or as a not-so-hidden message that he had ulterior motives for upholding the constitutionality of ObamaCare.”
This caught on, and soon all the cool kids had decided that Roberts’ ruling was actually a crafty narrowing of the Commerce Clause, a modern-day version of John Marshall’s seminal ruling in Marbury v. Madison, etc. “In boxing terminology,” said Kevin McCullough at TownHall, “no one has pulled a ‘rope-a-dope’ this effective since Muhammad Ali himself… Obamacare has been outed — by the authoritative voice of the nation’s highest court — as a fraud.” The tens of millions of Americans who go in for close readings of Supreme Court decisions are bound to notice!
“Here’s a thought,” said Instapundit Glenn Harlan Reynolds: “Perhaps [Roberts] expects the Court to overturn Section Five of the Voting Rights Act next year, and thought it inexpedient to have that follow a striking-down of ObamaCare.” Now, there’s a consolation prize: Repealing part of a law protecting black people’s right to vote. Maybe they’ll forgive Roberts when he repeals the whole thing.
Eventually rightbloggers recovered themselves sufficiently to spread the good news about this defeat — that is, though it had doomed America to slavery, socialism, and eternal darkness, yet it might also lead to the election of that great opponent of health care reform, Mitt Romney.
We especially admire the tactic suggested by David Bernstein at The Volokh Conspiracy: “If I were a Republican Congressman,” he whispered, rubbing his hands, “I’d schedule a new vote in the House on the individual mandate, but replace the ‘penalty language’ with language specifically acknowledging that the ‘penalty’ is actually a tax.”
Interesting! Tell us more, Professor Bernstein. “If the Democrats vote ‘aye,'” he added, a sly smile playing upon his lips, “they’ve acknowledged breaking the Obama pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class. If the Democrats — specifically those who already voted for the mandate — vote ‘nay’, what becomes of the tax argument in future litigation?” Bernstein obviously read our earlier post suggesting the GOP introduce legislation affirming that the Democrats are “not poopy-pants, but poopy-heads.” Let’s see the Dems wriggle out of that one! (Similar but shorter, Instapundit Reynolds: “White House Already Denying That Mandate Is A Tax. If you deny that it’s a tax, you admit that it’s unconstitutional.” That’s an automatic do-over!)
Victory-in-defeat became the preferred style, but some couldn’t get with the program. Loons piped up calling for “patriotic resistance” and “armed rebellion.” Others went grimly back to the hard, quotidian work of educating the sheeple to the dangers of universal healthcare.
“The ‘cycle of interventionism’ Mises warned us about continues to intensify,” wrote the friends of the Other Ludwig Van at Mises.org, who also provided readers with a reading list to “help the concerned citizen understand,” which included “American Healthcare Fascialism” by Thomas J. DiLorenzo, “What Soviet Medicine Teaches Us” by Yuri N. Maltsev, and “Universal Coverage Means Suppressing Human Choice” by Eric M. Staib. Take ’em to the beach, America!
Libertarians Nick Gillespie and Some Guy looked with disgust on Mitt Romney’s re-promise to dismantle Rombamacare. “If it’s not a real market-driven plan that dismantles not only Obamacare but Medicare,” they scoffed, “why am I listening?” If that doesn’t get the Tea Partiers up out of the gummint-issued Hoverounds, nothing will.
At PowerLine, Scott Johnson found one of those Hitler parody videos, and chuckled, “Hitler finds out that Obamacare has been upheld by the Supreme Court. He’s not any happier about it than we are, though for reasons that remain bubbling under the surface.” Then he deleted the video, claiming “the humor is a little bit more obscure than usual in this genre.” (His commenters were clearer about it: “Sorry, but I don’t find it amusing to have Hitler agree with me.”)
Meanwhile on planet Earth, Obama enjoyed a small polling bump; normal people turned their attention to the weather and Tom Cruise’s divorce. And some forward-looking conservatives were bringing another high-profile case to the Supreme Court that they hoped would win the hearts of America: A plea to declare the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act constitutional once and for all. Keep hope alive, fellas.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 1, 2012