Word had barely come down that the Supreme Court majority was upholding the
On a freshly minted "Impeach John Roberts" Facebook page, one
Outside of the perpetually alarmed right-wing loony bin, however, Mr. Roberts was receiving praise for acting as the fair umpire he promised to be when he was first confirmed by the
Obviously, he will not be impeached, no matter how loud the howling from the hard right. Instead, he has improved his own reputation and begun building a balanced legacy as chief justice.
Until this week, his critics on the left dismissed Justice Roberts as just one more predictable, partisan vote in the Republican faction of the high court. However, now that he joined in striking down much of Arizona's immigration law on Monday and siding with the court's four liberals on the health care law on Thursday, that caricature has been erased.
By taking charge of the Obamacare ruling, Mr. Roberts asserted his leadership of the court while fashioning the decision to match his own philosophy. He avoided the peril of overturning a landmark piece of legislation by switching the key premise on which it was being defended. The core element of the law is the requirement that all Americans must obtain health care insurance. Those who can afford it but refuse to buy it will be penalized with a fine. Supporters said this mandate was permitted by the commerce clause of the Constitution. Detractors said the mandate was an unconstitutional expansion of government power that, if allowed, would mean, as the tea party scribe wrote, "there is zero limit to what the government can force us to do."
Mr. Roberts agreed with his fellow conservatives that the mandate should not be justified as part of the congressional responsibility to regulate interstate commerce, but he reasoned that the fine for failing to buy health insurance falls well within the power of Congress to levy taxes and, therefore, the mandate is legal and constitutional. Court liberals probably did not like the implicit limitation Mr. Roberts was placing on the commerce clause, but a win is a win, and they fell in line behind his opinion.
Ironic as it may be, history may one day call John Roberts the savior of Obamacare.