July 05, 2012Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court John Roberts threw everybody for a loop last week.
Both Fox and CNN reported on the Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare wrong the first time around. Which is understandable because days later pundits are still trying to make sense of what happened.
One of my favorite pieces so far is by Thomas Friedman of The New York Times, who, of course, praises Roberts for putting his country above partisan politics by using creativity and "finding a way to greenlight Obama's Affordable Care Act."
Friedman credits Roberts with putting partisan politics aside and doing what was best for the country. It is such an arrogant, closed-minded liberal world view it would be funny if it weren't such a serious issue. Shoot, it is funny. According to Friedman the liberal view is what is best for the country. This is a fact. So Roberts is to be congratulated for putting his conservative ideals, which are by definition bad for the country, aside and figuring out a way to twist the law into a pretzel that says Obamacare is constitutional. To believe Friedman you have to accept his premise that what conservatives believe is not and cannot be good for the country, and when conservatives can put aside their own beliefs they can sometimes manage to work for the good of the country. You either have to laugh or cry. I choose laughing.
Here's an explanation I haven't read anywhere, but it seems possible. The problem is that Roberts has spent too much time in Washington. People talk about getting inside-the-Beltway syndrome, and maybe Roberts has been in Washington for so long he believes that the extreme left-wing views that dominate Washington are the norm for the nation. Or he doesn't believe it, but like living in a town with a paper mill, after a while you think stench is normal. It's tough for conservatives living in Washington because it doesn't matter how big a majority the Republicans have in Congress, in Washington conservatives are a tiny minority of the population that usually dash to Capital Hill and then back to Reagan National Airport and somewhere more normal.
Maybe Roberts has been in Washington so long, he believes that the opinions you hear in restaurants, coffee shops and on the metro are the norm. Of course, it's hard to imagine Roberts in a coffee shop or on the metro, but it could happen.
Look at President George Walker Bush. He was convinced that people wouldn't be that upset about a tax increase. It's hard for a president to get out and mingle, but he should have been told that the rest of the country didn't like the idea of a tax increase from a president who had been in every corner of the country saying, "read my lips, no new taxes." In Washington, it was considered par for the course. There are politicians everywhere in Washington and nobody except someone straight in from the countryside believes anything they say. The voters in Washington elected Marion Barry after he had been convicted of possession of cocaine. It's a different world.
On the good side of the Roberts' judicial reasoning is that it has now been established without a doubt that Obamacare is being paid for with a tax. It is also definitely a tax on the middle class, and President Barack Hussein Obama has promised over and over he would not raise taxes on the middle class. According to some estimates this represents by far the largest tax increase in history and will result in over $1 trillion in new taxes.
Imagine how much more power it gives to the federal government to take an additional $1 trillion out of the private economy and decide where and how it will be spent.
The other parts of the ruling really are good news. Finally there is some check on the federal government forcing the states to do whatever it wants by withholding funds. The federal government might have to use reason or compromise in the future. One state legislator has told me that North Carolina won't be able to afford the new Medicaid provisions, and North Carolina is not alone.
One of the most interesting articles to come out of the Supreme Court decision is by Jan Crawford of CBS News, who evidently has great sources inside the Supreme Court. She reports that Justice Anthony Kennedy was relentless in his pursuit of Roberts, attempting to get Roberts back in the conservative fold.
Those on the outside had figured that Kennedy would be the conservative judge to vote with the liberals, but according to this report, which seems to be generally accepted as true, Kennedy was the one who wouldn't accept the fact that Roberts had changed sides.
Here is another theory about Roberts. This was his one attempt at being a wild and crazy guy. Some men have a midlife crisis and go after younger women and some buy a red convertible. Perhaps some very conservative chief justices of the Supreme Court who, from reading their bios, never really did anything fun in their lives, decide to try something "Crazy, man, crazy" and vote with the liberals on a big case.
Human beings are very strange creatures and anything is possible.
The House has found Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. Holder is now the first sitting attorney general to be found in contempt of Congress, and when you think of some of the partisan battles that have been waged between the president of one party and the House of another, it is quite an accomplishment.
It was a bipartisan vote. The Republicans couldn't do it alone. Nothing may come of it except it will be on his permanent record, kind of like the fact that President William Jefferson Blythe Clinton was the first elected president to be impeached. But nobody even mentions it these days and it doesn't seem to have hurt his career at all.
It gets worse for Holder because, during the floor debate, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa read a letter into the Congressional Record that included detailed information from wiretap applications that were under court seal. Issa could only produce the letter because of the immunity the Constitution gives to congressional speech, in particular on the floor or in the chambers.
The letter gives some insight into why Issa and others have been so hot after Holder. They knew Holder was misleading Congress about "Operation Fast and Furious," had the documents to prove that he was not being honest in his testimony and couldn't release them because they were under court seal. Issa found a way to get some of this information on the record and prove that Holder has not been truthful.
Holder had maintained that the wiretap applications did not contain detailed information, but those who have now seen them say that they contain a remarkable amount of detailed information and that any one who read them would know what the fast and furious program was actually doing.
What it was doing was selling guns to known members of drug smuggling rings and then letting the guns cross the border into Mexico, even though they knew the guns were going to be used for illegal purposes. These were not a couple of guys buying a few guns. Four buyers bought over $375,000 worth of guns and the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATFE) agents knew the buyers were purchasing them for someone else because the buyers had practically no income.
The guns were simply allowed to cross the border into Mexico and the Mexican authorities weren't even informed of what the ATFE was doing. The plan was to pick up the guns at crime scenes and trace them back to their owners.
What Holder keeps testifying is that he and the high level administrators in the Justice Department didn't know about this program. What the wiretap applications prove is that, if they were even attempting to do their jobs, they did know because they had all the information provided to them.
Holder has testified that emails that used the term fast and furious were not actually about Operation Fast and Furious but about something else. Clinton was known as a good liar, but Holder may be taking it to a whole new level. Who knows, in his next appearance he may claim he's not Eric Holder.
Here's an idea that would help: abolish the ATFE. This is a law enforcement agency that seems to attract trouble. Remember all of those Branch Davidian men, women and children who were killed at Waco, Texas? That was an ATF operation gone bad. The massacre at Ruby Ridge was the ATF. It might be a whole lot simpler if the US folded the ATFE into another law enforcement agency.
The electrical outages in Washington, DC, remind me of when I was living in DC and there was an electrical outage that hit right around rush hour. So everyone was trying to get home and the traffic lights were out all over the city and Northern Virginia. They predicted massive traffic jams because they didn't even have time to get police to the intersections to direct traffic.
It turned out that traffic actually moved faster and more efficiently without the traffic lights and without police. On the main streets the traffic flowed just like they all had green lights and then at some point traffic would stop and allow the side streets to get through and then start up again. The authorities were amazed, because it worked without them. For a few brief days there was a thought that maybe Americans could survive with fewer traffic regulations, but it was quickly quashed.