It worked last time. Last year, when oral arguments in the Obamacare case seemed to go against the administration, the left targeted Chief Justice John Roberts with a series of attacks from President Barack Obama on down. The attacks may have worked, as Roberts apparently changed his vote and upheld Obamacare by effectively rewriting the legislation itself to define the individual mandate as a tax.
The attacks on Roberts last year included President Obama’s general–and bizarre–assertion that the Supreme Court could not overturn congressional legislation, as well as a direct attack on Roberts by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who admonished the Chief Justice about “the proper role of the judicial branch.” The left media joined in enthusiastically, bullying the Chief Justice into deferring to Congress and the President.
This time, the charge is being led by the left media, including Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post, who penned a front-page article attacking Roberts for his past rulings on race and discrimination. Roberts’s Obamacare decision, or his support for overturning most of Arizona’s allegedly discriminatory immigration law (another 2012 debacle) apparently earned no points from Grim, who castigates Roberts for ignoring race.
“Roberts has in the past been dismissive of the need for voting rights protections or affirmative action, viewing the world as without the sort of racism that might require such remedies,” Grim writes scornfully. He seizes on Roberts’s skepticism that the Defense of Marriage Act was motivated by anti-homosexual animus, pointing to a passage in the Congressional Record about the moral disapproval of homosexuality.
Grim makes use of a familiar left-wing tactic: casting moral disapproval of homosexuality as moral disapproval of gay people. Many supporters of traditional marriage are careful to distinguish between the two. Moreover, Roberts asked: “So eighty-four Senators–it’s the same question I asked before–eighty-four Senators based their vote on moral disapproval of gay people?” He was not denying that some might have acted out of animus, but doubting that all had done so.
The point was not lost on Justice Elena Kagan, who quoted the same passage from the Congressional Record to which Grim refers. She admitted, after Roberts’s question, that most Senators who voted for the act likely did not act out of anti-gay bigotry. Grim ignores that and twists Roberts’s words to cast him as willfully blind–not just to anti-gay bigotry, but bigotry in general.
There is, Grim implies, one way for Roberts to redeem himself–for the moment, anyway–and that is to vote to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. Then he can prove he is not blind, or bigoted himself–until the next constitutional controversy comes up, when the left will dip its pens in poison again and attack the Chief Justice, believing him to be the Court’s weakest link. Based on his recent history, they would not be wrong.