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Conservatives did not learn from the mistakes of nominating Warren, Blackmun, Souter, etc. Why should anybody think they will learn from the John Roberts mistake?
It’s not as though anyone can predict with great precision how nominees will rule on cases years in the future. But reserving nominations for only those jurists who play their cards close to the vest ensures more unwelcome surprises. “Roberts is mostly a blank slate upon which conservatives have projected their hopes and desires and liberals their nightmares and worst-case-scenarios,” I wrote seven years ago. “John Roberts may become a hero in the eyes of conservatives, but there’s next to nothing in his short paper trail that would indicate so.
A surface interpretation of the decision sees it as an affirmation of this president’s chief domestic initiative. But deeper than that is what the decision says about Obama’s predecessor. George W. Bush vowed to rein in judicial activism. But a decision by the man he made chief justice rewrites the health care law’s individual mandate into a tax to make it kosher with the Constitution. The verdict on the law is also a verdict on two presidencies.
Thursday’s Supreme Court victory may yet be seen as a Pyrrhic one for this president. Voters angry over ObamaCare may take out their frustrations on Barack Obama come November. He seems to recognize this. “I didn’t do this because it was good politics,” the president said in reaction to the decision. “I did it because I thought it was good for the American people.”
Conservatives should keep this in mind the next time a Republican president has the chance to change the composition of the U.S. Supreme Court. The political pros and cons of a bruising confirmation battle should be of secondary concern to the impact that decades of a particular nominee sitting on the bench will have on the American people.
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