Conservative Anger at John Roberts Is Only Building

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Conservative Anger at John Roberts Is Only Building
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Conservative Anger at John Roberts Is Only Building

To get a sense of how mad Republicans are that Chief Justice John Roberts found Obamacare to be constitutional, it helps to look at former George W. Bush staffers -- the people who helped him get to the Supreme Court -- say not so subtly that maybe he shouldn't have been nominated at all. "A lot of us worked very hard on the Chief Justice Roberts confirmation hearing," former Bush press secretary Dana Perino said on Fox News Monday. "That whole summer of 2005 -- people think that his confirmation was easy. It wasn't… The thing about Roberts is, almost across the board, every conservative said, 'He's a solid guy. He's the one we want.' And now the level of disappointment amongst a lot of people, including myself, is really high." Former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen sounded almost hopeless in The Washington Post, writing, "Why are Republicans so awful at picking Supreme Court justices?  Democrats have been virtually flawless in appointing reliable liberals to the court. Yet Republicans, more often than not, appoint justices who vote with the other side on critical decisions." Does that mean the sin of the Obamacare ruling outweighs Roberts's many other conservative achievements? It seems the answer is yes.

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Conservatives aren't alone in thinking Roberts's Obamacare decision makes no sense. New York's Jonathan Chait and The New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin agree. Where they disagree with conservatives, however, is whether this decision is such a gift to liberals that it makes up for all the conservative decisions Roberts has made and will make in the future. Roberts's court is the most conservative court since 1937, according to a 2009 University of Chicago study. But Roberts is not loyal enough. Thiessen says:

Roberts’s defenders point to his many other conservative decisions and argue that he is not another David Souter or even another Anthony Kennedy. That may be true. But is that really the standard we want for a Supreme Court justice — they are not another Souter or Kennedy? Shouldn’t conservatives expect Republican presidents to do better and appoint another Scalia, Thomas or Alito? That shouldn’t be too much to ask.

Whether other Republicans will be satisfied only when all Republican appointees have a perfect conservative record isn't clear, but they are growing more angry, not less, with the Obamacare decision, the Washington Examiner's Byron York reports. A "prominent conservative member of Congress" told him he was far angrier on Friday than he was the minute he heard the ruling. "He didn’t resort to histrionics or profanity, but he was spitting mad — and his anger was growing, not diminishing," York writes. He says another conservative lawmaker said the same thing. Rep. Paul Ryan didn't mind going on the record to say "I think the chief justice had to contort logic and reason to come up with this ruling." Among conservative bloggers, the anger is growing, too:

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  • "There’s nothing constitutionally seemly about a Court decision that says this law is only legal because the people’s representatives flat-out lied to the people when they passed it," National Review's Mark Steyn writes.
  • "Chief Justice Roberts is more likely to see his opinion upholding Obamacare collapse, a legal sandcastle blasted and eroded by the shifting tides, than to see it endure as the solid edifice he hoped he had built," National Review's John Fund says.
  • "Chief Justice John Roberts' judicial sleight of hand, transforming Obamacare's mandate into a tax, was a fittingly twisted save for a law of such grisly provenance," the Washington Examiner's Timothy P. Carney says.

And what about regular people? The polls are mixed. A Rasmussen poll finding that 28 percent of Americans think the Supreme Court is doing a poor job, up 11 points from a week ago. A Newsweek/ Daily Beast poll finds that 50 percent disapprove of the ruling, while 45 percent approve. But other polls show more favorable results for the Court. A CNN poll finds 50 percent approving of the ruling and 49 percent disapproving of it. A Reuters poll showed support among registered voters for Obamacare rose to 48 percent after the decision, 5 percentage points higher than it had been. The change was bigger for independent voters -- support climbed to 37 percent from 27 percent a few days before the ruling. Independents' oppposition to the law dropped from 73 percent to 62 percent. Most troublingly for conservatives outraged at Roberts, according to CNN's poll, more than a third of Americans don't know enough about Roberts to have an opinion about him.

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