I am very heartened to read and hear over the past days many pundits and reporters viewing the written court ruling by Chief Justice John Roberts pertaining to the health care law in the same larger context I did on the morning the decision was handed down. Granted, the pundits do it more artfully than I did. There is no doubt, however, for a need to see Roberts’ decision in a larger picture frame.
I wrote in part the following.
Chief Roberts’ actions are mighty important not only to the political process that the ruling falls down upon, but also to the judicial branch that often gets tarred with unfair slurs. Unity on the bench is important, and I yearn for more blending of the two sides when opinions are handed down. I sincerely applaud Roberts’ role in this case.
The Chief Justice also demonstrated that when someone is African-American, and a Democratic president is not enough reason to attempt to frame every policy as evil or part of a communist plot. As absurd as that may seem to some, in the current political landscape created by the Tea Party, it is a statement that needs to be heard.
What Roberts so powerfully wrote is an important reminder in this time of fractious government that just because an issue gets exaggerated attention under the hot lights from Fox News does not mean it is unconstitutional. Framing the health care debate in pure legal reasoning, and elevating it above the shouts and anger hopefully will be seen as a turning point in our nation on this matter.
Time had this perspective in this week’s edition.
Back in 2007 he (Roberts) spoke to Jeff Rosen of G.W. Law School and The Republican and The Atlantic and this is what he told Jeff back then. “In deciding to resist the politicization of the judiciary Roberts acknowledged he set himself another daunting task, but he said he views is as also a special opportunity, especially in our intensely polarized age. ‘Politics are closely divided,’ he observed, ‘The same with the Congress. There ought to be some sense of stability. If the government is not going to polarize completely it is a high priority to keep any kind of partisan divide out of the judiciary as well.'”
It’s hard to believe, but generations of Americans considered compromise an admirable quality. Schoolteachers taught their students about the Great Compromise that produced the Constitution and the Missouri Compromise that — for a time — held it together. Now the word connotes something bad. A leaky gasket has been “compromised,” and cheating spouses are caught in “compromising” positions. What Roberts managed to do with Obamacare vindicated the virtue of compromise in an era of Occupiers, Tea Partyers and litmus-testing special interests.
He didn’t seek some nonexistent middle ground halfway between irreconcilable poles. He didn’t listen to one side saying no and the other saying yes and write an opinion saying maybe, or blend black and white to make gray. He found a means of giving both sides just enough of what they wanted that he was able to avert a crisis. In the superheated conflict mill that is American politics these days, it’s good to have someone in a position of authority willing to try.