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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Mister Roberts and the Chief

When Navy Lieutenant Thomas Heggen reported onboard the Virgo on July 12, 1944, it was the beginning of “Mister Roberts” the blockbuster Broadway show, the hit movie and, finally, a long running TV series.  Of course the raw material for the comedy came from actual events aboard the Virgo (the Reluctant of show, movie and TV fame).  The man who took command of the Virgo was Lieutenant Commander Herbert Randall, a Merchant Marine officer who had low regard for Navy ways.  He was a bit odd, to say the least, and the crew of the Virgo capitalized on his peculiar leadership.

There was the time that the Captain decided he would have potted palm trees on the bridge of the Virgo (Reluctant).  In the play, movie, and series, Mister Roberts threw the potted palm trees over the side of the ship.  In real life, Thomas Heggen did the very same thing twice.  It was all great fun and the audiences enjoyed the hilarity immensely.  And, Heggen became wealthy and famous thanks to “Mister Roberts.”

Mister Roberts was a defiant officer and Thomas Heggen was a talented writer who attacked boredom by outwitting the clueless Captain of the Reluctant (Virgo).  Another Mr. Roberts recently outwitted observers.  Thought to be a man of principle and character, Chief Justice John Roberts danced on the point of a pin, not for the sake of humor, but to curry favor with the political classes of Washington, DC, and to establish his place in history.

Using serpentine logic that defies all human reason, the apparent “conservative” jurist concluded that the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, was Constitutional.  When you consider that first he had to rationalize that Obamacare was not a tax in order for the Court to have jurisdiction (tax issues cannot be considered by the Court until the tax is enacted), and then rationalize that it was a tax in order to conclude that it is Constitutional (never mind that Obamacare originated in the US Senate and the US Constitution specifically enumerates that all taxes must originate in the US House of Representatives) it makes your head spin.

No parent would accept such an unbelievable story from a teenager who comes in after their curfew, yet we are to accept such twisted and silly logic because the Chief decided that in order for the Court and himself to maintain the respect of the chattering classes he would need to rule that Obamacare was Constitutional.  As it turns out, John Roberts has apparently led a privileged life as a fair-haired boy.  It seems that Roberts has always landed on his feet and generally on the winning side.  Here’s a brief excerpt from his Wikipedia bio…

“Roberts grew up in northern Indiana and was educated in a private school before attending Harvard College and Harvard Law School, where he was managing editor of the Harvard Law Review. After being admitted to the bar, he served as a law clerk for Judge Henry Friendly and then Justice Rehnquist before taking a position in the Attorney General's office during the Reagan Administration. He went on to serve the Reagan Administration and the George H. W. Bush administration in the Department of Justice and the Office of the White House Counsel, before spending fourteen years in private law practice. During this time, he argued thirty-nine cases before the Supreme Court.”

Jeffrey Rossen, a writer with the left-leaning Atlantic magazine, interviewed Chief Justice Roberts in July 2011 to get his views on the role of a Supreme Court Justice and the role of the Chief Justice in particular.  The comments of John Roberts are telling…

“Before long, the conversation turned to judicial disappointments. ‘It’s sobering to think of the seventeen chief justices; certainly a solid majority of them have to be characterized as failures,’ Roberts said with a rueful smile. ‘The successful ones are hard to number.’ I asked him to elaborate: Why had so many chief justices been failures? Partly, Roberts explained, it was because the powers of the office are not extensive. ‘A chief justice’s authority is really quite limited, and the dynamic among all the justices is going to affect whether he can accomplish much or not,’ he said. ‘There is this convention of referring to the Taney Court, the Marshall Court, the Fuller Court, but a chief justice has the same vote that everyone else has.’ As a result, ‘the chief’s ability to get the Court to do something is really quite restrained.’”

“Some of the least successful chief justices, Roberts suggested, had faltered because they misunderstood the job, approaching it as law professors rather than as leaders of a collegial Court. Harlan Fiske Stone, a former dean of Columbia Law School, was a case in point. Stone ‘was a failure as chief, because of his misperception of what a chief justice is supposed to be,’ Roberts said, gesturing to the justices’ private conference room through an open door of his office. ‘It’s his desk out there that is separate from the conference table, and he … sat at his desk, and the others were at the table, and he almost called on them and critiqued their performances. They hated that.’ Roberts laughed. ‘As a result, he was a failure as a chief justice.’

“Fifty-four percent of decisions in the first year of the Roberts Court were unanimous. This graphic shows the percentage of written court opinions on which each pair of justices agreed with one another. In Roberts’s view, the most successful chief justices help their colleagues speak with one voice. Unanimous, or nearly unanimous, decisions are hard to overturn and contribute to the stability of the law and the continuity of the Court; by contrast, closely divided, 5–4 decisions make it harder for the public to respect the Court as an impartial institution that transcends partisan politics.

“Roberts suggested that the temperament of a chief justice can be as important as judicial philosophy in determining his success or failure. And based on the impression he made in his first year on the Court and throughout his career, Roberts seems to have many of the personal gifts and talents of the most successful and politically savvy chief justices, such as Rehnquist and John Marshall, rather than those of a heavy-handed academic like Stone.”

Do you notice anything strange about Robert’s comments?  They are all egocentric; they are all about how history will record Robert’s tenure as Chief Justice of the Court.  They all show a determination to be recorded as a great Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.  Not one comment is in regard to the United States Constitution itself.

As I said earlier, Roberts came to the court with the appearance of being a man of high principle and high character.  Unfortunately, many men and women come to Congress and to high positions in government with high principles, but are lacking the integrity needed to deflect the onslaught of temptations to compromise their character.  These are men and women of high principles, but low character.  They are in abundance in Washington, DC.  They come to town as idealists and then succumb to the allure of privilege, attention, and fawning that is given to those who cave in when the going gets tough.  I’ve come across many of these men and women in my more than 40 years in Washington, DC.  Believe me, the pressure to conform, to compromise, to go along is incredible.  And those who are not well grounded, both personally and professionally, capitulate rather than stand up for principle.

Clearly, Chief Justice Roberts couldn’t stand the heat.  He wasn’t used to public criticism.  I sympathize with him.  I’ve had my name smeared on the front page of The Washington Post, and in this town, an accusation is tantamount to being guilty.  It takes men of incredible character like Ronald Reagan to stand by their principles when others cut and run.  I’m sad for Chief Roberts and for our country.

In my view as a layman, the first question every Supreme Court Justice should ask about every law under judicial review is, “Would any one signer of the Declaration of Independence agree that this law is Constitutional?”  If a law can’t pass that muster, it’s clearly not Constitutional.  If a justice has to manufacture reasons why a law is Constitutional, it’s not.  If you start with a conclusion, as Roberts apparently did, you end up being a contortionist in your reasoning.  If you have intellectual honesty, you simply compare the written word and intent of the Constitution with the law and see if it passes muster. 

Instead of worry about whether he will go down in history as a “successful” Chief Justice, John Roberts would have done better to simply consider whether or not Obamacare is permissible under the United States Constitution.  Roberts has stated that he thinks his role is to be an umpire, but his title is not umpire, it is judge.  And in his role as judge the measure of performance is not his collegiality, his affability, his good humor, or his ability to glad hand.  His sole measure of performance is to make a decision based on the Constitution as written and intended.  There is no other standard.

Of course, Roberts is now being praised in the mainstream media as “reasonable” and “approachable” and “moderate” and “statesmanlike.”  He will now get invited to all the right parties, and be hailed in all the right places as a man of intellect and moderation.  In truth, with this one act of betraying the Founders and the Constitution he has established himself as a failure, an anathema to the Founders and to the principles upon which our nation was created.

If you have to use twisted logic to come up with a decision, you can bet in advance that it is wrong.  With this one convoluted decision, John Roberts has opened the floodgates to ever growing, ever more powerful, ever more tyrannical government.  He, along with the misguided judges who have no respect whatsoever for the Constitution, has smashed any limits whatsoever on Government power. 

Frankly, even if the next Congress repeals Obamacare (very hard to do), it does not change the precedent that John Roberts and the majority have established that the Government has unlimited power over the lives of its citizens.  What an awful legacy John Roberts has. 

Liberals and radicals are celebrating a great victory in the ruling for Obamacare, but no one won.  All Americans are losers, especially future generations.  Like Nero fiddling while Rome burned, only fools celebrate the demise of individual freedom.  The idea that somehow we as individuals have “progressed to a higher ethic,” as progressive/liberal founder Richard T. Ely proclaimed, is ludicrous.  This simple understanding of human nature was held by the Founders, “Because all people have sinned, they have fallen short of God's glory” (Romans 3:23).  It is what guided them to create a government that limited man’s power.  When that power is unrestrained human freedom dies and slowly, but surely is replaced by the shackles of tyranny.  Liberalism’s fatal flaw is succumbing to the Devil’s lure in Genesis 3:5 “You’ll be like God.”  It is the original sin, the one that leads to all sorts evil acts against others.  When they substitute their human wisdom for Godly wisdom, God laughs.  “The wisdom of this world is nonsense in God’s sight.” (1 Corinthians 3:19)

The good news is this, “God rules the nations. He sits upon his holy throne.”  (Psalm 47:8)  And because he is a God of love we can, “Give thanks to the God of heaven because his mercy endures forever.” (Psalm 136:26).  If it is God’s will, we will triumph, not only this November at the polls, but by reversing the downhill course our nation is on so that our children and grandchildren may enjoy this very special land of freedom that you and I were blessed to be born in.  May God bless America with the spiritual insight that guided the Founders to create a nation unique and exceptional in the annals of history.

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