During his confirmation hearing as chief justice, John Roberts famously promised to serve as an umpire, humbly calling balls and strikes and not looking to become a player in the game:
“I come before the committee with no agenda. I have no platform. Judges are not politicians who can promise to do certain things in exchange for votes.
“I have no agenda, but I do have a commitment. If I am confirmed, I will confront every case with an open mind. I will fully and fairly analyze the legal arguments that are presented. I will be open to the considered views of my colleagues on the bench. And I will decide every case based on the record, according to the rule of law, without fear or favor, to the best of my ability. And I will remember that it’s my job to call balls and strikes and not to pitch or bat.”
And conservatives everywhere applauded, agreeing that an umpire is exactly what they wanted.
But here’s the thing about umpires: Sometimes they rule for your side; sometimes they don’t. And yesterday, Roberts issued the majority opinion in a 6-3 decision on ObamaCare that has outraged conservatives and inspired countless accusations of betrayal by Roberts. This isn’t the judge that they were promised.
As Sean Davis, a senior editor at The Federalist website, tweeted to his followers: “Ten years ago, every fancy conservative legal foundation said Roberts was the most amazing nomination ever. Remember that next time.”
“One wonders how many decades of electing Republicans to the Presidency are needed before the Supreme Court finds itself reformed in all the many ways we are continually promised by Republican candidates. One further wonders how long we will continue deluding ourselves into believing that it will ever actually happen.”
And Wayne Root, writing at The Blaze, was more melodramatic:
“Has Supreme Court Justice John Roberts been blackmailed or intimidated? I would put nothing by the Obama administration that lives and rules by the Chicago thug playbook.
Is the idea implausible that this same Obama administration that orders IRS attacks, then orders destruction of key evidence, would stop at nothing to save Obama’s signature achievement? Is it impossible to believe that Obama and his socialist cabal that learned from Saul Alinsky that “the ends justify the means” would hold something over a Supreme Court justice’s head?”
It’s odd, though. How can an umpire betray you? A betrayal, by definition, can occur only when someone has chosen a side and pledged loyalty to that side and then betrayed that pledge. Judging from their reactions, conservatives didn’t really think they had an impartial umpire in Roberts; they clearly thought they had a partisan whose vote could be counted upon.
In short, they wanted the umpire to win the game for them. Having tried and failed pitifully for over five years to mount a meaningful repeal effort against ObamaCare through the political process, and having failed to propose anything close to a replacement, they wanted the court to step up to plate and hit a grand slam on their behalf.
The court declined.