Chief Justice John Roberts Bipartisan Challenge

July 4, 2012 by: Joseph S. Fichera

The Democratic party is missing a tremendous chance to change the tone in Washington by not praising Justice Roberts’ bold bipartisan move to support the President’s health care legislation.

The Chief Justice put aside the “no prisoners” approach of the Republican party from which he was nominated and grew up in. Judges are to be non-partisan but we also acknowledge the reality of the overlap of political and political philosophy which is why nominees to the court are fought over so furiously sometimes. We also know that Roberts could have easily gone the other way on the health care decision “predictably” based on the partisanship that is undermining our nation. He did the constitutional analysis on the commerce clause which was the government’s main argument and rejected it. The Obama Administration said it wasn’t a tax and never argued for that point.

So, he could have just stopped there, easily. Yet, he went the extra effort and found a way to support it, fully aware of the implications of either decision in the middle of an election on such a divisive issue. I know we wince at the commerce clause language. Yet, he showed that Republicans can see a bigger picture and get to common ground. That’s my point. The issue isn’t about “sides” but what we can do together somewhere on the field of common ground, the common good.

Whatever you think of the written opinion, and the two edged nature of calling it a “tax”, look at the bottom line. In the middle of an election year, on the most controversial plan that has been described by Republicans as socialist, freedom-ending and every other pejorative from the Republican party, he did not slap the President.

Instead of crowing at the “victory” or bemoaning the commerce clause language, we should see this as an opening to bi-partisanship and praise Roberts for finding common ground and reaching across the aisle. The President should do this. Politicians and pundits should do this. Every Democrat should do this. The country wants everyone to work together.

Yeah, yeah he’s not supposed to be partisan in the first place. He was just articulating the law. But, come on, if it went the other way we’d be all over cable news about the Republican cabal against the President.

This is an opening. Run with it. Not halfheartedly. Not with a pinched nose. This guy did something we have been wanting others to do since day one. Highlight it in a way that shows bi-partisanship, not defection or betrayal, but for the good of the nation…bi-partisan.

Unfortunately, I have not seen a word from the President about this or of anyone of import. Tom Friedman, columnist for The New York Times, comes closest with his column calling Roberts a statesmen and “Taking One for the Country.” But I’m not an avid watcher of all things political. That day job gets in the way as it does for most Americans.

The Roberts challenge also means both sides (that means supporters of the President too) must consider other bold bi-partisan moves. It’s not a one-way street.

Nobody is going to get everything. The two things we Americans will agree on is shared sacrifice and fairness. That is the path forward from this mess.

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