This piece at The Blaze neatly summarizes a fascinating, detailed report by Jan Crawford of CBS News, which claims that John Roberts originally voted with the conservatives on the High Court's Obamacare ruling, then changed his mind:
[Unlike some justices] Roberts pays attention to media coverage. As Chief Justice, he is keenly aware of his leadership role on the Court, and he also is sensitive to how the Court is perceived by the public.
There were countless news articles in May warning of damage to the Court - and to Roberts' reputation - if the Court were to strike down the mandate. Leading politicians, including the President himself, had expressed confidence the mandate would be upheld.
Some even suggested that if Roberts struck down the mandate, it would prove he had been deceitful during his confirmation hearings, when he explained a philosophy of judicial restraint.
It was around this time that it also became clear to the conservative justices that Roberts was, as one put it, "wobbly," the sources said.
Equally fascinating is Crawford's depiction of how, in the end, Kennedy, Scalia, Alito and Thomas completely severed themselves from anything having to do with Roberts:
...the conservative dissent was not originally written as a majority opinion, as some have thought, but reads differently than expected because the conservatives simply refused to acknowledge Roberts' opinion.
Not a happy picture. And not a very flattering view of the Chief Justice, who, if Crawford's report is accurate, has the spine of an amoeba.
Here's Charles Lane of the Washington Post on the July 1 edition of Fox News Sunday :
...I've always had the impression that while everyone else is playing checkers, John Roberts is playing chess. And what he has done in this brilliant opinion is to sacrifice the pawn called the "individual mandate" to put the entire Great Society in check.
And he has done that by getting two liberal justices to agree with him - in a 7 to 2 ruling - that there are serious limitations on the federal government's ability to use its spending power to get the states to cooperate in welfare and education programs, which is really how everything works - or [how] a lot of things work, including education, Medicaid, etc.
And he has...gotten liberals to applaud him for it - so that now, next term, when the Voting Rights Act Section 5 and affirmative action in colleges come up before the Court as they're going to, and he votes with the other four conservatives to strike them down, all those liberals who might otherwise complain will now have to acknowledge that this "fair minded statesman" - John Roberts - was involved in that decision.
This is a man of great brilliance, and all those conservatives who are griping about this ruling need to give it a second thought.
Ahem. Well then. Shall we all go to the nearest wall and begin banging our heads against it?
I have no idea which view of Roberts is the right one, but one thing is certain: the Chief Justice, by his ruling, ensured that government health care is here to stay. If he's playing chess, it sure looks like a rigged game from here. But I could be wrong. Right?
A version of this post also appears on Mark's personal blog, Smoggy Don's Loudmouth Soup .