The upcoming Supreme Court hearing on Obamacare is a Machiavellian’s delight. So many permutations of 2012 winners and losers, so much material for demagoguery. And, oh yeah, so much of vital substance at stake. The hyperbole might not be a hyperbole. Books will be written about this.
I think Machiavelli would tell his Republican Prince that this is in a can’t lose, win-win scenario. Get out there and make some noise – but with care.
Already, read the tea leaves. The court has allocated over five hours — a lot of time — for the hearing, signaling that the justices expect this to be very hard and very important. Viet Dinh, a big-time, brilliant lawyer and a professor of constitutional law at Georgetown University, told me that “the court is setting this up as an epic case, and that is independent of the obvious political dimensions.” And Ruth Marcus explains perfectly in today’s Post why the decision is ripe, and why we should not shield this decision from the political calendar. She also introduces a judge’s alarming theory that presidents can ignore laws he personally thinks unconstitutional. Questions about this will immediately become part on the 2012 presidential race and part of judicial confirmations forever.
Justice Elena Kagan is an important part of the first act of the drama. If she recuses herself, Obamacare opponents probably win; if she doesn’t recuse herself and Obamacare survives on a 5-4 vote, opponents will rightfully howl, and the need for more campaign money, a GOP Senate and a big November turnout will have a big new exclamation mark.
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, is already on the case, quizzing the Justice Department. There have got to be more e-mails and other accounts proving Kagan’s previous support of the Obamacare legislation that will surface. The longer she hangs in there and doesn’t bail out with a recusal, the better.
There is weeping and gnashing of teeth among the Obama leadership. They know they can’t win.
This is a great example of how quickly American politics can pivot and new challenges can present themselves. The unexpected happens. In fact, the unexpected happens about once a month.
There is much more to say, with new angles and revelations appearing, and intense efforts by the candidates to try and milk votes from this issue. This topic will be with us for a while.
The temptation among Republican candidates will be to say too much too soon and exhaust themselves and their credibility. All Republicans, pace yourselves. Follow Sessions’s lead -- this is important and we need to get it right.