The high court and the pundits

June 28, 2012

Long before this morning’s first “Oyez!” signaled the announcement of the Supreme Court’s health-care decision, pundits all over Washington had been predicting what the justices would do. So we thought we’d take a look at what some of the prominent talking heads and leading journalists had to say about the case — and check in on how well their crystal balls work.

— Al Kamen

Jeffrey Toobin

Senior legal analyst, CNN

The prediction: “This was a train wreck for the Obama administration. This law looks like it’s going to be struck down,” he said March 27. “I’m telling you, all of the predictions including mine that the justices would not have a problem with this law were wrong.”

The verdict: He should have stuck with his earlier predictions.

Larry Tribe

Professor, Harvard Law School

Prediction: Said on MSNBC that the court would “probably” uphold the law. “I think it will be upheld in its entirety,” he told Chris Matthews.

The verdict: Close enough!

Linda Greenhouse

Opinion writer, New York Times

The prediction: On whether the court will reject the constitutional challenge to the individual mandate: “Think it will, by a wide margin” — in a March 21 blog post.

The verdict: Ding, ding! The law professor gets it right, aside from the “wide margin” part.

Robert Barnes

Reporter, The Washington Post The prediction:“Roberts, who appears less dedicated to federalism than was his predecessor and mentor, William H. Rehnquist, may be ‘gettable,’ ” he wrote back in March.

The verdict: Barnes nailed the aspect of today’s ruling that surprised many: that Roberts sided with the libs.

Walter Dellinger

Former acting solicitor general

The prediction: Had long predicted “that the vote upholding the legislation will be lopsided and that Roberts will be in the majority to write the opinion.”

The verdict: He was right about the court upholding the law — but the 5 to 4 decision wasn’t exactly lopsided.

Mark Halperin

Senior political analyst, Time

The prediction: “Whatever the court rules, it’s bad for the president,” he opined on MSNBC.

The verdict: If Mitt Romney has anything to do with it, probably.

Karma watch

So, turns out Chief Justice John Roberts — the guy a newly elected senator named Barack Obama voted against confirming back in 2005 — was the key vote to rescue Obama’s signature health-care law.

Obama actually wanted to vote for Roberts, as Richard Wolffe recounts in his excellent book “Renegade: The Making of a President,” but was talked out of it by a trusted adviser, Pete Rouse.

“You know,” he told his staff, “I would hope, if I’m president someday, 20 years down the road, Republicans will judge my nominees on the merits, whether they agree with them philosophically or not.”

Rouse, a Hill veteran who is now Obama’s deputy chief of staff, must have sighed when he responded.

“This isn’t Harvard Law School’s moot court,” he argued. “This is the political arena. If this guy is technically qualified and a brilliant legal mind, that’s fine. But in the real world, votes have consequences,” Wolffe wrote in 2010.

Rouse said Republicans 20 years later weren’t going “to vote for a Larry Tribe ” because Obama had voted for Roberts. “That might be different,” Rouse said, “but that’s not going to happen,” Rouse explained to the new kid on the block.

“The reality is you’re going to have to live with the consequences of this vote 20 years from now and they’re not likely to be good,” Rouse said.

Still, Obama castigated “progressives for their attacks on his fellow Democrats who voted for Roberts,” Wolffe wrote.

Good thing for Obama that Roberts got confirmed anyway. No telling if another chief would have broken with his fellow judges and conservative pundits — who have taken to calling him a “traitor to his philosophy” and mumbling about impeaching him.

Unclear if Obama has been giving Rouse grief about his prediction.

(Special Loop thanks to The Post’s Fact Checker, Glenn Kessler, who actually remembered this passage.)

Itineraries, please

It’s last call for entries to the Loop’s contest suggesting destinations for where the Obamas should go on their family vacation this summer.

We asked for your help in identifying destinations that might be fun for the whole family — but perhaps more importantly, places that are politically advantageous. Martha’s Vineyard, where the Obamas have visited in summers past, seems to be out this election year. So where should they go? Nowhere too posh (bad optics!), and maybe somewhere geographically desirable (a swing state, perhaps?).

The deadline for submitting your ideas is midnight Friday, June 29. Don’t miss the chance to play travel agent for the First Family!

Our five favorites will win coveted Loop T-shirts — perfect for wearing on your own summer vacation.

You can leave your entry as a comment on the blog — you may want to double-check that there’s an active e-mail address associated with your washingtonpost.com log-in. You can also e-mail us at intheloop@washpost.com. (Please make sure to include a home or cellphone number so we can contact you.)

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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