Now, everybody just hold on a minute: Rein it on in, people.
Of course President Obama knows that the Supreme Court’s chief function is to decide, disinterestedly, whether a law adheres to the U.S. Constitution. He was, after all, a constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago and is — to hear the liberal intelligentsia tell it — the smartest man since Albert Einstein.
And of course Mr. Obama knows full well that the high court has done just that since Marbury v. Madison in 1803, when the court asserted its authority of judicial review spelled out by the Founding Fathers under Article III of the Constitution.
So everyone needs to take pause when The One says something like he did this week about his precious health care mandate: “Ultimately, I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress. And I’d just remind conservative commentators that for years what we’ve heard is, the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint — that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law. Well, this is a good example. And I’m pretty confident that this Court will recognize that and not take that step.”
Now, Mr. Obama certainly knows that the words that flowed from his rhetorical lips were completely false. Striking a law of Congress is not unprecedented, and not even particularly extraordinary: The court’s struck down more than 150 federal laws since its inception, not to mention overturning hundreds of state and local laws.
So why on Earth would he say it? Why would he lecture the top jurists in the land — unelected, as they are, and appointed for life to remove them from petty politics — that the law has a “human element” that he hopes is “not forgotten in this political debate”? Why, for Heaven’s sake, would he declare that “the justices should understand” his health-care law doesn’t work unless every American is forced to buy coverage, whether it’s constitutional or not?
Simple. His provably false remarks weren’t aimed at Supreme Court justices, but rather at uninformed Americans, especially liberals (is there any other kind?). The most divisive president in history is setting up yet another straw man for his re-election campaign, one that fits directly into his strategy to divide and conquer.
The campaign geniuses, the same ones who came up with the idea to run against the much-despised Congress (even though Democrats control the Senate), have decided that deriding the Supreme Court as an arm of the Republican Party is a winning plan, one that will resonate across the country come November.
But here, the big brains are horribly mistaken: Mr. Obama maligns the high court at his peril. Americans, especially those in what dual-coast lefties derisively dub “flyover country,” like their Supreme Court. They aren’t about to let a president — any president — bully what many see as the cornerstone of the checks-and-balances system set up by the Founders.
In fact, Americans believe in the court’s power as final arbiter even if they disagree with a ruling. While there was much hand-wringing among the elite left when the court ruled in favor of George W. Bush after the 2000 election, Americans simply went, “Well, there you have it, matter concluded, on we go.”
This time is different, though, as Mr. Obama, who rode to Washington on promises to be America’s first “post-partisan” president, appears increasingly desperate to cling to power and seek advantage any way he can. Make no mistake, the high court striking down Mr. Obama’s health care mandate, his singular achievement since taking office, will shock Americans.
“Hey, honey, it turns out that whole thing was illegal,” they’ll say out there in flyover country as they mull whether to support a president who so blatantly ignores the Constitution in his quest to expand the federal government into every corner.
And Mr. Obama no doubt already knows that’s just what the court will do when it rules in June. The justices fiercely questioned the president lawyer over three days, mocking his often indefensible arguments for why the government can force Americans to buy health insurance, and then took a preliminary vote last Friday. Clearly, a justice sympathetic to the president passed along the outcome — and Mr. Obama’s comments this week certainly appear to show the court is planning to rule against the trillion-dollar mandate.
Still, the president’s strategy is already working, at least at the New York Times. Right on cue, columnist Maureen Dowd savaged the court: “This court, cosseted behind white marble pillars, out of reach of TV, accountable to no one once they give the last word, is well on its way to becoming one of the most divisive in modern American history. It has squandered even the semi-illusion that it is the unbiased, honest guardian of the Constitution. It is run by hacks dressed up in black robes.”
“Impeach the Supreme Court Justices If They Overturn Health-Care Law,” wrote David Dow, a columnist for the Daily Beast. “It is the duty of the people to protect the Constitution from the court. Social progress cannot be held hostage by five unelected men.”
And there, in a nutshell, is Mr. Obama’s plan to divide and conquer. Rise up, America, against your nation’s Congress, your nation’s highest court — and even America’s Constitution.
His desperation is now palpable, and it’s only April. This is going to get ugly, people.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.