More sober-eyed liberal legal experts took similar positions. Roberts' opinion was "statesmanlike," they claimed, and, more bizarrely, "apolitical." Some, such as constitutional scholar Jeffrey Rosen, speaking on National Public Radio, even celebrated Roberts' brilliance at finding a way to save the reputation of the court by deploying what Thomas Jefferson called "twistifications."
Indeed, before and after the ruling, much of the journalistic and legal establishment argued that a 5-4 ruling to overturn ObamaCare would be "political" because the majority would be comprised entirely of Republican appointees. But a 5-4 ruling to uphold ObamaCare would be apolitical because, well, it just would be.
In other words, if five conservative justices rule according to their well-known convictions, it's illegitimate. But if Roberts twists himself like an illustration in the Kama Sutra to find a way to uphold the law, then that amounts to "leadership."
Now, I don't know what's in Roberts' heart, but no court watcher I've heard from puts much weight on the idea that Roberts did anything other than reason backward from the result he wanted in order to buy respect from the court's critics at the expense of his own beliefs.
At least that's one thing both fans and critics of this ruling can largely agree on.
Some of Roberts' defenders claim he's outmaneuvered everyone. By upholding ObamaCare, he's made future conservative decisions unassailable. He's poisoned the well of the commerce clause for liberals. He's removed the court as an election-year issue. He's gift-wrapped for Mitt Romney the attack that Obama has raised taxes massively, violating a host of promises and assurances. And, again, he's saved the legitimacy of the court.
That's all very interesting, but it leaves aside the real issue: None of those concerns are what was asked of the court. That so few people seem to care augurs poorly for the rule of law and the auspices of our republic.