Charles Krauthammer, one of my favorites in the columnizing/calumniating trade, sees the fate of the Republic swaying in the balance in the current hearings on Obamacare. As he writes in the Washington Post:
"If the law is upheld, it fundamentally changes the social contract. It means the effective end of a government of enumerated powers -- finite, delineated powers beyond which the government may not go, beyond which lies the free realm of the people and their voluntary institutions. The new dispensation is a central government of unlimited power from which citizen and civil society struggle to carve out spheres of autonomy."
If the court sides with the administration, all is lost.
On the opposite but equally fervid end of the political spectrum, Linda Greenhouse waves off such fears. And any disagreement, too. Her undiluted contempt for any who might have a different opinion is palpable. Those challenging the new health-care law, she explains, haven't got a precedent to stand on. Their learned disquisitions amount to, well, nothing. She writes, you won't be surprised to hear, for the New York Times.
It may be a journalistic convention to present both sides of a legal controversy in neutral fashion, she concedes, "without the writer's thumb on the scale." But, "free of convention, and fresh from reading the main briefs in the case," Ms. Greenhouse is here to tell us that the constitutional argument against the health-care law is "so weak that it dissolves on close inspection. There's just no there there."
If the court strikes down this Signature Achievement of the Obama administration, all reason is lost.
Now that Justices Krauthammer and Greenhouse have weighed in on the law, it's a wonder the country needs a Supreme Court at all. Just choose your ideological side, his or hers, and save yourself the trouble of thought. Then declare your opinion settled law. And close the book.
Only it doesn't work that way. Time, not the justices, and certainly not the pundits, will be the ultimate judge. History, contrary as ever, will deliver its own verdict. And there is no escaping its jurisdiction.