To read this week's press coverage, you'd think not just a landmark Supreme Court case was upon us, but a jurisprudential Armageddon. The moment of truth has arrived, the die is about to be cast, the Rubicon crossed … pick your own favorite cliche. There are so many out there.
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. 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.
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.