President Obama is undermining the rule of law. On Monday, he openly attacked the Supreme Court. He fears that the high court will overturn Obamacare. It is the president’s signature domestic achievement - the jewel in his socialist crown. To repeal parts or all of it would be a humiliating repudiation. Hence, Mr. Obama is resorting to bullying.
“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,” he said.
Moreover, Mr. Obama argued that nullifying Obamacare would amount to “judicial activism,” whereby “unelected” judges trump the will of legislative representatives. His warning was clear and unequivocal: Supreme Court justices must not rule against his administration. The president fired a shot across the high court’s bow.
His remarks were astonishing - and chilling. It is rare for a president to comment on a case before the Supreme Court renders a decision. Presidents often have fulminated about rulings with which they disagreed (usually in private), but hardly ever while the justices are still deliberating. The reason is simple: to prevent undue influence - political lobbying - on the independent judiciary. This goes to the heart of America’s constitutional structure of separation of powers and checks and balances. Yet Mr. Obama is willing to intimidate the high court, warning that a political price will be paid if they overturn Obamacare. He is behaving like a strongman who believes he can bend the Supreme Court to his will.
Mr. Obama’s comments reflect the panic spreading throughout the liberal establishment. Last week’s oral arguments in front of the high court devastated the constitutional basis of Obamacare, especially its individual mandate that compels almost every American to purchase insurance or else pay a penalty. Conservative justices made the obvious point: If the federal government can force a citizen to purchase health care insurance, then it can mandate almost anything - including eating broccoli. It is state coercion masquerading as social justice, a massive expansion of government intrusion at the expense of basic freedoms and a naked - and unlawful - power grab. No one knows how the Supreme Court will rule. Yet, based on the skeptical tone and line of questioning, the health care overhaul looks to be in deep trouble.
This is why the legal left has engaged in a full-scale effort to demonize the court. Liberal commentators are now portraying conservative justices as Republican-appointed hacks, bent on repealing Obamacare simply for political reasons. Their goal is to paint Supreme Court justices in a potential majority as villains in order to galvanize Democrats for the November election season. Instead of dealing with the merits of the case, liberals - led by the president - want to weaken a pivotal institution of our democracy.
Mr. Obama’s comments are false. It would not be “unprecedented” or “extraordinary” if the Supreme Court overturns Obamacare. For more than 200 years, the high court has struck down countless laws passed by Congress or state legislatures, many of them with much stronger majorities than the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court’s role is not to devise health care policy or take into account the political ramifications of its decisions. Rather, it has one overriding purpose: to uphold the Constitution. Nowhere does our founding document give the federal government the authority to impose and regulate a nationalized health care system. This is why Obamacare is illegal and unconstitutional. It deserves to be swept into the ash heap of history.
The legislation also signifies a betrayal of American democracy. Contrary to Mr. Obama’s spin, the Affordable Care Act was jammed through Congress. It passed the House by a narrow vote of 219-212, even though the Democrats had an overwhelming majority of 75 seats. In the Senate, it barely crossed the 60-vote threshold to avoid a filibuster and passed without a single Republican vote. The law was deeply unpopular with the electorate. Obama Democrats desperately rushed it through Congress, abusing parliamentary procedures and bribing key members of the Senate. It is today even less popular with voters. No one - including Mr. Obama - bothered to read the 2,700-page monstrosity before putting it into law. The entire enterprise reeked of contempt for democratic values and constitutional government.
This is not the first time Mr. Obama has sought to intimidate the Supreme Court. In his 2010 State of the Union Address, he publicly scolded the justices sitting before him for their Citizens United decision, which overturned campaign-finance restrictions. The justices were obviously shocked - the president was using the bully pulpit to berate and smear them. His message was a simple one: Toe the administration line or become a political target. This is the kind of behavior common in Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela or Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. It has no place in America.
Mr. Obama has declared war on the Supreme Court. He is a shameless demagogue who will say and do almost anything to retain his grip on power. Obamacare is his greatest legacy. He has achieved what his liberal predecessors - Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton - could only dream of: universal government-run health care. It marks the culmination of a cradle-to-grave welfare state, implanting European-style social democracy on American soil. Nothing - not the Constitution, the Supreme Court or public opinion - can be allowed to stand in its way. Mr. Obama is waging a scorched-earth campaign in order to achieve his goals. Future historians will condemn him as an arrogant leader who pursued a cynical strategy, assaulting the very pillars of our republic.
Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist at The Washington Times and president of the Edmund Burke Institute.