Is Running Against SCOTUS Dangerous?

Andrew Sullivan —  Apr 4 2012 @ 12:14pm

Jon Meacham warns Obama against going to war with the Supreme Court:

The big thing experience shows is that you should not declare war on the court. More in sadness than in anger, just mention the issues on which you feel stymied by the justices. From health care to campaign finance, those independent voters will get the message without being frightened off by an unsettling rhetorical attack on the judiciary. That’s what FDR got wrong. Obama may well have a chance to get it right.

Silver dissects another Obamacare talking point:

[T]he argument that the bill being struck down would actually help Mr. Obama seems to have little grounding in the evidence — nor, frankly, in common sense. Among the voters that are most critical to Mr. Obama’s re-election prospects, the Supreme Court is more popular than the health care bill. If the justices declare one of the president’s signature accomplishments to be unconstitutional, it would not be a boon to him. 

I agree on both counts, unless the court's ruling appears so baldly political and partisan it discredits itself, or unless the implications of the ruling mean a rollback of federal power to before the 1930s.

Nonetheless, I do see an evolution in the president these last few months.

As the GOP intransigence builds, as the Court moves to undo the president's signature domestic achievement, after stabilizing the incipient depression, he's getting more liberal. By this fall, we may have a very clear choice between a candidate seeking to reassert the middle way on debt and spending (i.e. allowing for revenue increases along with defense and entitlement cuts) and a candidate pledging to attack the debt by actually cutting taxes again, and then slashing the welfare state for the old and repealing one for the working poor and sick.

My view is that revenues have to be raised if we are to bridge the budget gap. I'm a Simpson-Bowles supporter/Cameron Tory in that I put the need for urgent fiscal balance in a divided country over the ideological push for a radically smaller government. I don't want a bigger government, but I think if we have one, and clearly do not have a consensus on how to reduce it, we should pay for it. And given the urgency, a balanced approach that is not ideologically tilted to either wing of either party is the best way.

Obama offered that path. The GOP chose politics and ideology. So now Obama has moved left – at least rhetorically. He once told the restive base of his party: Make Me Do It. It's one of history's great ironies that the base that has forced him into a more aggressive liberal position is the GOP's.