In the aftermath of John Roberts' surprise majority opinion to uphold President Obama's health care law, many right-wingers continued their attack on the Supreme Court's chief justice, calling into question both his line of judicial reasoning and his conservative bona fides.
"John Roberts has evolved -- it didn't take him that long -- and the accolades from the left have already started. With the Obamacare and Arizona decisions, Roberts' activism is now firmly evident," said conservative radio host Mark Levin, whose show was taped on Thursday evening.
Calling the health care decision "absolutely lawless," Levin asserted that Thursday's proceedings, along with the "brutal attack on sovereignty" in the Arizona immigration case, means that "now we have something akin to the Warren Court," the famously liberal bench of the 1950s and 60s.
In an editorial titled "The Roberts Rules," the Wall Street Journal editorial board bemoaned the fact that "the Chief Justice had to rewrite the statute Congress passed in order to salvage it."
By labeling Obamacare's individual mandate a tax, Roberts set a "grim" precedent, the editors wrote: "an infinitely elastic and dangerous interpretation of the taxing power."
"Washington has unlimited power to impose new purchase mandates and the courts will find them constitutional if Congress calls them taxes," the editors wrote, "or even if it calls them something else and judges call them taxes."
Frances Martel at Mediaite, meanwhile, criticized Roberts for his inconsistency. Like others, she suspected that Roberts' opinion was originally a dissent -- and that the sudden shift in tone and logic is plainly evident in his language.
The first indication that Roberts is receptive to a tax is on page 39 of the ruling -- "a sign any high school English teacher could tell you that the student started writing his essay with a completely different thesis in mind, and shifted gears halfway." His decision to join the liberal wing of the court, she wrote, amounts to a "twist ending so egregious it threatens to become the hallmark of his tenure as Chief Justice, overshadowing all the good and decent jurisprudence accumulated under his name since his appointment."
National Review editor Jonah Goldberg, writing for Newsday, concurred, employing the Thomas Jefferson "twistifications" to describe Roberts' reasoning. "No court watcher I've heard from," Goldberg writes, "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."
Not every conservative was upset with Roberts, though. David Brooks at The New York Times praised the chief justice's modesty, opining that he "made a period of innovation and change more likely ... by taking the court off center stage and by letting the political process play out."