"Three months after the Supreme Court handed down its landmark ruling on President Obama's health care law, new details have emerged on Chief Justice John Roberts' controversial vote in favor of upholding the Affordable Care Act."
"According to excerpts of a new book by New Yorker writer and CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin published in Politico's Playbook on Saturday, Roberts had originally intended to side with his fellow conservatives on the court and overturn the law. However, Roberts' position turned "wobbly" as he considered the implications the ruling would have on his legacy."
Roberts was a conservative and lifelong partisan Republican. … Roberts had dual goals for his tenure as chief justice – to push his own ideological agenda but also to preserve the Court’s place as a respected final arbiter of the nation’s disputes. … A complete nullification of the health care law on the eve of a presidential election would put the Court at the center of the campaign … Democrats, and perhaps Obama himself, would crusade against the Court, eroding its moral if not its legal authority. … Gradually, then with more urgency, Roberts began looking for a way out.http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/15/john-roberts-health-care_n_1886621.html?utm_hp_ref=politics
While this caused a real rift with Scalia, Toobin at least, doesn't see it as hurting their long term relationship and that the move will help actually help conservatives going forward:
"The switch, according to Toobin, "enraged" Justice Antonin Scalia. In recent interviews, Scalia has insisted that there's no bad blood on the court. And, as Toobin points out, Roberts' ruling could come as a boon to conservatives.
[F]or Roberts personally and the conservative cause generally, his vote and opinion in the health care case were acts of strategic genius. … Roberts at a minimum laid down a marker on the scope of the commerce clause. … Roberts’s opinion is potentially a significant long-term gain for the conservative movement. … Roberts bought enormous political space for himself for future rulings. … Did Roberts, by his late switch in the health care case, poison his relations with his conservative allies on the Court? That is very unlikely.I agree that it might give him space on future rulings. The main thing is that who among us can even name any verdicts since ACA? There was at least one big ruling that upheld Citizens Untied however, there hasn't been a lot of commentary about it overall.
Roberts took the heat off and theoretically gave himself more room for the future. Still judges do sometimes change-it was a Nixon judge-Henry Blackmun- who got us Roe v. Wade and he so enjoyed the focus he got from it that he became much more liberal after. I don't know that Roberts will ever be liberal but it could change him in subtle ways.
All the attacks on him by conservatives could begin to change him-Wisconsin judge Richard Plosner says that the Right has slowly turned him off and that he's become a lot less conservative over the last 10 years.
Then again, I'm not so sure that this won't color his future relationship with Scalia, et. al. There are others who are also not as sure as Toobin:
"Reports of Roberts' switch were first detailed by CBS News. According to CBS, the conservative wing of the court, including Justice Anthony Kennedy, tried for a month to bring Roberts back on its side."
"The discord is deep and it is personal," CBS' Jan Crawford said of the tension between the justices. "This could affect this court for a long time."
In a deeper, more farsighted, philosophical sense, you could argue that Roberts' move was a classically conservative move. It depends on your definition of "conservative."
In a different reading of "convservative" than what passes for it in American politics-you could understand a conservative as someone who seeks to limit social conflict and confrontation as much as possible-limit it, there would be no question of presuming you can wholly abolish it
The kind of "conservatism" I have in mind is more in line with the political philosopher and historian, Garry Wills in his book "Confessions of a Conservative."
By this definition Roberts' ruling can be understood as deeply conservative as he wanted to protect and uphold the nation's people's belief in it's must august institutions, particularly, in this case, the Supreme Court.
To do this he had to rule contrary to his own short term political preferences. If he hadn't this would have like Bush-Gore in 2000 increased the level of cynicism and disbelief of large numbers of Americans as the Court would seem like just another partisan arm of the Republican party.
P.S. By this definition of conservatism the Republican party since Goldwater has been deeply unconservative and anti-conservative as they seem to maximize social discord and confrontation