Belmont Club

Nice Court You Have There, It Would Be A Shame If Something Happened To It

The Talking Points Memo headline reads: “Dems Warn Of ‘Grave Damage’ To SCOTUS If ‘Obamacare’ Is Struck Down.” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D), a former attorney general of Connecticut, pointed out that the U.S. Supreme Court  would damage itself if it did something so ridiculous as find Obamacare unconstitutional:

The court commands no armies, it has no money; it depends for its power on its credibility. The only reason people obey it is because it has that credibility. And the court risks grave damage if it strikes down a statute of this magnitude and importance, and stretches so dramatically and drastically to do it.

Blumenthal was clearly engaged in “begging the question”:

A type of logical fallacy in which a proposition is made that uses its own premise as proof of the proposition. In other words, it is a statement that refers to its own assertion to prove the assertion.

By saying Obamacare is so self-evidently wonderful and legitimate that only someone crazy would disagree with it, Blumenthal makes you wonder why this matter is even before the Court in the first place. For the answer to that question, see “begging the question.”

What is less clear is whether Blumenthal, in reminding the court that the executive branch had the monopoly on physical power, was not engaged in a kind of subtle menace. After all, the Court’s power is not based on “credibility.” It is based on power vested in it by the Constitution. What would the administration say if someone argued that the president’s authority was based on “credibility” rather than his legal power as chief executive?

So unworthy a sentiment as intimidation would not occur to Blumenthal any more than it would to Winston Churchill, who when speaking to Stalin in 1944, trying to persuade the Generalissimo to give Poland a break after the war, drew from him one of the bon mots of the 20th century.

Churchill was telling Stalin:

That is why I attach such paramount importance to good neighborly relations between a restored Poland and the Soviet Union. It was for the freedom and independence of Poland that Britain went into this war. The British feel a sense of moral responsibility to the Polish people, to their spiritual values. It is also important that Poland is a Catholic country. We cannot allow internal developments there to complicate our relations with the Vatican …


“How many divisions does the Pope of Rome have?” Stalin asked, suddenly interrupting Churchill’s line of reasoning.

Churchill stopped short. He had not expected such a question. After all, he was speaking about the moral influence of the Pope, not only in Poland, but, also, throughout the world. Once again, Stalin reaffirmed that he only respected force, and brought Churchill back down to Earth from the nebulous heavens.

You had to hand it to old Uncle Joe: cut to the chase. All business, all the time. But maybe the real question the Obama administration is asking itself now is not: “How many divisions has the Supreme Court?” Rather, it could be: “How much of this Obamacare money have we already promised to the boys? And what the hell are we going to do if it doesn’t go through?”

Administrations which are not very particular about spending money from the future in the today are probably the improvident sorts who hire people in advance.

Perhaps one answer to Blumenthal’s observation is to flip the statement:

An administration that can’t come up with the vig can lose an awful lot of support from the base real quick. The only reason people obey it is because they get a check in a brown envelope. And the administration risks grave damage if a promise of that magnitude and importance doesn’t come off, because people have already made down payments on cars and vacations in expectation of that commitment.

And by the way, the Soviet Union is gone, but there’s still a Poland. And last I heard, there was still a pope.

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