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Judiciary

Roberts Challenges Trump and Gets It Wrong

The chief justice takes issue with the assertion that the judiciary has been politicized.

Political Editors · Nov. 26, 2018

Just before Thanksgiving, Chief Justice John Roberts squared off with President Donald Trump in a war of words over the judiciary. After a Barack Obama-appointed judge blocked Trump’s order regarding asylum for illegal aliens, Trump griped, “This was an Obama judge.” That’s typical for Trump — and accurate in this case.

But Roberts is a staunch defender of an “independent” judiciary, and he just couldn’t let it pass without comment. In a rare political statement, Roberts declared, “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them.”

“I wish Chief Justice Roberts were right,” asserted Rep. Trey Gowdy. “I wish there were not a politicization of the judiciary.”

As much as we too wish Roberts was right as the Founders intended, the modern judiciary is a political animal primarily because Democrat-appointed judges interpret the law not as written but according to a “living Constitution.” Trump was right in his reply: “Sorry Chief Justice John Roberts, but you do indeed have ‘Obama judges,’ and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country.”

Perhaps Roberts thinks he’s right because he, an appointee of George W. Bush, cast the deciding vote to find ObamaCare constitutional. But even that illustrates precisely why he’s wrong because Roberts went out of this way to rewrite the law so as to find it “constitutional.” It’s true that Trump’s losses have come at the hands of judges appointed by various presidents, not just Obama, but sometimes those rulings are blocking him from undoing what Obama did — as if Obama’s executive orders were part of the Constitution and Trump’s decision to undo them was thus by definition unconstitutional. A ruling earlier this month on DACA comes to mind.

On a final note, if Roberts was correct, why did so many conservatives vote for Trump because of the judiciary? Why did Democrats filibuster Neil Gorsuch and then do their “level best” to character assassinate Brett Kavanaugh? And why won’t a seriously ailing Ruth Bader Ginsburg retire now rather than wait for a Democrat president?

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