Published for The Washington Post, June 27th, 2012
Washington periodically defers, as do Rome and Qom, to the judgments of the impressively robed — the ex cathedra portion of the political season. The constitutional implications of the Supreme Court’s health-care ruling will be debated until Election Day and dissected beyond it. But it is the court’s immigration decision — and Mitt Romney’s positioning on the issue — that throws the brightest light on the presidential race. And the glare is not kind to the challenger.
Some have faulted Romney for a muddled response to the ruling — a tactical criticism that is largely unfair. It is difficult to be clear about an ambiguous decision. (The constitutionality of Arizona’s “papers, please” law seems to depend on the politeness with which police deliver the “please” part.) Romney aides also note that their candidate is uncomfortable with the whole enterprise of a president, or prospective president, cheering or jeering the actions of the Supreme Court in the manner of a pennant race. An admirable reticence.