WASHINGTON, May 28, 2015 – Joel McElvain, a Justice Department lawyer, thought a snarky retort was sound legal argument. In defending President Obama’s unilateral rewriting of Obamacare, authorizing payments to insurers in states that have not established health care exchanges and delaying implementation of the employer mandate, McElvain claimed the House of Representatives had no standing before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
“So it is your position that if the House of Representatives affirmatively voted not to fund something… then that vote can be ignored by the administration, because after all, no one can sue them?” asked the incredulous Judge Rosemary Collyer.
Channeling the authoritarian arrogance of his Oval Office client, McElvain told the judge he did not intend to argue the merits of his case at that moment and dismissed as “abstract” separation-of-powers complaints emanating from the “people’s House.”
McElvain then shook his head in a dismissive gesture.
“You can’t just shake your head and not deal with the question,” said Judge Collyer, “I want you to explain… why it’s not an insult to the Constitution?”
It’s SOOOOOOO tedious for Obama to explain his actions in concrete terms. It’s much easier to dismiss all counter-arguments by assigning them, as he has done many times in the past, to America’s “empathy deficit.” Obama said, “It will take standing in one another’s shoes and remembering that we are our brother’s keeper; we are our sister’s keeper.”
From this lofty position, the self-proclaimed saint (political demagogue) easily dismisses all opposition, especially that of the inarticulate and intellectually vacant, like House Speaker John Boehner.
And the average American voter will believe anything (“If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan”).
However, courts of law were intentionally designed to be theaters of confrontation.
Our adversarial court system forces both sides in a controversy to make their arguments and provides opportunities to attack weaknesses in the opponent’s claims.
When Obama’s legal advocate was asked where it is written in the Constitution that the president may amend legislation enacted by Congress, counselor McElvain thought he could dismiss the query with a snarky shake of the head.
A letter that appeared at Salon.com said,
“Snark has become the essential liberal tool… Snark grew out of a direct result of polite discussion totally failing. No matter what intelligent points where brought forward… the conservative response repeated talking points and blatant lies… Snark has proven to be the only way to deal with them.”
Employing truth, not snark, is the best response to empty “talking points and blatant lies,” unless you’re engaging in the latter – at the expense of the former.
Snark doesn’t seem to faze Judge Rosemary Collyer. And a steady stream of it may land Joel McElvain in the pokey for contempt… of the United States Constitution.