NBC's Gregory: 5-4 Against ObamaCare = 'Nightmare'; 5-4 for ObamaCare = 'Big Step' Away From 'Polarized' Court

Meet the Press host David Gregory displayed a stunning double standard throughout NBC's Thursday morning coverage of the Supreme Court ruling on ObamaCare. Prior to the decision, he warned of a "nightmare scenario" if the law was struck down. Hours later, following the Court upholding the law, Gregory cheered Chief Justice John Roberts for taking "a big step here" to keep the Court from being "too polarized." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Early the 7 a.m. et hour of Today, Gregory melodramatically fretted over the possibility of  ObamaCare being ruled unconstitutional: "What happens if it is struck down in part or in whole by a 5 to 4 decision? Would that not underscore how dysfunctional our government is, the major institutions of our government are? That is a real nightmare scenario, I think, for the political class in this country."

However, he quickly changed his tune in the 10 a.m. et hour special report coverage, after ObamaCare was upheld: "Chief Justice Roberts....he has spoken publicly about how on big controversial decisions, he thinks a 5-4 majority on the Court overtime undermines the Supreme Court. And only fuels the view that our major political institutions are too polarized. He's taken a big step here. He's going to be cheered for that by some on the Right and the Left, criticized I'm sure, as well, by some on Right."

Of course a major flaw with Gregory's post-decision analysis was that the law was upheld by only 5 to 4. By his own standard, that should make the outcome a sign of "how dysfunctional our government is."

Prior to Gregory's reaction in the special report coverage, NBC legal analyst Savannah Guthrie similarly praised Chief Justice Roberts:

...something I heard over and over again as we waited for this decision is, Chief Justice Roberts is an institutionalist. He cares about institution of the Court. He has talked about whether or not the Court is starting to be looked at as an ideological institution, a partisan institution. He's well aware of the context in which this decision comes, in the heat of a presidential election, a president's signature domestic achievement. It's fascinating to see this.


Here is a transcript of Gregory's June 28 comments on Today:

7:06AM ET

(...)

LAUER: David, let's turn to you. The White House is waiting anxiously, obviously, for word on this. And they are putting out this idea that it's not all or nothing, that they can claim a partial victory if some provisions of this law are upheld. Is that spin or reality?

DAVID GREGORY: Well, what the President will try to do, I'm told, if part of this law is struck down, is really go out and tell the American people what the implications are, positive and negative, that are there are other parts of this bill that would still be held up. And it is an opportunity for a president who, frankly, has not won the argument on health care yet, Matt, to explain to the American people why it's necessary and how it will actually affect people's lives, something that he has not done totally effectively yet, if you look at the polling.

LAUER: This will have ramifications, David, in three separate arenas, in the legal arena, in the policy arena, which is what you were just talking about, and of course in this election year, in the political arena. So what is at stake for both Democrats and Republicans, depending on how this decision goes down?

GREGORY: Matt, here's the overall point that I think is so important. Health care reform was passed on a party-line vote. What happens if it is struck down in part or in whole by a 5 to 4 decision? Would that not underscore how dysfunctional our government is, the major institutions of our government are? That is a real nightmare scenario, I think, for the political class in this country.

Republicans, no matter what happens today, will stay on the offensive because they want health care to be replaced, to be repealed. Mitt Romney, Republican leaders. The President has an opportunity, if it's upheld, to say this is the right policy, it is constitutional and it's more important now than ever. Still an opportunity there for him to go out and say this was really necessary. If it's struck down, he's got some work to do here because it would be a real blow.

(...)

Here is a transcript of Gregory's comments during the later special report:

10:19AM

(...)

LAUER: David, let me bring you back in. We talked a little bit about reaction from the White House and President Obama. How do the Republicans now react to this? What are you expecting to hear from them?

DAVID GREGORY: Well, talking to Republicans on Capitol Hill over the last couple of days, their argument will be that nothing changes for them. Just because it's constitutional doesn't mean that it's good policy. And you've heard that from Governor Romney as well. He's going to make that argument, as he has in recent days. He's never really taken on the constitutionality of it. He's argued that it's simply bad policy, and he'll move forward from there. Again, he has to answer questions about his own approach. Given what – he did something very similar in Massachusetts, but he's been opposed to it on a federal scale. So I think it's full steam ahead for Republicans in terms of the individual mandate.

But I do think that the political context here is so fascinating, and Savannah alludes to it with Chief Justice Roberts. Just to add to that, he has spoken publicly about how on big controversial decisions, he thinks a 5-4 majority on the Court overtime undermines the Supreme Court. And only fuels the view that our major political institutions are too polarized. He's taken a big step here. He's going to be cheered for that by some on the Right and the Left, criticized I'm sure, as well, by some on Right. But don't forget, there are also key decisions coming on this fall that he may be looking at, affirmative action, Defense of Marriage Act, where he may take a different view.

LAUER: Alright, David, thanks very much.

(...)

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC