NBC: Chief Justice Had 'Nixon-to-China Alignment' With Court Liberals

On Friday's NBC Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie touted Chief Justice John Roberts joining the Supreme Court majority in upholding ObamaCare as an "almost Nixon-to-China alignment with liberals on the Court." Special correspondent Tom Brokaw applauded the move: "I do think that it lowered the temperature about the debate about the politicalization of the Court. And that's a good thing for the country, however you feel about the decisions that they're making." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

During NBC special coverage on Thursday, Guthrie proclaimed that Roberts had made a "Solomonic decision." On Thursday's Nightly News she further praised him: "He cares very much about the institution of the Court, the credibility of the Court, he has expressed a distaste for decisions that come down 5-to-4 against those predictable party lines."

Guthrie began the Friday discussion with Brokaw and chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd by wondering: "Is this Supreme Court decision another opportunity to have that conversation with the American people and try to sell something that's unpopular?" Todd replied: "A small one. They have a small window to do this. I mean, we saw it in our own polling. There actually is a middle of folks in here, they mostly live in the suburbs, who were skeptical of the bill, but also think something needed to be done. So he has a shot."


Brokaw cited the fact that Mitt Romney "raised more than $3 million in a few hours yesterday" following the decision. Guthrie speculated: "...the Republican side of things lost in the Supreme Court but were handed a huge political argument in the form of this is now considered a tax. How powerful will that be on the campaign trail?" Todd agreed in part: "I think it's going to be really powerful in House and Senate races."

However, he also threw a wet blanket on the idea:

I think on the presidential, it's a really tough decision by Romney on how much do you talk about this because of what you just talked about earlier, any day he's not talking about the economy, then is that going to look – are the voters going to punish him for this? The Obama folks believe that somehow there's fatigue on debating health care. So I do wonder if it's going to fade on the national front because, by the way, Romney might be a flawed attacker on health care.


Here is a full transcript of Guthrie's June 29 exchange with Brokaw and Todd:

7:15AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Tom Brokaw is an NBC News special correspondent, Chuck Todd is NBC's chief White House correspondent and political director. Gentlemen, good morning to both of you.

CHUCK TODD: Good morning.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: The Court of Public Opinion; Who Will Voters Back in Health Care Battle?]

GUTHRIE: Chuck, I'll start with you. We covered health care together at the White House, we saw the President's repeated attempts to sell it to the public. Is this Supreme Court decision another opportunity to have that conversation with the American people and try to sell something that's unpopular?

TODD: A small one. They have a small window to do this. I mean, we saw it in our own polling. There actually is a middle of folks in here, they mostly live in the suburbs, who were skeptical of the bill, but also think something needed to be done. So he has a shot. But I'll tell you, I do think there is a hardening here on this issue. And you're not likely, after about a week, to hear much about it.

GUTHRIE: Tom, what's Governor Romney's play here? He could either use health care to galvanize the base, I suppose, or he could say, "Every day I'm talking about health care, I'm not talking about the economy."

TOM BROKAW: Well, all the immediate indications are, is that he will, in fact, keep this as a central part of his campaign. I spoke with a senior Republican yesterday. I think throughout the party they were stunned immediately, especially by the decision having been written by Chief Justice Roberts. But then they began to hear from their constituents, he raised more than $3 million in a few hours yesterday. The mandate/tax is still, what they believe, a game-winning kind of issue for them, so it's game on.

GUTHRIE: I was going to say, in some ways this was – the Republican side of things lost in the Supreme Court but were handed a huge political argument in the form of this is now considered a tax. How powerful will that be on the campaign trail?

TODD: I think it's going to be really powerful in House and Senate races. I think on the presidential, it's a really tough decision by Romney on how much do you talk about this because of what you just talked about earlier, any day he's not talking about the economy, then is that going to look – are the voters going to punish him for this? The Obama folks believe that somehow there's fatigue on debating health care. So I do wonder if it's going to fade on the national front because, by the way, Romney might be a flawed attacker on health care. House and Senate races, that's another story.

GUTHRIE: Let's talk about Chief Justice John Roberts. Tom Brokaw, not many people saw this one coming. What do you make of this almost Nixon-to-China alignment with liberals on the Court? What do think he was trying to do?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Chief Surprise; How Does Justice Roberts Decision Impact Case?]

BROKAW: Well, I'm the last person who would try to read the mind of the Chief Justice or any member of the Supreme Court, for that matter. The conventional wisdom was that, in fact, mandates would get knocked out and that Kennedy would be the swing voter in all of this. All the former Supreme Court clerks, by a margin of like 3-1, said mandates go. Now Chief Justice shows up. I do think that it lowered the temperature about the debate about the politicalization of the Court. And that's a good thing for the country, however you feel about the decisions that they're making.

TODD: Hey, so the Californian, you don't think we're going to see "Impeach Earl Warren" billboards back?

[LAUGHTER]

BROKAW: I'm not so sure. I'd just like to say one more thing, if I can. Chuck and I were really very flattered this morning when we arrived and saw all those huge crowds out there just to hear us talk about health care.

GUTHRIE: I know, they are.

TODD: I'm being accused of being a huge maroon.

GUTHRIE: We always have to increase security when you two are here.

BROKAW: It's amazing.

GUTHRIE: Tom Brokaw-

BROKAW: You gotta have us back more often, actually.

GUTHRIE: We will indeed. Chuck Todd, the traveling band. Thank you.

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