George Will + Fact Checker = Confusion

George WillJim Naureckas at FAIR made a great catch, George Will Won’t Throw Out a Perfectly Good Column Just Because Its Premise Is Completely Wrong. Apparently, George Will publishes his columns first in Investor’s Business Daily and only later do they appear in The Washington Post. In between these publication, someone at The Washington Post actually fact checks the article. Because Will made a huge mistake: he thought that the decision in King v Burwell was based on the so-called Chevron deference.

This is based upon the case Chevron USA, Inc v Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. In that case, the Court decided that when a statute is ambiguous, deference should be given to the reading of the executive agency. Before the King v Burwell decision arrived, a lot of people speculated that the Court might find against the plaintiffs using Chevron deference. But after the case came out, it was widely reported that Roberts specifically did not use Chevron deference. This was a big deal because it made the case all that more stronger a decision for the government because it meant that a future Republican president couldn’t just decide not to offer the subsidies to people buying insurance on the federal exchanges.

Somehow, George Will missed this. Like I said: it was widely reported — so widely that I knew about it and when I started reading Naureckas’ article, I thought, “But this case wasn’t based on Chevron!” I soon learned that was the whole point. But the fact that George Will missed it is probably an indication how cut off he is from normal news. The conservative media were too focused on how the decision was the very end of freedom in America. Just look at Will’s overblown headline, “On Obamacare, John Roberts helps overthrow the Constitution.” But it’s so much worse than just being wrong.

In his first draft, George Will wrote, “Rolling up the sleeves of his black robe and buckling down to the business of redrafting the ACA, Roberts cites a doctrine known as ‘Chevron deference.'” By the time the editors at The Washington Post got done with it, it read, “Rolling up the sleeves of his black robe and buckling down to the business of redrafting the ACA, Roberts invents a corollary to ‘Chevron deference.'” And it goes on from there. Rather than just replacing the three paragraphs about the Chevron deference — just 160 words — he made minor edits to keep it there, even though it isn’t central to what is, after all, just a rant.

I understand this. After you write an article, it is really hard to delete it, even if it turns out to be based upon a misapprehension. But I suspect that it just doesn’t matter to George Will. Here is the critical paragraph — the one where he makes his central point:

The Roberts Doctrine facilitates what has been for a century progressivism’s central objective, the overthrow of the Constitution’s architecture. The separation of powers impedes progressivism by preventing government from wielding uninhibited power. Such power would result if its branches behaved as partners in harness rather than as wary, balancing rivals maintaining constitutional equipoise.

What you will notice there is that it is not falsifiable. “Progressivism” is some monster that he’s conjured; it isn’t a thing and and it doesn’t have a “central objective.” The claim that the separation of powers was meant to stop progressive action is just one of those conservative canards that people like George Will “know” to be true without evidence. So what would be the point of giving up the Chevron deference section? It’s just words. The point is that George Will is really really unhappy with John Roberts and he wants us all to know that freedom is dead.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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