'This Week' Extra: The Roundtable's Post-Show Thoughts

VIDEO: George Will, Cokie Roberts, Donna Brazile, Matthew Dowd and Terry Moran.
ABCNEWS.com

Following the "This Week" roundtable today, we asked our roundtable participants to expand on their discussion of the GOP presidential race, the Trayvon Martin shooting, and President Obama's health care law coming before the Supreme Court.

Here are their views:

Donna Brazile: Etch A Sketch Draws a Bad Picture for Romney

As Michael Kinsley famously said, a gaffe is when someone inadvertently tells the truth. Mitt Romney is an Etch A Sketch – no one knows who he will be, where he will stand, or what he will say next week.

As the GOP's presidential race drags on – some commentators say it won't be until May or June when Governor Romney could possibly secure the required number of delegates to clinch the nomination – the top two Republican candidates tear each other to pieces in a hunt for support. With 21 states and 1,099 delegates still outstanding, this has become a war of attrition.

In fact, the only Americans benefitting from the ongoing Republican race to the bottom are the employees of Ohio Art, the company that makes Etch A Sketches, as their stock surged after Romney top aide Eric Fehrnstrom's gaffe. If this is the only way that Romney can create jobs, we should probably stick with the president who has brought us two years of continuous job growth, saved the auto industry, and brought our economy back from the brink.

As Matt Dowd pointed out on the "This Week" roundtable, some people are comparing the Etch A Sketch gaffe to Senator John Kerry's fatal 2004 comment on Iraq war funding, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." In that statement, Kerry on camera confirmed what his opponents believed about him. Eric's Fehrnstrom's comment about the Etch A Sketch confirms what the Republican base thinks about Romney.

And it's worse for the Romney campaign. The Etch A Sketch snafu is a very costly error: they just bought themselves a longer primary, a narrower set of choices for vice president, and a much more conservative platform. It ensures that Romney will continue to have to tack to the right, when occupying the center is the only place where he has a chance of winning the general election.

One more irony: a senior Democratic strategist just read the acknowledgements section of Mitt Romney's campaign autobiography, "No Apologies." In it, Romney thanks: "Eric Fehrnstrom, my press and communications professional for seven years, (who) made sure that what I wrote accurately reflected what I actually wanted to say."

Matthew Dowd: Lessons From Trayvon Martin Tragedy

The tragic death of Trayvon Martin and media focus on it this past week has shown us a few things important to notice:

1. There are still stories out there and news to be discovered, and sometimes the media misses it until some citizens speak up and get noticed. Never assume folks in media already know everything.

2. The response to this tragedy has touched something deeper in our country. We are not past the race wounds on all sides, and many in society still feel left out and uncared for at so many levels. We know Trayvon's name but we still don't know the names of the young children who die every day in Detroit or Cleveland or Los Angeles or New York, or small towns in America from violence or even hunger.

3. There are still "leaders" out there on all sides who are willing to take advantage of a tragedy to make emotionally or racially charged statements that incite people, when real leadership should be measured and calming, as President Obama showed this week. Whether it is Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson or Newt Gingrich's irresponsible remarks: this isn't a War on Blacks – it was the actions of one likely disturbed man.

4. The good news is the renewed focus on laws on the books in many states that encourage gun ownership and violent reactions in self-defense. I am amazed that the same folks who pass these laws are the same ones who want prayer in schools and say we are a Christian nation. I guess they forgot about turning the other cheek and loving your enemies.

5. I hope we see this as an opportunity to come together instead of split apart, and really find out the truth, allow justice to be served, and maybe get to the point where forgiveness can flower. Forgiveness will start in the search for the truth, as Desmond Tutu has very well pointed out. I hope compassion and love is the end point of all this and not hate or anger. As Nelson Mandela has said, hate or anger is a poison we swallow thinking we are hurting the other person.

Terry Moran: Can Supreme Court Avoid Judicial Supremacism?

I had a great time on the roundtable on "This Week" with George Will, Cokie Roberts, Donna Brazile and Matt Dowd. It was fast, funny, smart, and passionate. It reminded me of the Moran family dinner table growing up; there were 12 of us, and you had to speak up crisply, make your point swiftly – and duck. Good fun.

One of the things we discussed was health care – "Obamacare" – and the Supreme Court. George S. showed an amazing shot of people lining up outside the Supreme Court in Washington in the morning March drizzle, hoping to get a ticket for the three days of arguments coming up this week. I thought: Really? In 2012? Of all the courthouses in America, this one should have cameras in it.

On health care, an old quote: "The Supreme Court follows the election returns," the humorist Finley Peter Dunne famously wrote. But in these health care cases, I think a few key justices might actually want to wait for the election returns.

Why? Because some of the biggest mistakes the Court has made in our history came in cases the justices did NOT have to decide.

Dred Scott v. Sanford – the infamous 1856 case that declared black people could not be American citizens and helped bring on the Civil War – is the perfect example of judicial overreach. Chief Justice Roger Taney believed he could craft a grand, Olympian resolution to the slavery issue. His arrogance made everything worse.

Bush v. Gore is another. We've had plenty of close, contested, controversial elections in our history. The Constitution provides a perfect road map for resolving them – in the House of Representatives, if necessary, as we've done twice before (George W. Bush still would have won in 2000 in the House, by the way.) But for some reason, the Court seized the moment, seized power and short-circuited the political process, awarding victory to Bush – and earning the distrust of half the citizenry.

This is judicial supremacism. The left has done it. The right has done it. But more and more, scholars both liberal and conservative argue that the Constitution belongs to "We the People" first, and that judges should let us work out constitutional issues in our political process, if at all practicable, rather than constantly take center stage and declare from on high what's what in America. Especially if their decisions look suspiciously like raw politics dressed up as law.

It hurts the authority and the perceived impartiality of the Supreme Court if citizens see it as just nine more politicians up there, nine more political hacks siding with one party or the other. The justices know this, and some are worried about it. They know that the respect and trust of the people are the true and only sources of the Court's authority. They do not want to squander that.

So what I tried to say on the roundtable was this: The people of America are engaged in a great and profound constitutional debate about Obama's health care program. One party and its presidential candidate will support and defend it; the other will oppose and seek to repeal it. It's democracy in action in its purest form.

Why should the Court step in, cut off that grand debate, and award total victory to one side – if it does not have to?

In these cases, there's a way out for the justices. Much of the law has not yet gone into effect, including the individual mandate to purchase health insurance – the most controversial part of the law. Americans who refuse to have health insurance will have to pay a penalty, collected by the IRS. A very old law on the books, called the Anti-Injunction Act, says that, in order to challenge a tax in court, you have to pay it first, then bring your case. But no one has paid the penalty to the IRS yet. There really is no case here yet.

That's an argument the Court will hear first, on Monday. It gives the justices a way to step back for a while, let the American people in their political process sort this out in the election. If there are still constitutional issues afterwards, the Court can take up the matter then. But it does not always have to decide first. We can.

In other countries, courts hand down what are called "advisory opinions." They just proclaim their judgment on laws – even if there is no case before them, no real people really affected in the real world by the operation of the law. It's a bad idea. Our founders did not like it. Our courts have never done it.

And it just may be, as Chief Justice John Roberts looks out at the circus growing on the Court's plaza, that he and a couple of his colleagues may think it best to duck this one, for now, and let the people decide.

Cokie Roberts: Saints' Bounty Program Was Criminal Behavior

Donna Brazile and I are used to the New Orleans Saints breaking our hearts. But not recently. Our beloved hometown football team used to disappoint us with its endless losing streaks. But after Hurricane Katrina ravaged our quirky and grand city, the Saints returned to New Orleans ready to help re-build it. Many of the team members had been cast off by other NFL franchises, and they seemed the perfect match for a city that felt cast off by the country.

The players, coaches and owners pitched in to support all kinds of civic ventures. Before home games the former archbishop presided over Mass in the Superdome. And, maybe because of all those good works and all those prayers, the team started winning. The Saints' victory in the 2010 Super Bowl seemed nothing short of a miracle. The whole city, including those of us in the diaspora, stood proud as our team showed that we could not only survive but come out on top.

But now we have to ask: was it really the prayers that made the difference – those endless rosary beads fingered for the Saints – or was it the bounties paid to players who hurt their competitors? The revelation that the defensive coordinator was awarding bonuses of $1,000 for a "cart-off" and $1,500 for a "knockout" has once again broken our hearts. And the Saints will pay a price – the NFL has suspended the head coach for a full season and other managers for part of it. The team loses $500,000 in fines and two second-round draft picks. Penalties against more than 20 players are still pending.

As tough as those punishments seem to football fans, the perpetrators will be lucky if that's all that happens to them. It seems to me that they should be brought up under assault charges. The NFL is clearly worried about lawsuits since more than 600 former players are currently in court over their injuries, claiming that the league didn't provide enough safety precautions. Ambulance-chasing lawyers trying to drum up business are advertising for more players to bring suit. But those are civil cases where the plaintiffs are looking for cash payouts and better medical benefits. I'm talking about criminal behavior. I don't see why intentionally assaulting someone on a ball field is any different from a bar.

And here's where the league has been complicit, viewing these attacks as part of the game. It's your basic "boys will be boys" attitude. That attitude has protected perpetrators of domestic violence for generations. "He got worked up; it was the heat of the moment; he had too much to drink and roughed her up a little bit." Whatever the excuse, the assailant was seen as behaving normally, not criminally.

But finally the society now understands that a man who attacks his wife at home is just as guilty as a man who attacks a stranger in public. An assault is an assault says the law, and it is a crime. So what about football players assaulting each other? It's not a question the NFL wants answered.

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