Former President Bill Clinton, who used to teach constitutional law, has a list of cases he seems surprised the Obama administration didn't cite in its arguments defending the health care law before the U.S. Supreme Court last week.
"It seemed to me that the conservative justices were just accepting as a matter of course that there was a serious constitutional question here," the former president said, "and that they didn't make the plaintiffs, the people that want to strike the law down, prove their case."
"Nobody asked, for example, do they want to overturn a case called Wickard v. Filburn in 1942," Clinton said. "Where in the beginning of World War II, where we were still coming out of the Depression, a farmer was told and the Supreme Court upheld the ability of the federal government to limit his ability to grow food on his own farm for personal consumption. Because they said it affected the aggregate amount of food consumed in interstate commerce and the price of food."
Said Clinton, of the case, "that goes far further than the individual mandate. No one can question that the accumulated decisions by American individuals not to buy health care adds $1,000 a year to your health care premium."
President Clinton noted, smiling, that "Justice (Antonin) Scalia loves the framers, right? We're somehow supposed to follow the intent of the framers. I believe George Washington signed a bill to require shipping companies to insure their employees. I believe George Washington- I could be wrong about this. I believe he signed a bill to require able-bodied male citizens to have a rifle in their home. In case the British came back. Now, that's not the right to keep and bear arms. You don't have a right not to bear one. All the Quakers were supposed to buy rifles." He added that President "John Adams, another framer, signed a bill to require individual seamen to buy hospitalization insurance."
Said Clinton, "So if those facts are right, what is this case about, anyway? Unless it's politics."
The president made his comments in an exclusive interview with ABC News focused on his work with Clinton Global Initiative University.
Asked if he thinks the Supreme Court is too political, the president said, "only occasionally." This court, he said, is "genuinely more conservative. And I think that conservatives in general believe that every branch of government should advance their philosophy. Prosecutors, judges, no different than members of Congress. That's a different view than we've had in the past. But you saw that in the Bush V. Gore decision."
The former president began recalling that 2000 case in detail, calling it "a pretty political decision. It was the most amazing thing I'd ever seen."
How would that case impact this one?
"I think it will make them either more willing to do it again, or maybe they say, 'You know, we probably shouldn't do that again.,'" Clinton said.
The president reiterated that he found it "interesting that- that there was apparently no discussion of those previous examples of individual mandates."