If the facts are on your side, pound the facts into the table. If the law is on your side, pound the law into the table. If neither the facts nor the law are on your side, pound the Fox News talking points into the ground:
That Cannon is defending his case by nodding like a Fox News bobblehead to an unrelated pseudo scandal is not anomalous. In both the media and in their briefs to the Supreme Court, the law’s challengers have papered over weaknesses in their historical and legal arguments with conservative bromides familiar to talk radio consumers, Fox News viewers, and recipients of anti-Obamacare talking points.
This kind of conservative argumentum ad reptilis, has a successful track record with at least one conservative justice on the Supreme Court. During oral arguments in the constitutional challenge to the Affordable Care Act three years ago, Antonin Scalia made reference sua sponte to the “Cornhusker Kickback”—a short-lived special deal for Nebraska in the Senate health care bill that became a metaphor on Fox News for the ACA’s corrupted legislative process, and was thus made national.
But to those of us outside the conservative information bubble, it speaks to two themes that define challenge itself: that it is built on a fabricated history, and that it poses a de facto test to the cohesiveness of conservative movement infrastructure. Can a case built on an informational foundation that’s rejected everywhere outside the movement stand on the strength of the right’s intellectual and professional networks? Is the apparent internal consistency of a story and argument that only conservatives believe enough to carry the day in the Supreme Court, when the stakes are this high?
Cannon’s argument use of Pelosi’s argument that passing the bill will show that conservative descriptions of it were a lie in order to defend making up additional lies about it is my favorite example.