The political genius of George Will's grunting, artificial victory lap--"If the mandate had been upheld under the Commerce Clause, the Supreme Court would have decisively construed this clause so permissively as to give Congress an essentially unlimited police power"--is its unempirical implication that future Congresses otherwise, and inexorably, would indeed have sought unlimited police power.
It's the old government-as-bogeyman thing, about which pseudoconservatives and ideologically damaged conservatives like Will are forever ringing alarm bells. The feds are a comin', the feds are gonna getcha, the feds will countenance no limits on power, and so on. The traditional school of conservatism framed such warnings in comparatively subdued tones and with remarkable intellectual decorum and historical perspective, while today's pseudoconservatives simply scream Bogeyman!--as though he's a given, right under the bed.
Yet it must be remembered that American Congresses have always played "activist" catch-up to the population's demands for expanded civil rights, for women's rights, for gay rights, for workers' rights, for progressive taxation, for environmental protections ... ad infinitum. These causes never erupted from power-hungry congressional cloakrooms; they instead met conservative resistance there.
Painful though it is, perhaps that's how it should be, in that major social change achieved radically rarely if ever sticks. (Just ask the Russians, or Chinese, or Cambodians, or the 18th-century French.) At any rate, that's how it has always worked in this country, and--assuming the pseudoconservatives don't get their radical way--that's how it always will; Congress is habitually behind the curve.
But let's allow George his fantasy, I suppose. This morning, it's pretty much the only thing he has to boast about.