In its June 2014 decision in National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that President Barack Obama violated the Constitution by failing to obtain the Senate's advice and consent for three appointees added to the National Labor Relations Board in January 2012. Although the president claimed to be exercising his constitutional power to "fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate," the Senate was not—according to its own rules—in recess at that time. Obama's unilateral actions therefore ran afoul of the separation of powers and exceeded his lawful executive authority. As the Supreme Court unanimously put it, "for purposes of the Recess Appointments Clause, the Senate is in session when it says it is."
Or at least that's what the Supreme Court wrote. Liberal pundit Linda Greenhouse of The New York Times claims to have divined a different message. "By any objective view," she writes in a recent op-ed, "this narrowly technical decision was a major victory for the president."
It's true that Noel Canning could turned out even worse for the White House. Four justices, for example, would have gone further than the majority opinion and placed far greater limits on presidential power. But that hardly changes the fact that Obama's three purported recess appointments were ruled unconstitutional by all nine members of the Court.
According to Greenhouse, "Only an inside-the-Beltway commentariat, infected by a toxic politic atmosphere that obliterates all nuance, could have construed the decision as a defeat." I wonder what sort of commentariat could construe a 9-0 loss as a "major victory."