(POLITICO) Tuesday may have been the biggest day in Solicitor General Donald Verrilli's career, when he went before the Supreme Court to defend the central tenet of the health care reform law.
To many who were watching, it looked like he choked.
"He was passive. He was stumbling. He was nervous," CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin told POLITICO. "I was just shocked.
His halting delivery was so pronounced that BuzzFeed mercilessly edited together 40 seconds of coughing, throat clearing and water-drinking.
"I've seen him argue under pressure," said Arnold and Porter's Lisa Blatt, a former assistant to the solicitor general who's argued 30 cases before the Supreme Court. Blatt, who listened to audio of the argument, said, "That's not the way he usually sounds."