With the start of the baseball season upon us, it is fitting to discuss the political news as a matter of strikes. As in, three and you’re out!
First comes a pitch about the word. “ObamaCare” does not compliment its namesake, having been coined by opponents as shorthand for a budget-busting Washington power grab. Yet the catchy handle has gained wide acceptance, especially on Internet search engines, so the president recently embraced it, saying “I do care.” His lame attempt at linguistic jujitsu only proves the obvious — he has lost the public debate about what to call his spawn.
The next offering involves the three days of Supreme Court hearings over the law, which were a refreshing rebuke to elite conventional wisdom and a salute to the common sense of the crowd. The reference point was then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s answer two years ago when she was asked whether the law was constitutional.
“Are you serious?” she responded. Notwithstanding lawsuits by 26 states, most liberal commentators adopted Pelosi’s certainty that the Supremes would uphold the law, the only drama being the margin. Some predicted an 8-1 vote, a landslide projection that had some conservatives ready to wave the white flag.
The public begs to differ. As the hearings began, several polls found two-thirds of voters wanted the court to throw out all or some of it, especially the mandate requiring every American to buy insurance.
Either a majority of the justices were listening to the public, or great minds think alike. The tenor of their questions on the mandate clearly suggests ObamaCare is in big trouble. That sense was compounded when a conversation about whether the whole law would collapse without the mandate had even liberal justices sounding as if the mandate was history.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for instance, declared that without the mandate, “the more conservative approach would be salvage rather than throwing out everything.”
The fatal weakness centers on the most critical test: if the mandate is constitutional under the commerce clause, is there any limit to congressional power? “Therefore, you can make people buy broccoli,” Justice Antonin Scalia famously suggested. Obama’s lawyer rejected the analogy, but never cited an example of something Congress couldn’t force people to do.
With Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the swing vote, looking for a limit he didn’t get, predictions have reversed and it now would be a shock if the law were upheld.
Before the hearings were over, Obama’s campaign team knew the score and was drawing up Plan B. Assuming the mandate and perhaps the whole law will be tossed, supporters started fulminating about running against the Supreme Court. Some fantasized that a defeat of ObamaCare would energize the party base.
“I think that this will be the best thing that ever happened to the Democratic Party because health care costs are gonna escalate unbelievably,” James Carville told CNN, adding that Republicans would be blamed and court control would become part of the campaign.
The argument is ridiculous. Apart from cheering on high health care costs, Carville’s logic is flawed. The vast majority of voters want the Supremes to throw out the law, so it’s more than a little dopey to believe the same voters would then turn around and punish the court for doing just that.
In fact, the threats and thrashing about illustrate the gaping hole at the center of the Obama presidency. Bereft of real ideas for economic growth, deficit reduction and entitlement reform, Obama has resorted to vulgar class warfare in hopes of squeaking out a second term.
To add attacks on the court because it blocked his constitutional overreach hardly seems like a winning proposition. More likely, it would do just the opposite. It would remind the public of his illegitimate power grab, energize the GOP base and persuade independent voters in swing states that he can’t be trusted with a second term.
Strike three, he’s out!
Michael Goodwin is a Fox News contributor and New York Post columnist. To continue reading his column on other topics including President Obama's budget, click here.