Obamacare on Trial

I realize that at this moment in time, far more people are concerned about Trayvon Martin’s tweets or George Zimmerman’s facial injuries, but this week there was something far more important happening, with much longer lasting consequences

The United States Supreme Court, the highest c...

The United States Supreme Court, the highest court in the United States, in 2010. Top row (left to right): Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer, Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito, and Associate Justice Elena Kagan. Bottom row (left to right): Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, and Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

than anything that happens in Sanford’s Bonfire of the Vanities.  I’m talking about the oral arguments for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or as it’s more commonly known; Obamacare.

Not since the second Militia Act of 1792 has the Congress ordered citizens to purchase something.  In that case, it was a musket and accessories.  But that was under the President’s article 2 powers, not the commerce clause, so the Obamacare mandate to purchase health insurance is something brand new.  Unless you’re simply a statist who regards the State as superior to everything else in society, including the constitution, that’s a tough sell.  And Solicitor General Donald Verrilli showed that before the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Verrilli has taken a lot of heat for his nervous stumbling and bumbling before the court, but I’m not sure if he had been composed, calm, and collected it would have made a difference.  He just didn’t have good arguments.  Particularly for questions that he must have known that he would be asked, as when Justice Kennedy asked about the limits of the commerce clause.  I don’t think even Joe Pesci from My Cousin Vinny could have saved this case.

I was particularly struck by the news coverage this week that the pundits, talking heads, and reporters simply accepted as a given that the four liberal judges would vote to uphold the law, no questions asked.  The debate seemed to roll around the idea that Justice Kennedy, the swing vote, could be persuaded to come down on the side of the law.  There was even some speculation that Chief Justice Roberts might put aside “politics” to vote to uphold.

Since of course to vote the law down is political, but to uphold the law would just be good jurisprudence!

But for the liberal judges there isn’t that sort of pressure.  No one is asking the liberal justices to “put aside politics.”  One of the benefits of being a liberal judge who believes in a living, breathing, constantly evolving constitution is that you don’t have to worry about the actual text of the constitution, or the intent of the founders.  A living constitution means never having to say you’re sorry.  Or, to put it another way, if the law feels good, do it.

Leave the cracking of books to the strict constructionist eggheads.

If the individual mandate goes down, it would be with a bit of irony, since President Obama originally opposed the mandate during the 2008 campaign, using some of the same arguments against Hillary that the President’s opponents are now using against him.

He should have stuck with his first instinct.

We’re not going to find out how this all plays out until later this summer when the court releases its decision even though the Justices likely voted on this issue today.  But I’m not afraid to go ahead and handicap the decision now.  My gut feeling is that the odds are better than even that the court will uphold the mandate.  I base that on the fact that the mandate has 4 automatic votes for.  So that means that only one vote is needed to be swayed among the other five Justices who actually have to study this case (unlike Ginsberg and Breyer, who will be windsurfing instead of reading law books).

But if the mandate is overturned, I think it’s likely that most of the law will stand intact.  I figure the Justices will just throw this mess back to Congress to fix the creaking boat of Obamacare with a mandate sized hole in the bottom of it. The Congress, divided as it is, will be able to accomplish nothing.  At least until next year.  And what then happens to health reform will largely depend on which party does well in November.

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There’s a Lynch Mob Down South…

…and by down south, I mean Sanford Florida, which is south of me, about 10 minutes away.  So the Trayvon Martin issue was a local news item several weeks before it became an international one.  But the character of the tragedy has changed over time:

SANFORD, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) – Investigators with the Sanford Police Department are still trying to figure out exactly what happened during an altercation which resulted in a fatal shooting in the Twin Lakes area.   The shooting happened just after 7 p.m. Sunday evening on Twin Trees Lane.  A man who witnessed part of the altercation contacted authorities.

“The guy on the bottom, who had a red sweater on, was yelling to me, ‘Help! Help!’ and I told him to stop, and I was calling 911,” said the witness, who asked to be identified only by his first name, John.

John said he locked his patio door ran upstairs and heard at least one gun shot.

“And then, when I got upstairs and looked down, the guy who was on the top beating up the other guy, was the one laying in the grass, and I believe he was dead at that point.”

So in this eyewitness version, the attacker was the one who ended up dead, and Zimmerman was the one crying for help.  That leads me to think there is ample reason for the police to at least take seriously a possible self defense angle and it makes sense that the police would investigate this thoroughly before either making an arrest or closing the case. But as far as the mass media is concerned, there has only ever been one issue in this case: race.  Of course, this incident occurred almost a month ago.  And apparently it’s not nearly as good a story as the one that the media decided to run with. The news coverage this week has had quite a different flavor.  Over the top is more like it.

The big tent of this particular circus is MSNBC, (Leaning Leftward!).  Today hosting on the Martin Bashir Show, Karen Finney, frequent MSNBC guest, went into what seemed to be a prepared monologue in which she blamed both Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich for the climate that lead to Trayvon’s death. Morning Joe’s Mika Brzezinski went out of her way to blame the shooting on Rush Limbaugh.  Also on Thursday she stated that that if Zimmerman was bloodied and disheveled, he probably did it to himself.  Great police work there Mika!

The entire coverage of this incident has resembled much more peasants lighting their torches and sharpening their pitchforks than actual coverage.  Of course, there are motives.  Hysteria is a good sell, but the racial issue warps our attention away from facts to make this issue only about race.  For some on the MSNBC payroll, like Al Sharpton, racial rabble rousing is his career.  Even though he is responsible for more dead bodies than George Zimmerman, Sharpton can be expected to ride this to even more influence.

The basic facts of the case don’t seem to make this a racial issue, but everyone wants it to be.  However the basic facts no longer matter. Usually, the US has a fairly adequate, if by no means perfect, justice system.  However when it comes to race, everything goes out the window.  Race makes us lose our damn minds.  That’s why Casey Anthony can get a fair trial and get acquitted (even though we all know she did it), but the police who beat Rodney King were given a second trial in violation of constitutional protections against double jeopardy to make sure the second trial gave the “right” verdict.

This isn’t an attempt to excuse Zimmerman.  The minute he decided to follow Martin after the 911 dispatcher told him not to, he was in the wrong.  The problem with police wannabes like Zimmerman is that they do tend to attract police attention one way or the other.  Even if Martin later turned around and attacked Zimmerman for some unknown reason, the whole thing could have been avoided if Zimmerman had just sat in his car.  He didn’t and now a teenage boy is dead.

It would be easy to get on the bandwagon and demand Zimmerman’s head on a pike.  That is what all the cool kids are doing.  However I’m perfectly content to see what the investigation uncovers.  I’ve no desire to join the other villagers in burning down the windmill until we have more facts, instead of inaccurate ranting from MSNBC hosts.  Ultimately though, it may not matter what facts are uncovered.  We’ve moved beyond mere facts now.

Meanwhile, as Sanford has its own bonfire of the vanities, I expect Tim Wolfe will write the nonfiction version of this story. Another thing I’m sure of is that Zimmerman will be indicted for something; anything.

The mob demands it.

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