Bob Franken

King Features Column

(Same old razz-a-ma-razz: This is a week old because the syndication deal requires that delay after its newspaper release)

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       FOR RELEASE FRIDAY, JUNE 29, 2012
       There is nothing more delicious in politics than being magnanimous as you rub your enemies’ faces in their big loss. So it was that President Barack Obama reacted to the Supremes’ ruling upholding almost all of his signature reform widely known as Obamacare: “Whatever the politics,” he said with a straight face, “Today’s decision was a victory for people all over this country.” Call that passive-aggressive gloating.
       Certainly there is a lot of celebrating in the Obama White House. Some of the “I told you so” focused on the author of the 5-4 decision, the deciding voter, Chief Justice John Roberts.
       This is the same man liberals had vilified as a right-wing ideologue, but now he was providing the legal rationale for proceeding with the Affordable Care Act, even with its financial penalty for not buying insurance, the hated mandate.

       The four dissenters complained that the law “exceeds federal power both in mandating the purchase of health insurance and in denying non-consenting states all Medicaid funding.” On that last point, the majority did say there were constraints on enforcing the Medicaid expansion, but they lost the big argument. The health-care bill lives

       Actually, just about everybody else in the politics biz could be a winner, not just the president. The Republicans get to keep the fires burning in one of their most incendiary issues, excluding, perhaps, the Birther stuff. Since the high court kept the health-care package largely in place, it’s there for the GOP to trash all the way till Election Day.
       Now they can have their symbolic vote for repeal in the House. That won’t go anywhere on the Senate side, but Mitt Romney can continue to make the empty promise that  right after he’s inaugurated, he’ll get rid of what he immediately called this “bad law.” Of course, it was his baby to begin with, a rip-off of the health-care reform he instituted in Massachusetts when he was governor. Yes, Obamacare was fathered by Romneycare. Mitt’s hoping people forget that.
       Even so, this is not the slam-dunk the Democrats would like to believe it is. They might want to cool their jets a little bit. After all, the chief justice did not buy into their argument that the mandate was legitimized by the Constitution’s Commerce Clause, so-called because it gives Congress power over commerce “among the several states.” That, he wrote, “does not authorize the mandate.”
       Instead, he determined it was allowable because, “The payment is collected solely by the IRS through the normal means of taxation.” Did everybody get that? It’s a TAX, and we all know how the GOP loves to scream the T-word.
       The truth is, they have already succeeded in demonizing the reform. There are several polls out that show that a majority of Americans oppose the Affordable Care Act, particularly the mandate. But the results at the same time, showed strong support for many other provisions; a whopping 82 percent, for instance, favoring the ban on insurance companies denying coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, 61 percent for expanding the age of children on a family plan to 26. This according to a Reuters/Ipsos online survey.
       So how could it be that such majorities embrace the specifics while scorning the overall package? There can only be one answer: The right has clobbered the left in the message competition. Once again.
       That’s either due to the conservatives’ superior advocacy skills, or the progressives’ inferior ones. Let’s put it this way: When it comes to communication, the Republicans are ruthless and the Democrats generally mealy-mouthed.
       Unless they change their ways, they are going to forfeit whatever advantage they got from their hugely significant health-reform victory in the Supreme Court. For that matter, they could blow the entire election, giving their enemies the last gloat.
       © 2012 Bob Franken
       Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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