Perhaps he was still on cloud nine as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that upheld the constitutionality of his historic health-care reform initiative. But when President Barack Obama called on Republicans to end their opposition, he came across as politically naive. He can’t be, can he?
There’s a reason the presumptive Republican nominee for president, Mitt Romney, reacted to the 5-4 ruling by pledging to kill the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act if he is elected. Likewise, there’s a reason the speaker of the House, John Boehner, R-Ohio, is moving quickly to repeal what is derisively called Obamacare.
Republicans believe they have a winning issue for the November general election — just as they had in the 2010 midterm elections. National polls have consistently shown that the American people do not support health-care reform as an all-encompassing law, but agree with some of the key provisions.
The GOP, aware that the tea party movement gained widespread support by railing against the government’s takeover of health care, isn’t about to let this issue disappear into the fog of political bipartisanship.
And yet, President Obama seemed to suggest that he can persuade those who seek to block his re-election bid to end the internecine warfare and put the interest of the country before politics.
Here’s what he said in his response to Thursday’s Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act:
“The highest court in the land has now spoken. We will continue to implement this law. And we’ll work together to improve on it where we can. But what we won’t do — what the country can’t afford to do — is refight the political battles of two years ago, or go back to the way things were.”
Obama might not want to “refight the political battles of two years ago, or to go back to the way things were,” but Republicans have wasted no time in stepping up their attacks on him and his party.
Given the closeness of the presidential election and the national defeat suffered by Democrats in 2010 — they lost the U.S. House, governorships and state legislatures — the Supreme Court’s ruling may well turn out to a political disaster for them.
Had a majority of the justices declared the health-care reform act unconstitutional, the president and his party could have campaigned against those heartless Republicans who don’t care if you can’t get insurance because of a pre-existing medical condition, or because you are among the working poor. They could have told young people up to the age of 26 that the GOP took away their ability to be on their parents’ health insurance. And they could have told senior citizens that the cost of prescription drugs will skyrocket because the Republicans are owned by the pharmaceutical companies.
Finally, they could have said to working people who make minimum wage and do not receive health insurance from their employers that the Republicans prevented them from joining Medicaid, as the Affordable Care Act would have allowed.
But now, Obama and Democrats have to defend the health-care law against the uncompromising Republicans. That won’t be easy to do, given the growing perception that this is nothing more than the president pushing his socialist agenda.
Smell of blood
Obama may want to change the political conversation in the next four months leading up to the general election, but Romney, Boehner and the rest of the GOP on the national, state and local levels smell blood.
It doesn’t matter that Chief Justice John Roberts, who cast the deciding vote in the Supreme Court, was appointed by a Republican president.
Indeed, in joining with the four liberal justices on the bench, Chief Justice Roberts may have unintentionally hurt the president — while supporting the health-care reform initiative.
In upholding the legality of the individual mandate, which is fueling the opposition, Roberts said Congress had a right to “tax” Americans who do not purchase health insurance. The law talks about a penalty, but the chief justice used the “T” word.
In so doing, he gave Republicans another avenue of attack. The narrative is already being repeated ad nauseam by GOPers: Obama said the law does not increase taxes, but the Supreme Court says it does.
The GOP isn’t about to make nice with President Obama.