Even before the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare on Thursday, one could detect among liberals a certain desperate willingness to pronounce the health care debate “over.” The message from the president and his surrogates—from the flacks at the DNC to the hacks at MSNBC—was that it was time, to use a favorite phrase of the left, to move on.
“We’re not going to re-litigate health care reform,” President Obama told an audience in Philadelphia earlier this month. The American people “understand we don’t need to refight this battle over health care,” he said at a fundraiser in Atlanta on Tuesday. “What the country cannot afford to do is refight the political battles of two years ago,”he said after the Court issued its decision.
But Obama is wrong. The health care battle is not settled. On the contrary: Justice Roberts’s opinion has airlifted the combatants to a different battlefield altogether. By affirming the individual mandate not on the grounds of the Commerce Clause but the congressional power to tax, Roberts has, intentionally or not, exposed the president as a liar, and as willing to raise taxes on the middle class.
Roberts has therefore handed Republican challenger Mitt Romney a powerful issue in the midst of a bitter and nasty and close presidential campaign. And Roberts’ elevation of the 2012 stakes arrives at a critical moment. Romney was getting tripped up in the brambles of immigration and outsourcing; now he can move to smoother terrain. Only liberals caught up in the backslapping and football-spiking euphoria of the moment will miss what is going on here: John Roberts just threw a lifeline to Mitt Romney’s campaign.