Sunday, July 1, 2012

THE HORROR. THE HORROR.


It’s the first lesson taught in the first class of Screenwriting 101 for all Hollywood Horror film writers: Just when the audience thinks the monster is finally dead, dispatched to the nether world by the innocent would-be victims, he (or it) returns to terrorize the good citizens/innocent campers/suburban teenagers.  In every classic horror film, from Jaws to Halloween, from Nightmare on Elm Street to Friday the 13th, no amount of wit, guile, bravery or firepower ever really kills the villain.  Instead, it always returns to inflict one more episode of murder and mayhem on the unsuspecting teenager and the captivated audience.
This may be what is most frustrating about Thursday’s Supreme Court Decision about the Affordable Care Act (what the heck, let’s just call it “ObamaCare, since everyone else does).  Time and again, opponents of the monstrous legislation thought they had it licked, dead and buried, only to see it resurrect and reconfigured, continuing its march to enactment.  ObamaCare has more lives than Freddy Kreuger, Mike Myers and Jason Voorhees combined. 
Let's return to the spring of 2009, when ObamaCare’s legislative Odyssey began.  This was shortly after the Stimulus and other Obama classics, such as Cash for Clunkers, had run their ill-fated and budget-busting course.  The country continued its mire in high unemployment and low growth rates.  The combined effect of the Federal Bailouts, the Stimulus, and the emerging details of ObamaCare resulted in the birth of the Tea Party.  Citizens railed against the legislation when their Senators and Congressional representatives held Town Hall meetings in the summer.  Vocal opposition groups spontaneously sprung up around the country.  Certainly the public uproar against ObamaCare would convince Congress to focus on important issues, like jobs and the economy, rather than a statist takeover of the health care industry.
But a once-in-a-generation opportunity is a hard thing to waste.  When Congress reconvened in the fall the drafting continued in earnest.  Thanks to a perfect storm of elections unlikely to ever happen again in our lifetime, Democrats had a cloture-proof majority of 60 Senators.  Nonetheless, it appeared the country may have an early Christmas gift when several ‘Blue Dog’ Democrat Senators indicated they could not support the ObamaCare legislation.  That’s when Harry Reid and the Administration went to work, strong-arming poor Ben Nelson of Nebraska and buying his vote with the Cornhusker Kickback.  Other troublesome Democrats briskly fell in line with sorted and sundry Christmas Gifts (the Louisiana Purchase) and the Senate voted ObamaCare through in a rare Christmas Eve session with all Republicans in opposition.  Happy Christmas, one and all.


 

Just when the world was in its proper orbit for Nancy Pelosi, the Administration and ObamaCare, another funny thing happened.  Ted Kennedy, Senior Senator from the State of Massachusetts for 48 years, went to his eternal reward (we leave it to the readers to speculate on the location and nature of that reward).  Not to worry; certainly the good citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts would never award the ‘Kennedy Seat’ to a Republican.  Yet Republican Scott Brown, campaigning in part on a theme of “the 41st vote against Obamacare,” pounded the hapless Martha Coakley.  This must be it, we all thought, this legislation is toast.  The Senate doesn’t have the 60 votes to survive cloture.  Monster killed; crisis averted; Republic saved.

Rising from the dead like a team of zombies from the graveyard, and led by Zombie Majority Leader Harry Reid, a new path for legislative enactment was blazed.  Cloture be dammed.  We will call this revenue raising legislation, and pass it through the reconciliation process with a mere majority of the vote of the Senate.  And that is just what they did.  As Butch and Sundance wondered, “who are those guys?”
With the Senate vote secured, one task remained before ObamaCare could become the Law of the Land.  The reconciled legislation had to return to the House of Representatives for an up/down vote.  A group of pro-life Democrats – and who knew such creatures even existed – led by Bart Stupak stated they could not support the legislation unless it included specific language that Federal tax dollars would not be spent on funding abortions.  For about ten days, it looked like ObamaCare had met its match.  After all, the Administration could not afford to alienate one of its most dedicated interest groups – the pro-abortion crowd – while also appeasing these (alleged) pro-life Democrats? 


 Was this finally the silver bullet? the stake through the heart?  Just as our audience relaxed, the monster rose again, this time with the pledge of a face-saving Executive Order.  That fig leaf is good enough for us, said Congressman Stupak and his merry gang of one-time Representatives (many of whom lost their reelection bids in 2010 for this very reason).  The pro-lifers were purchased with a “Signing Statement on Steroids,” as Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Tribe described the Executive Order.  Having secured the necessary votes, despite the unanimous opposition of Republicans in both the Senate and the House, Obama signed his signature legislation on March 23, 2010.
Bloodied, yet unbowed, opponents vowed to fight on, this time in the Courts.  Almost immediately lawsuits were filed challenging the Constitutionality of ObamaCare, particularly its individual mandate that virtually all Americans must purchase or be the beneficiary of compliant health insurance.  The issues proceeded briskly through the District and Appellate Courts, and ultimately were joined for final disposition to the Supreme Court. 
And this is why Thursday’s decision probably hurts the most to Republicans and Conservatives.  While the Democrats controlled the legislative battle field and played parliamentary and “Signing Statement” games to secure ObamaCare’s passage, we were fighting on our turf at the Supreme Court.  Rules and precedent matter there; you just don’t play games with the U.S. Constitution.  With a majority of five Republican-appointed Justices, including the Chief, certainly ObamaCare would be dispatched to the dustbin of history (apologies to President Reagan). 
The oral arguments could not have gone better for the good guys (see previous post “Verrilli’s Last Laugh”).  All that was required was persuading the mercurial Anthony Kennedy – and as we discovered on Thursday morning, he did it!  But somewhere along the line Chief Justice Roberts concluded that what President Obama assured us for thirty months was not a tax was in fact a tax, and within the power of the Congress to impose.  What?  This isn’t supposed to happen.  Yes, the monster always leaves wreckage and bodies in its wake, but ultimately the good citizens always win.  Don’t they? 
I will briefly comment on the substance of the Supreme Court’s decision later, but what these events prove is, like your grandfather probably told you a hundred times, you can’t count on someone else to do the job.  We have the opportunity to finally bury ObamaCare and this lawless Administration in November.  We can’t rely on the Supreme Court, or any other hero to come riding into town to finally dispatch the villain.  It’s up to us.  Our Republic and the Constitution are too important. This election may be our last chance. 

The most tenacious villain of them all.
Let’s not blow it.      

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