Surprise! The frazzled, frothing, obstructionist Republicans had set aside the date of June 28th as the day they would finally decapitate the Obama administration, but a funny thing happened on the way to the guillotine.
The Tea-Party-dominated GOP had scheduled a House vote to declare Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress hours after the Supreme Court was due to strike down Obamacare, delivering the old one-two punch to the president's chances for a second term. Minority leader John Boehner had warned his troops that there would be no celebrations and "no spiking the ball." Instead, they got sacked in their own end zone, and the other team did the celebrating. If I say that the conservatives' ace reliever walked in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth, I will have made three separate sports analogies in one paragraph.
Everyone on both sides expected the Supreme Court to hand President Barry his hat and overturn his major legislative accomplishment, but somehow Chief Justice John Roberts developed a conscience and not only sided with the court's "liberals" but wrote the majority opinion that upheld the legality of the Affordable Care Act. The Tea Party had set up microphones to bleat their delight to the lame-stream media, but instead they ran from the courthouse steps screaming, "It's a tax! It's a tax!" like Charlton Heston shouting, "It's people! Soylent Green is made from people!"
Later in the day, the GOP-produced Eric Holder passion play was spoiled when outraged Democrats refused to participate in this particular farce and walked out, leaving the right-wing centurions to hammer in the nails alone. Thus, for allegedly withholding documents concerning a botched operation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms called "Fast and Furious," Holder — not John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales, or Janet Reno — became the first sitting cabinet officer in American history to be held in contempt of Congress.
California representative Darrell Issa, the leader of this posse, sputtered, "Very clearly, [the ATF] made a crisis and they are using this crisis to somehow take away or limit people's Second Amendment rights." Translating from the overtly hysterical, the ATF supposedly allowed guns to be smuggled to Mexican drug cartels so the resulting carnage would so horrify this country's citizens that the confiscation of firearms would begin, triggering the Second American Revolution. This effort to humiliate Obama on the same day that his health-care legislation was due to be struck down would have been declared transparent on its face had it not contained a kernel of truth. A Border Patrol Agent, Brian Terry, was murdered with a gun purchased by a suspect that the ATF office in Phoenix was tracking. Journalist Katherine Eban has written an article for Fortune titled "The Truth About the Fast and Furious Scandal," which offers a definitive account of the tragic episode. Eban concludes, "The ATF never intentionally allowed guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels," and quotes IRS special agent Linda Wallace, who investigated the case, saying, "Republican senators are whipping up the country into a psychotic frenzy with these reports that are patently false."
As for the historic decision upholding the Affordable Care Act, I was all set to rail about this overtly politicized Supreme Court and how, once again, a conservative majority did the bidding of the Republican Party. I was going to reference Bush v. Gore and Citizens United as the first two nails in democracy's coffin, and overturning Obamacare was the third. I was prepared to draw parallels between the Roberts court and the courts of the 1930s, which thwarted FDR's New Deal, and was absolutely convinced another 5-4 decision along party lines was forthcoming. This convincingly proves that I don't know squat. Only, I'm in good company. Constitutional scholars were expecting the law to be struck down but never imagined that it would be John Roberts who saved the bill.
But the battle lines have been drawn. Mitt Romney promises to "repeal and replace Obamacare," only he doesn't say with what. The individual mandate was originally, after all, Mitt's Massachusetts baby. Now he treats it like a bastard lovechild. In Massachusetts, meanwhile, 98 percent of its citizens are covered because of Romneycare's individual mandate, highest in the nation, and they seem to like it.
I don't particularly like the government telling me that I have to buy something either, but health insurance is something I have long tried to purchase but have been denied. The mandate is the only way within the current system that health care becomes affordable and available to all.
Let's face it, health insurance is just another racket invented by greedy capitalists to skim cash from hospitals and the lucrative medical testing industry. Ever wonder why your aspirin costs $10 a tablet in the hospital but only seven bucks a bottle in the downstairs gift store? Insurance companies are the ones that are getting between you and your doctor, but it's a revenue producer, so the corporatists have to convince you with lies that Obamacare is a government takeover of health care and that the government will now dictate your medical preferences. The government is only enriching the insurance companies by providing them with 33 million new customers, but that's better left unsaid. Currently, this is the way the game is played. If you want decent health care you need to buy insurance, at least until the people wake up and ask, "Why?"
Randy Haspel writes the Born-Again Hippies blog, where a version of this essay first appeared.
Which leads me to put on my Dr. Phil face and say what has to be said: It's time for Memphis and Shelby County to start seeing other people. We've tried for years to patch things up, to come to some sort of mutual understanding, but we need to admit that we have irreconcilable differences. We don't even know each other any more ...