Former New York Times Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse really let her liberal feelings show in her online column Wednesday, “Breaking News: The Civil War Is Over,” in which she linked opposition to the constitutionality of Obama-care to the U.S. Confederacy.
Greenhouse, who notoriously delivered a left-wing commencement speech at Harvard in June 2006, while still a reporter for the Times, was also offended to the core at a bumper sticker opposing national health care: “I don’t understand the moral compass of the owner of the fancy car I saw the other day that sported the bumper sticker: ‘Repeal Obamacare.’”
Judicial opinions on the constitutionality of the new health care law are pouring out of the federal courts. With the general expectation that the Supreme Court will have to resolve what is now a clear conflict between two federal courts of appeals, the individual lower-court decisions have pretty much ceased to make news. By the time the Supreme Court rules, if and when it does, a decision earlier this month by the federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., throwing out Virginia’s challenge to the statute without reaching the ultimate constitutional question, will be all but forgotten.
That would be unfortunate, because in its relatively brief 33 pages, this opinion from a unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, sitting in the heart of the old Confederacy, offers a powerful reminder of a fact that a dismaying number of folks appear lately to have forgotten: the Civil War is over.
On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and Virginia’s attorney general, Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, filed suit in federal court to have the law declared unconstitutional. The next day, Gov. Bob McDonnell signed into law the Virginia Health Care Freedom Act. These last two events were inextricably linked.
The Virginia law provides that “no resident of this Commonwealth… shall be required to obtain or maintain a policy of individual insurance coverage. . . ”
In other words, a few weeks shy of the 150th anniversary of Virginia’s “ordinance of secession,” the Commonwealth of Virginia seceded from the reach of the federal health care law’s individual mandate.
Greenhouse became moralistic at the end, getting angry at a bumper-sticker.
I have a confession to make. I can describe the legal arguments and the judicial conclusions, but on a fundamental level, I just don’t get the attack on the federal law. I don’t understand people who voluntarily, without claiming poverty, let their children go uninsured. I don’t understand the moral compass of the owner of the fancy car I saw the other day that sported the bumper sticker: “Repeal Obamacare.” I suppose that the self-satisfied and oh-so-secure car owner never met anyone like the healthy 27-year-old man profiled the other day in USA Today who was denied insurance in the private market because his doctor four years ago had ordered a particular heart-monitoring test – which found nothing wrong with his heart. I do know such people. So do you. They are all around you, but maybe such an intimate subject as their inability to get health insurance has never come up in conversation. So as this debate for the soul of the country continues to unfold, I take comfort -- perhaps unduly, no doubt prematurely -- from the reminder from the appeals court in Richmond that the Civil War is over and that p.s., the Union won.