James Madison, John Roberts and Barack Obama walk into a bar…

No, it’s not John Roberts — yet.

It was a good day for Chief Justice Roberts and President Obama, for the Supreme Court, and for our country.

As my previous post indicates, I think national health care insurance is a good thing.  I was watching  CNN at 10:10 am when it put its foot in its mouth and announced that the individual mandate had been overturned, so I was doubly joyous when CNN reversed itself on appeal at 10:16.

Most Americans do not think much about how important it is to have an independent, life tenured high court.  Nor do we think much about how people will act — and change — when they have that kind of job security.  I used to spend a lot of time with judges and attorneys.  The interactions are interesting to watch.  The bar is a tribe apart.

Chief Justice Roberts put down his marker today — that he will not be taken for granted. is not in anyone’s pocket, does not see himself as an ideologue, and has ambitions for a legacy of his own.  He will be in his current position, good health permitting, for 20 years or more.  He has no reason to care how many people, conservatives today, liberals again tomorrow, are furious with him.  He cares what the bar thinks, his community of peers.

Barack Obama is from the same tribe of legal scholars.  He has four, maybe eight years to make his mark.  In this instance, he kept his cool under huge pressure and way too much second guessing (I mean, really, Robert Samuelson, what were you thinking?). He surely knew everything about the arguments being advanced by his attorneys, and together they came out with the winning position on his own legacy — and won on the issue of taxes!  God is nothing if not ironic, huh?

Since reading David Remnick’s excellent biography of Obama and its chapter about his rise at Harvard Law School, I have predicted that we will see this past four years less as a era of partisan politics than as a unique contest of wills and ideas between a President and Chief Justice. Obama and Roberts: two men of roughly the same age and training in constitutional law, with diametrically opposed views, each heading a branch of the U.S. government at opposite ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.  It’s a fascinating situation and one with few precedents.

Today showed how closely the two men are locked together in history  — in their hope to be remembered as leaders in a grand tradition of thoughtful, intricate legal analysis and argument about the role of democratic government tracing to the Founding Fathers and beyond.

Speaking of the Founders, wouldn’t James Madison have been happy today about how the system of separation of powers was bearing up under enormous strain? For a moment there, I was getting worried.

We all have a responsibility to make this health care system work better, for more people, and to control costs.  But we will do it together.  Massachusetts was the laboratory, so thank you Governor Romney too. We will all have what our members of Congress and the justices of the Supreme Court already have: health insurance!  Hurrah!


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6 Responses to James Madison, John Roberts and Barack Obama walk into a bar…

  1. Kyra says:

    Amen! As one who has walked in too many PICUs with too many disenfranchised looking across the hall at the few with access, wherewithall and coverage, I say hoorah! A vote for the betterment for all. This is a day in history and I today am one proud and hopeful American! Onwards and upwards!

    • Edie says:

      Thank you for writing, Kyra, such an important moment for all of us. So many have been, like Ginger, just hoping they could get by a little longer. It wouldn’t have worked for me – once you get the diagnosis for something serious, you either have the insurance to pay for fighting it or you don’t. As you clearly know.

  2. Ginger Harden says:

    I think a lot of people do not even know how important it is. For self employed people like me the program has been (maybe literally) a lifesaver. A. Few years ago Unicare, which had insured me since 2001 announced that they were pulling out of Virginia at the end on the year. That left me shopping for health insurance at the age of 63, just a few years by of Medicare. But I was turned down by 3 companies because I had pre-existing conditions. I was turned down for virtually every reason I had seen a doctor in the 2 years prior. This in included acid reflux, a herpes infection in my left, migraine headaches, and and a melanoma which fortunately had not spread into the lymph nodes.

    Finally one of the companies which had previously turned me down offered to accept me for $1245 per MONTH plus $5000 deductible, and co-pays. The only other choice I had was to apply for the government program but the downside was that you cannot have been insured for 6 months.

    Left with going uninsured for 6 months, or paying absurd rates, I opted for running the risk. Those were 6 tense months. I know that it would have cost me tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket if I had another occurrence of melanoma during those 6 months.

    I consulted my doctors, had them run every test while I was still on Unicare’s policy, and made the decision to wing it. Last August I started with the PCIP from the government at $401 per month. So I KNOW how crucial this issue is.

    I am so pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision today. From one very grateful recipient….THANK YOU for doing the right thing.

  3. David Wilson says:

    Hi Edie,

    I am concerned that by trying to achieve too much too soon we may have signed away our constitutional health as a republic.

    I wish they would have entered our budget and our goals in Optimirror first.



    • Edie says:

      Wish our government worked that way. There are lots of ways to make the financials work out better, now we need to get on with doing that.

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