Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Quite a performance...

Yesterday, at a Joint Press Conference with the President of Mexico and the Prime Minister of Canada, President Obama was asked about the arguments at the Supreme Court over the constitutionality of Obamacare. While acknowledging that politicians make political statements, there's a lot to dislike in this one...
Thank you, Mr. President. After last week’s arguments at the Supreme Court, many experts believe that there could be a majority, a five-member majority, to strike down the individual mandate. And if that were to happen, if it were to be ruled unconstitutional, how would you still guarantee health care to the uninsured and those Americans who've become insured as a result of the law?
It's hardly worth mentioning the unstated assumptions of the question, that it's the responsibility of the President to "guarantee health care to the uninsured."

PRESIDENT OBAMA: With respect to health care, I’m actually -- continue to be confident that the Supreme Court will uphold the law. And the reason is because, in accordance with precedent out there,
There is no precedent. Congress has never before passed a law requiring any citizen to purchase a specific product, or to specifically engage in any specific economic activity. There is certainly no Supreme Court precedent establishing that as a Federal power.
it’s constitutional. That's not just my opinion, by the way; that's the opinion of legal experts across the ideological spectrum, including two very conservative appellate court justices that said this wasn’t even a close case.
Logical fallacy - Argument from authority. And ignores the appellate court justices who have already ruled that it is unconstitutional. When the authorities are split, the argument from authority is a particularly weak fallacy.
I think it’s important -- because I watched some of the commentary last week -- to remind people that this is not an abstract argument. People’s lives are affected by the lack of availability of health care, the inaffordability of health care, their inability to get health care because of preexisting conditions.
Not germane to the question of constitutionality. Nor is it responsive to the actual question, "how would you still..."

The law that's already in place has already given 2.5 million young people health care that wouldn’t otherwise have it.
Not germane to the question of constitutionality. Nor is it responsive to the actual question, "how would you still..."
There are tens of thousands of adults with preexisting conditions who have health care right now because of this law.
Not germane to the question of constitutionality. Nor is it responsive to the actual question, "how would you still..."
Parents don't have to worry about their children not being able to get health care because they can't be prevented from getting health care as a consequence of a preexisting condition.
Not germane to the question of constitutionality. Nor is it responsive to the actual question, "how would you still..."
That's part of this law.

Millions of seniors are paying less for prescription drugs because of this law.
Not germane to the question of constitutionality. Nor is it responsive to the actual question, "how would you still..."
Americans all across the country have greater rights and protections with respect to their insurance companies and are getting preventive care because of this law.
Not germane to the question of constitutionality. Nor is it responsive to the actual question, "how would you still..."
So that’s just the part that's already been implemented. That doesn’t even speak to the 30 million people who stand to gain coverage once it’s fully implemented in 2014.
Not germane to the question of constitutionality. Nor is it responsive to the actual question, "how would you still..."
And I think it’s important, and I think the American people understand, and the I think the justices should understand, that in the absence of an individual mandate, you cannot have a mechanism to ensure that people with preexisting conditions can actually get health care. So there’s not only a economic element to this, and a legal element to this, but there’s a human element to this. And I hope that’s not forgotten in this political debate.

Ultimately, I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented,
False statement. There are many precedents for the Supreme Court to declare laws unconstitutional.
extraordinary
That's what the Supreme Court does, and has ever since Marbury v. Madison. It would, therefore, be very ordinary.
step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority
I’d contest that description – it took a byzantine process of extraordinary compulsion to pass the Senate with 0 Republican votes and no margin, and a byzantine process of extraordinary compulsion to pass the House by 6 votes.
of a democratically elected Congress.
Irrelevant. Congress is always "democratically elected." That does nothing to forward the case that this law is constitutional. All unconstitutional laws are enacted by "democratically elected Congresses."
And I'd just remind conservative commentators that for years what we’ve heard is, the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint -- that an unelected group of people
Ad hominem attack on their legitimacy. The Supreme Courts that passed Brown vs. Board of Education and Roe vs. Wade were also unelected. Does anyone think that this President considers those decisions illegitimate?

This is extremely inappropriate. He was elected President, not emperor, not king. He doesn't get his way just because he wants it. This is how the system works - the Congress enacts laws, the President, if he chooses, signs them, and the Court, as the third co-equal branch of government, may decide that they aren't constitutional.
would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law
Which is their job to do, and they’ve done many times over the past 200 years. And every law that they've overturned, every one of them, was "duly constituted and passed" - if it weren't, it wouldn't get to the Supreme Court.
Well, this is a good example. And I’m pretty confident
If he were really that confident, would he be pre-emptively attacking the credibility and legitimacy of the Court?
that this Court will recognize that and not take that step.

Q You say it's not an abstract conversation. Do you have contingency plans?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I'm sorry. As I said, we are confident that this will be over -- that this will be upheld. I’m confident that this will be upheld because it should be upheld. And, again, that’s not just my opinion; that’s the opinion of a whole lot of constitutional law professors and academics and judges and lawyers who have examined this law,
Logical fallacy - Argument from authority. Which fails even on its own terms, because there are also "a whole lot of constitutional law professors and academics and judges and lawyers" who think that it's not constitutional.
even if they're not particularly sympathetic to this particular piece of legislation or my presidency.


I know - it's a political statement, not an argument. But does he have to be that disingenuous, that dishonest, all the time?

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