Is it Obamacare, Romneycare, O'Romneycare, Rombamacare, or something else? A healthcare reform law identical to the Affordable Health Care Act by any other name would be as constitutional as the one the Supreme Court ruled on this morning.
The most controversial provision of the law, the part that requires people to carry health insurance, caused a bit of confusion in the media and among some law makers. Because the Court ruled that the mandate was constitutional as a tax rather than as part of the authority granted under the commerce clause, both Fox News and CNN initially reported that the mandate had been struck down.
CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer and reporter Kate Bolduan reported the law had been ruled unconstitutional. A graphic on the screen read "Supreme Ct. Kills Individual Mandate." CNN also reported the same thing in its breaking news email and its Twitter feed. It took fifteen minutes for CNN to realize that things weren't quite as they seemed. They changed the story to reflect the actual outcome.
Fox News was quicker to reverse its field. Initially it reported that the Court had held the individual mandate unconstitutional and put up a graphic that said "Supreme Court Finds Health Care Individual Mandate Unconstitutional." Within two minutes the network realized it had made a mistake. Michael Clemente, Fox's executive vp of news and editorial took the offensive on the gaffe. "We gave our viewers the news as it happened...Fox reported the facts as they came in." Well, sort of, just not the reality based facts.
Some members of congress, or, more probably, members of their staff tweeted responses to the ruling based on the incorrect information. Car alarm king Darrell Issa "said," "...a big win for liberty and the Constitution." Perhaps he was more right than he knew. Rep. Tom Rooney of Florida called it "great news for the American people, victory for the constitution." Like Issa's statement, there was enough ambiguity there to cover the ruling regardless of how it came out.
I'm hesitant to say that the mistakes prove Issa or Michael Clemente human, but the media and legislators who got it wrong initially did show that it's possible for anyone to make a mistake. From my experience, and I'm sure others have had similar experiences, news reporting of nearly every event I've been involved in or witnessed generally makes some assertions that don't gibe with my memory of the events. Sometimes it was small details and sometimes bigger things.
In a predictable statement House Speaker John Boehner reiterated his call for repeal of the law. He said the American people want a common sense approach to health care. No doubt he meant an approach like the one we had before the law went into effect. Common sense is a slippery concept. The desires of the American people is another area that's not clearly defined. Obviously members of a certain other major political party are praising the Court's ruling.