The health care Supreme Court decision - big story! really?

July 02, 2012
  • Tim Rowland
Tim Rowland

Granted, my memory isn’t the greatest, but I can’t recall ever seeing so many people huddled around the TV set awaiting a Supreme Court decision. Has the whole world gone nerd?

A moon landing I get, but a decision on the legality of reams of arcane and impenetrable health care legislation?

This is public policy, people. Not the O.J. Simpson trial, public policy. Yet here were housewives, bartenders and maintenance crews — who otherwise wouldn’t know the Commerce Clause from Santa Claus — hanging on every word, parsing the framers’ true intentions in the realm of implied powers.

I guess that’s a good thing, but it’s still a little unsettling to hear actual automobile mechanics saying stuff like, “Well Luther, you can’t trust Roberts, he’s no strict constructionist, you know.”

“Yes, Billy Ray, I get that, but you know how those conservative jurists are; for 20 years during the Warren court they railed against judicial activism, but once conservatives were in power, they couldn’t activate enough.”

What the ...? When did discussions over American jurisprudence take the place of last night’s ballgame and the new waitress at Hooters?

Did this happen in 1803, when fellows outside Ye Olde Customs House swilled hogsheads of ale, waiting with baited breath to hear the outcome of Marbury v. Madison?

Part of my problem was that I didn’t realize how big this was. Outside of certified news junkies and a few winos waiting for new livers, I didn’t know anyone cared. I understand health care is important, but health care reform? Won’t most people just assume that the insurance industry will find a way to sidestep half of it, and the government will muck up the other half — so sooner or later we’ll just be back at par?

My other misunderstanding was my theory that real news is passé. If it doesn’t involve “American Idol,” Tiger Woods or the weather, why would any network give it the time of day?

And yet there was ABC, announcing it would break in to regular programming when the decision was handed down. There was “live coverage” and “special reports” on all the networks, as correspondents macheted their way through the decision.

Every living entity was queried as to his opinion, including farm-pond paramecium — and not even the ones with higher IQs.

Even Rachael Ray was making Split Decision Sliders.

Matter of fact, the only news outlet I can trust not to bring me the news anymore is the New York Post. Day after the health care decision, its lead story was, no lie, Alec Baldwin’s latest beatdown of the paparazzi.

Of course, important as it was, the nation’s two stalwart cable-news networks, CNN and Fox, got it wrong. Raise your hand if you’re shocked. CNN later apologized; Fox didn’t. Instead, Fox released a precious statement saying that it reported the facts as they became apparent — which we can only assume meant that it was relating the decision based on the speed upon which its reporters were learning to read.

Both networks ran banners that more or less read, in order: 1. Health care mandate found unconstitutional. 2. Supreme court issues health care ruling. 3. Court upholds health care law.

It reminded me of one of my favorite baseball stories, about the aging announcer who was losing his vision. The actual verbiage went like this:

“Swing and a miss, strike two.”

(Sounds of whispering in the booth).

“Whoops, now they’re saying he foul-tipped it.


(More whispering.)

“Now they’re saying he foul tipped it into the upper deck in right field.”

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. His email address is

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