In passionate text that reads more like a pro-Obama opinion piece than a straight news story, New York Times reporter Mark Landler delivered "A Vindication, With a Legacy Still Unwritten" for Friday's front page.
Landler was passionate about the "change we can believe in" wrought by the president through the Affordable Care Act, which Landler called his expansion of the "nation's safety net" and an effort to reduce income inequality (with a single mild paragraph on those historic tax hikes buried over halfway down).
For Barack Obama, who staked his presidency on a once-in-a-generation reshaping of the social welfare system, the Supreme Court’s health care ruling is not just political vindication. It is a personal reprieve, leaving intact his hopes of joining the ranks of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson and Ronald Reagan as presidents who fundamentally altered the course of the country.
For all its weight, however, the judgment does little to settle the bitter debate, spanning decades, over the proper role of government in American life. That debate rages on, with the next acid test only four months away -- an election that will give voters the chance to render their verdict on Mr. Obama’s ambitious legacy.
What the Supreme Court’s decision does do is preserve Mr. Obama’s status as the president who did more to expand the nation’s safety net than any since Johnson. It preserves a bill intended to push back against rapidly rising income inequality. And for a self-consciously historic figure, it allows Mr. Obama to argue that he has delivered on the most cherished goal of his 2008 campaign: “Change we can believe in.”
Landler spun Obama's achievements before hailing ObamaCare as the ultimate one:
“The Republican approach, I think, has played itself out,” [candidate Obama] said to the editorial board of The Reno Gazette-Journal.
Health care has been Exhibit A in that argument, a project he undertook at the cost of other ambitious efforts like curbing climate change or rewriting the tax code. While Mr. Obama will be remembered for bailing out the auto industry, winding down two wars and dispatching Osama bin Laden, health care was his play for history.
Landler also bought into the liberal myth that America was some kind of free-market paradigm before Obama came along.
If Mr. Obama and his opponents can agree on one thing, it may be that he is trying to move the country away from a laissez-faire period. The rise of the Tea Party movement and the Republican takeover of the House were a backlash against what his opponents saw as an arrogant overreach by the president. The fact that he did it while the country was mired in a recession, and without a single Republican vote, compounded the outrage.
Landler also took Obama's side against "intransigent" Republicans in a July 2011 Times podcast at the height of the budget debate: "So I think the intransigence of the Republicans is really beginning to wear on him and just strikes him as more and more unreasonable."
-- Clay Waters is Editor of the MRC's TimesWatch site