Europe is scratching its head over the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court will strike down President Obama's signature legislative achievement. As the judiciary and the Obama administration trade legal barbs over the high court's authority, the idea that health care coverage, largely considered a universal right in Europe, could be deemed an affront to liberty is baffling.
"The Supreme Court can legitimately return Obamacare?" asks a headline on the French news site 9 POK . The article slowly walks through the legal rationale behind the court's right to wipe away Congress's legislation. "Sans précédent, extraordinaires" reads the article. In the German edition of The Financial Times, Sabine Muscat is astonished at Justice Antonin Scalia's argument that if the government can mandate insurance, it can also require people to eat broccoli. "Absurder Vergleich" reads the article's kicker, which in English translates to, "Absurd Comparison." In trying to defeat the bill, Muscat writes, Scalia is making a "strange analogy [to] vegetables."
Over in Britain, the opposition is more direct. The Guardian's Kevin Powell called the debate "surreal" in his Monday column. "Wasn't the point to make sure the richest and most powerful nation on the planet could protect its own people, as other nations do?" he wrote. "If Americans are promised not just liberty but life and happiness, is there not a constitutional right to affordable healthcare?"
The Independent's Rupert Cornwell, meanwhile, is astonished by the high court's legal sway. "When an American president nominates a new member of the Supreme Court, I sometimes used to wonder, why all the fuss? Is this appointment of a single judge – just one justice among nine – really important enough to throw Congress into a spin, dominate the blogosphere and mobilise every lobbying group in the land?" All the while, Britain's Telegraph publishes a piece by American Mark McKinnon who marvels at the court's power. "These six men and three women will have a voice in determining not only Obama's long-term legacy, but also his short-term future as the November election looms," he writes. "They are six men and three women, aged between 51 and 79, and two of them have been in the same job since Ronald Reagan was in the White House." What can we say? Welcome to America, Europe.