CNN and Fox went live this morning that the Supreme Court had struck down the individual mandate. Except it hadn't. I went to the opinion.
Chief Justice John Roberts did say on Page 3: "The individual mandate thus cannot be sustained under Congress’s power to 'regulate Commerce'.”
But on Page 4, he said, "the individual mandate may be upheld as within Congress’s power under the Taxing Clause."
So I think the CNN and Fox people scanning the opinion saw the wording on Page 3 and concluded that the individual mandate was dead. Scotusblog, on the other hand, had it right at 10:08: "The individual mandate survives as a tax." Amy Howe at Scotusblog followed that up at 10:09 by saying: "It's very complicated, so we're still figuring it out"
It was weird. I was watching CNBC to watch how the market was taking all this, and the guys on the anchor desk were basically reading posts from Scotusblog. Everytime there was a new post, the CNBC guy would repeat it. This is what I'm hearing from our sources, he would say. Yeah, his source, Scotusblog.
The L.A. Times had this take on the mess.
This reminded me of Bush v. Gore decision in December 2000, when the initial breaking news reports from the networks were all over the place in the first few minutes.
Trying to figure out complicated Supreme Court rulings for a breaking news alert is risky business. Scotusblog had the benefit of having a bunch of lawyers reading through the ruling. Other major outlets, like the New York Times and the Washington Post, were keeping their powder dry while they read through it. They weren't first, but they were right. We went up with AP fairly soon, 10:12 a.m. We have a lot of faith in AP. (On election night in 2000, AP told its media customers that Florida was too close to call, and that they couldn't declare Bush the winner. That, despite the fact that the major networks shortly after 2 a.m. were all saying Bush had won.)
What might be swell is if the Court televised its rulings live, so everyone could watch and we weren't putting the burden on some producer who has to decide in 20 seconds how the justices have voted on a massively complex piece of legislation. And if the proceedings were live, then, God forbid, maybe the chief justice could -- before reading a massive opinion -- summarize in plain English for the American people what the Court had decided in one of the most important rulings in the Court's history.
Imagine how less confusing it would have been if Chief Justice Roberts had said: "Good morning. We've upheld the individual mandate as a tax, and not a power under the Commerce Clause. We've reined in the government on the Medicaid part. If you want to stick around and watch while I read this, feel free. But that's the upshot."