McCain can be good at delivering attack lines based on out of context quotes or semi-truths, but the Supreme Court one that he spent the first part of the interview on is quite the stretch. The Senator did try to preface it by saying, "As usual, he is backing off some from his initial, utter, remarkable statement....Clearly, the President - a quote, teacher of constitutional law - doesn't have the same fundamental understanding that most of us do."
So, Sen. McCain is trying to indicate that he is aware of both the initial statement and the subsequent "backing off some." In case neither he nor his staff (nor perhaps, other readers of this blog) had the opportunity to review that initial statement, Arizona's Politics presents the full question and answer with the money quote highlighted.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. After last week’s arguments at the Supreme Court, many experts believe that there could be a majority, a five-member majority, to strike down the individual mandate. And if that were to happen, if it were to be ruled unconstitutional, how would you still guarantee health care to the uninsured and those Americans who've become insured as a result of the law?Sen. McCain could not have any serious doubt that his former opponent understands that the Supreme Court justices have the constitutional authority to overturn the act of Congress. It is just that Obama's "confident" that they will not because he thinks there are precedents supporting its constitutionality and it would be a huge decision if they knocked it out. (Here are his extending and revising remarks from the next day.)
And then a President for President Calderón and Prime Minister Harper. Over the weekend, Governor Mitt Romney said that the U.S. used to promote free enterprise around the world, and he said, “Our President doesn’t have the same feelings about American exceptionalism that we do, and I think over the last three or four years, some people around the world have begun to question that.” My question to the both of you is whether you think that American influence has declined over the last three to four years.
And, President Obama, if you’d like to respond to that, too.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, on the second part of your question, it’s still primary season for the Republican Party. They're going to make a decision about who their candidate will be.
It’s worth noting that I first arrived on the national stage with a speech at the Democratic Convention that was entirely about American exceptionalism, and that my entire career has been a testimony to American exceptionalism. But I will cut folks some slack for now because they're still trying to get their nomination.
With respect to health care, I’m actually -- continue to be confident that the Supreme Court will uphold the law. And the reason is because, in accordance with precedent out there, it’s constitutional. That's not just my opinion, by the way; that's the opinion of legal experts across the ideological spectrum, including two very conservative appellate court justices that said this wasn’t even a close case.
I think it’s important -- because I watched some of the commentary last week -- to remind people that this is not an abstract argument. People’s lives are affected by the lack of availability of health care, the inaffordability of health care, their inability to get health care because of preexisting conditions.
The law that's already in place has already given 2.5 million young people health care that wouldn’t otherwise have it. There are tens of thousands of adults with preexisting conditions who have health care right now because of this law. Parents don't have to worry about their children not being able to get health care because they can't be prevented from getting health care as a consequence of a preexisting condition. That's part of this law.
Millions of seniors are paying less for prescription drugs because of this law. Americans all across the country have greater rights and protections with respect to their insurance companies and are getting preventive care because of this law.
So that’s just the part that's already been implemented. That doesn’t even speak to the 30 million people who stand to gain coverage once it’s fully implemented in 2014.
And I think it’s important, and I think the American people understand, and the I think the justices should understand, that in the absence of an individual mandate, you cannot have a mechanism to ensure that people with preexisting conditions can actually get health care. So there’s not only a economic element to this, and a legal element to this, but there’s a human element to this. And I hope that’s not forgotten in this political debate.
Ultimately, I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress. And I'd just remind conservative commentators that for years what we’ve heard is, the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint -- that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law. Well, this is a good example. And I’m pretty confident that this Court will recognize that and not take that step.
Q You say it's not an abstract conversation. Do you have contingency plans?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I'm sorry. As I said, we are confident that this will be over -- that this will be upheld. I’m confident that this will be upheld because it should be upheld. And, again, that’s not just my opinion; that’s the opinion of a whole lot of constitutional law professors and academics and judges and lawyers who have examined this law, even if they're not particularly sympathetic to this particular piece of legislation or my presidency. (emphasis added)
On to the fun part of the interview. Sen. McCain was asked the Mitt Romney/VP question in the context of Sarah Palin suggesting Romney "go rogue". That prompted the wise-cracking Senator to shoot back that he thought Romney's pick should be "Sarah Palin". Though he pulled himself together enough to run down the list of real short listers, he obviously still had his joke on his mind when he concluded "obviously, it's a tough decision." (CBS' text report accompanying the video noted he chuckled when he delivered that line, making it appear that McCain was demeaning those potential running mates; he was not.)
(McCain gave a much different, interesting interview a few weeks ago that aired this weekend, and Arizona's Politics will post that audio shortly.)
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