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Having upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act under the Congressional taxation power, by a 5-4 majority, the Supreme Court has also delivered a personal vindication to Barack Obama  — and given the lie to Mitt Romney’s accusations about the president’s lack of “leadership.”  The irony of the court’s majority decision, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, is its exposure of Romney’s own leadership deficit.

For the Republican candidate, the Supreme Court decision does more than merely shut down the Tea Party arguments he has echoed over the past several months. Regardless of the details — not all of which are salutary, especially concerning Medicaid — the conclusion of this episode in law and politics is a grave wound to Romney’s image and, if he still possesses any, his self-respect. Here is a man who imposed a mandate on his own state’s citizens, in order to achieve universal coverage, and then ran away from his own actions for pure political expediency.

Now the Obama administration must do what it should have done over the past three years: Persuade the American people that the act’s survival is a victory for them. Had the Supreme Court’s right-wing majority vacated all or part of the Affordable Care Act as unconstitutional, said Mitt Romney, then the president would have “wasted” his term in the White House. “If… Obamacare is not deemed constitutional, then the first three and a half years of this president’s term will have been wasted on something that has not helped the American people,” the Republican candidate told supporters at a rally in Virginia on Wednesday. “If it is deemed to stand, then I’ll tell you one thing. Then we’ll have to have a president, and I’m that one, that’s gonna get rid of Obamacare,” he vowed.

Well, whatever Romney means by “Obamacare,” he no doubt assumes that to most Americans it represents ill-advised and even oppressive legislation – and never mind its well-documented paternity in his own Massachusetts health care plan. Having once embraced the objective of universal coverage and the mandate as its means, he evidently believes that he can abandon principle without consequence. Yet he and his fellow Republicans, who have vowed to uproot health care reform, will surely discover, along with the American people, that its benefits are indeed popular – and that its would-be killers may pay a heavy political price.

The long-term predictive value of polls showing that most voters revile “Obamacare” is questionable, if only because surveys have demonstrated how little most voters still know about the actual content of the Affordable Care Act. When people are asked about the bill’s specific aspects,  they approve nearly all of the important provisions by overwhelming margins. And however ignorant they may be now, their knowledge is likely to improve when they learn what is being taken from them.

Consider the recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, which found substantial majorities of Republicans and independents — and voters overall, by a margin of 56-44 percent — reaffirming that they oppose the law.  But delve below surface impressions and it becomes clear that what the law does, except for the individual mandate,  is popular not only among Democrats and independents but, as both Ezra Klein and Greg Sargent have noted in the Washington Post, among Republicans as well.

The Reuters poll synopsis explains that aside from the individual mandate, its major reforms are highly popular:

 Support for the provisions of the healthcare law is strong, with a full 82 percent of survey respondents, for example, favoring banning insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

Sixty-one percent are in favor of allowing children to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26 and 72 percent back requiring companies with more than 50 employees to provide insurance for their employees.

The poll’s crosstabs reveal that 80 percent of Republicans agree with the president’s plan to create “an insurance pool” that brings the benefits of large group pricing to small businesses and uninsured families and individuals — which is also supported by 75 percent of independents. Big majorities of Republicans and independents also support subsidies for those who cannot afford insurance, requiring firms with more than 50 employees to provide insurance, permitting children to use their parents’ insurance until age 26, and banning the denial of coverage to those with pre-existing conditions and policy cancellation because someone becomes ill.

Of course, those are all vital benefits of the Affordable Care Act that Romney, Speaker John Boehner, Rep. Paul Ryan and the entire Republican leadership have vowed to repeal – without explaining what, if anything, will replace them. Moreover, as Romney knows very well, few of those provisions can stand in a system of private insurance without the individual mandate, which ensures adequate funding for universal coverage and prevents companies from gaming risk by picking off healthy clients. There are other ways to address those problems – including the single-payer or public option, or the German model, where a a government-run central fund controls risk for the entire system.

The struggle for decent universal health care is a moral imperative and anything but a waste of effort, regardless of Romney’s pandering to the Tea Party crackpots (who cherish their “socialist” Medicare, according to other polling data).  Ultimately the painful process of reform and reaction should educate Americans about the real choices before us. When that happens, the Republicans Capitol Hill may still seek to strike down “Obamacare” in their hatred, only to see it become a more powerful force they can possibly imagine.

Updated at 10:48 a.m. on Thursday, June 28.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was forced to defend President Donald Trump's recent attacks on MSNBC host Joe Scarborough on Tuesday, an unenviable task she nevertheless intentionally signed up for. She desperately tried to divert the attention back to Scarborough — without engaging in the president's conspiracy theorizing — but offered no credible defense of the president's conduct.

Trump has been spreading the debunked theory that Scarborough killed a staffer in 2001 while he was in Congress, even though it was determined she died of natural causes. The staffer's widower wrote a released a letter on Tuesday pleading with Twitter to take down the president's offensive tweets promoting the thoery. He said he was "angry," "frustrated," and "grieved" by the president's promotion of the harmful allegations. Trump is perverting his late wife's memory, he said, and he fears her niece and nephews will encounter these attacks.When asked about the letter, McEnany said she wasn't sure if the president had seen it. But she said their "hearts" are with the woman's family "at this time." It was a deeply ironic comment because the only particularly traumatizing thing about "this time" for the family is the president's attacks, which come nearly two decades after the woman's death.

McEnany refused to offer any explanation of Trump's comments and instead redirected reporters to a clip of Scarborough on Don Imus's radio show in 2003. In that show, Imus made a tasteless joke obliquely referring to the death, and Scarborough laughed at it briefly.

"Why is the president making these unfounded allegations?" asked ABC News' Jonathan Karl. "I mean, this is pretty nuts, isn't it? The president is accusing someone of possible murder. The family is pleading with the president to please stop unfounded conspiracy theories. Why is he doing it?""The president said this morning, this is not an original Trump thought. And it is not," she said, bringing up the Imus clip. But she made no mention of why the president is bringing up the issue 17 years later and with a much larger platform.

When pressed further on the president's conduct, she again diverted blame to Scarborough, saying his morning show unfairly criticizes the president. But again, she offered no substantive defense of Trump.

After McEnany had moved on, PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor brought it up again: "Why won't the president give this widower peace and stop tweeting about the conspiracy theory involving his wife?"

McEnany said she had already answered the question, which she hadn't, and said the onus is on Scarborough to explain the Imus clip."The widower is talking specifically about the president!" Alcindor shot back. But McEnany called on Chanel Rion, with the aggressively pro-Trump outlet OAN, who changed the subject to conspiracy theories about the origins of the Russia investigation.

"Are you not going to answer that?" Alcindor called out, still trying to get a substantive response to her question, but Rion spoke over her.

At the end of the briefing, another reporter asked whether Trump was looking for any actual law enforcement steps be taken in response to his conspiracy theory. But McEnany had nothing to add, and simply told people to listen to the Imus clip again. As she hurried out of the briefing room, a reporter asked if Trump would stop promoting the theory — but she left without answering.

Watch the exchange about Klausutis, which begins at 48:45.