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Ruling? What Ruling?

Wednesday’s decision upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act was, importantly, the first appellate ruling on the law, as well as the first not to be decided along partisan lines. But for readers of The Weekly Standard, the ruling may as well not have been released at all.

In fact, since the health care law has entered the courts—where, so far, it has been invalidated twice and upheld four times (including in Wednesday’s decision)—The Weekly Standard has taken an interesting approach to covering the legal fate of “Obamacare.” The magazine’s strategy appears to go something like this: When the law is invalidated, report, analyze, and salivate over the news; when the law is upheld, basically ignore it.

Here’s the magazine gloating about the December 2010 decision from the Federal District Court in Richmond:

Federal Judge Rules Health Care Mandate Unconstitutional,” December 13, 2010 by John McCormack.

U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson has ruled that Obamacare’s mandate that citizens purchase health insurance is unconstitutional.
[…] Of course, not being able to mandate that people buy health insurance while mandating that insurance companies must offer insurance to everyone at the same rate, without regard to their pre-existing conditions, will send the insurance market into a “death spiral.” So, if this ruling stands at the Supreme Court, it would be a devastating blow to Obamacare.

Obamacare Ruled Unconstitutional; Americans Favor Repeal Almost 2 to 1,” December 14, 2010 by Jeffrey H. Anderson.

Yesterday’s ruling by a federal district judge, declaring that Obamacare’s individual mandate is unconstitutional, is a noteworthy blow to the highly unpopular overhaul and its ultimate prospects for survival.
[…] Yesterday, within hours of the release of this judicial ruling, Rasmussen released a new poll showing that Americans support the repeal of Obamacare by the colossal margin of 60 to 34 percent. Independents favor Obamacare’s repeal by a margin of more than 2 to 1, 62 to 28 percent.
The combination of this polling and yesterday’s ruling shows that, whether the political establishment wants to believe it or not, the political and legal challenges to Obamacare are not remotely frivolous. Rather, they are deadly seriousand they are gaining steam.

Overruling Obamacare,” December 27, 2010 by Yuval Levin.

In October 2009, at one of her weekly press conferences, Nancy Pelosi was asked by a reporter “where specifically does the Constitution grant Congress the authority to enact an individual health insurance mandate?” Pelosi shook her head and replied: “Are you serious?” When her spokesman Nadeam Elshami was later asked to clarify the answer, he responded, “That is not a serious question.”
But it has turned out to be a pretty serious question after all. On December 13, U.S. District Court judge Henry Hudson ruled that in fact Congress does not have the authority to enact such a mandate.

Here’s the magazine’s coverage after Roger Vinson ruled the entire Affordable Care Act unconstitutional:

Federal Judge Rules Obamacare Unconstitutional,” January 31, 2011 by John McCormack.

Now a district court judge in Florida named Roger Vinson has ruled that the individual mandate is unconstitutional, and thus so is the entire law.

The White House’s (Counterproductive) Critique of Judge Vinson’s Ruling.” February 2, 2011 by Jeffrey H. Anderson.

It would seem that Judge Vinson made the right call, as well as the one most befitting the role of a judge. 

Obamacare on The Ropes,” February 14, 2011 by Fred Barnes.

When U.S. District Court judge Roger Vinson struck down President Obama’s health care program as unconstitutional, the White House declared the decision an “outlier.” It was anything but that. The ruling on January 31 was in harmony with limits the Supreme Court has imposed on the use of the Constitution’s commerce clause to justify far-reaching legislation by Congress.

And here’s The Weekly Standard touching briefly on the federal judge in D.C. who upheld the law, but mainly in an effort to explain why that decision wasn’t really worth covering:

Does ObamaCare’s Constitutionality Rely on a Power to Regulate Americans’ Thoughts?” March 5, 2011 by Jeffrey H. Anderson.

[Judge Gladys] Kessler’s case involved only six individual plaintiffs, a far cry from the 26 states who sued in the case in which Judge Roger Vinson recently declared ObamaCare unconstitutional, so her ruling understandably hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention as Vinson’s has. Also, her ruling isn’t nearly as thorough.

As for the three other rulings in favor of the Affordable Care Act—Wednesday’s decision, a November 2010 ruling in Lynchburg, Virginia, and an October 2010 ruling in Detroit, Michigan—The Weekly Standard has more or less ignored them. Yesterday’s decision only merited a link in a daily roundup.

As Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress notes, the mainstream media appears to be giving more attention to anti-health care rulings, as well. But disproportionate coverage is one thing; selective denial is another.