I don't know whether it is brave or foolish of the Obama administration to bring forward a Supreme Court ruling on the legality of the Affordable Care Act. The administration could probably have strung things out and pushed the day of reckoning beyond November 2012. It has decided to put the topic squarely on the campaign agenda.
The sooner the legal issues are decided the better, so the decision to press on quickly is welcome. Politically, though, it might have been wiser to stall. Even if the court rules in favor of the law, the faster timetable forces the issue back before the public at the height of the election campaign. I don't see this helping Obama's re-election prospects, since the reform is still unpopular. If the court strikes the law down, that would be an electoral disaster. I cannot imagine that the White House wants to run against the Supreme Court as well as the GOP.
I'd be interested to know the calculations behind the decision. Maybe the White House is entirely confident of winning the court's backing. Stephanie Cutter's comment on the White House blog...
We know the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. We are confident the Supreme Court will agree
... pushes confidence beyond its prudent limits, I'd say. The case is by no means open and shut. And if the court says the mandate is unconstitutional, that's that, regardless of what the White House thinks it knows. I wonder if the strutting language and the raise-the-stakes timing are an effort to ramp up the political pressure on the court to go along. Quite a gamble, if so.