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Matthews: Fate of health care--and Obama's legitimacy--hangs in the balance

Let me finish tonight with this.The Supreme Court stands on the verge of changing American political history.

Let me finish tonight with this.

The Supreme Court stands on the verge of changing American political history. The fate of what the President proposed, what Congress debated, what was written into law is now to be decided by a single justice.

This will be hard to take. We, the American people, have invested an extraordinary amount of argument in this matter. On the left, the fight has been waged between those who wanted a public option and were willing to risk the whole health care measure for it, and those who thought it better to get what was gettable and not risk getting nothing.

Now the prospect of getting just that looms over the horizon. By June, we may get a ruling from the Court across the lawn that all this sturm and drang has been wasted.

The reaction on the right could take two courses.

One--and this would be the nastiest and also the most effective--would be an out-and-out charge against the President that he violated the Constitution, that he resorted to a terrible, historic abuse of his office by shoving through a measure which violates his oath of office. "It is not only unconstitutional," they would say. "He is!" 

It would be seized upon like FDR's court-packing as an historic presidential overreach, an act worthy of an historic rejection by the American people--or actually worthy of one.

A far kinder reaction would be for a Republican presidential nominee--Mitt Romney would be perfect for the role--to accuse Obama of wasting a year and a half of his early presidency on a wild-goose chase, wasting those valuable months in the country's history to work a bipartisan challenge to the country's economic crisis.

Either way, it will be hard for the President to view a rejection of his number one legislative achievement as anything less than a body blow to his work since being elected in that historic balloting of 2008.

So here we go into a brutal period of deliberation. By June, we will know whether Justice Anthony Kennedy has given approval to the affordable health care or not. We will know what the fight is going to be like between June and November. 

It will be far better for the President if the Supreme Court approves what he's done. Far better for the country. 

We'll have to see what comes if it does not. This is a daunting situation.