The decisions of the United States Supreme Court usually do not make big news around the world. The last time the nine justices grabbed global front pages was in December 2000, when their verdict in Bush v. Gore handed the presidency to the Republican candidate. But on Thursday, news sites from all over the globe featured prominently the Supreme Court verdict that upheld the 2010 health care reform -- and they almost all took the same view: that the verdict upholding Obamacare is a big boost for the president ahead of the November election. That was the view especially from Europe, where a postwar tradition of free public health care for everybody has framed the debate on Obamacare often in terms of the impossibility to understand how the United States, the world's biggest economy, could fail to provide public health care for all its citizens.
And in a testament to the power of American culture in a globalized Internet culture, Obamacare is the term used in many headlines around the world. An English term originally used by U.S. Republicans to deride the reform has become a global, and politically neutral, buzzword.
One of the world's so-called quality newspapers, Spain's daily El Pais, known for its in-depth foreign news coverage, exemplified the tone adopted by other media outlets by calling the verdict "a surprising and monumental victory for Barack Obama."
The site of French weekly Nouvel Observateur hailed the decision as "an important victory for Barack Obama (...) four months from the presidential election and said some observers have already called this the 'decision of the century'."
The BBC, traditionally more detached in its judgment, noted the surprise in the decision in favor of the law, by observing that Chief Justice John Roberts, who is seen as a conservative, voted in favour of the health care law along with four liberal justices on the bench to provide the deciding vote in the case. Fellow British journalists at The Guardian were less measured, calling the decision a "triumph for President Obama."
Federico Rampini, U.S. correspondent for the Italian left-leaning daily La Repubblica, wrote before the verdict about a political act from a court where the right wing has the majority, a view commonly shared by Europe's elites, which expected the ruling to come down against the law. After the mandate was upheld, Rampini said that Obama had realized a historical reform that had eluded the likes of Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.
Australia's Sydney Morning Herald also spoke of a huge victory.
In Scandinavia, the land of high taxes and free, all-public health care that U.S. Republicans have long held as the avatar of everything that's wrong with the world, leading media outlets shared the enthusiasm. Mass-circulation newspapers including Norway's Aftenposten ("Victory for 'Obamacare'") and Sweden's Aftonbladet ("A triumph for the president") featured the decision on their homepages.
Coverage was more subdued in German-speaking countries, where the mainstream press is far more conservative in tone than in the rest of Europe, but the story was still front-page material for the site of the German weekly Der Spiegel and for many dailies, including Die Zeit, Germany's newspaper of record. Its Swiss equivalent Neue Zuercher Zeitung also splashed Barack Obama on its homepage.
In Asia, where the ruling came when it was already late at night, the story was not treated with the same enthusiasm. Chinese citizens who are following the American health care battle, and there are not many -- more are simply interested in the Chinese space mission at the moment -- are generally baffled. The prevailing view is that it's absurd that in a country as wealthy as the United States, nearly one-sixth of the population is without medical coverage. In China, that percentage is about 5 percent, according to the OECD, although the national health care system is widely considered to be inefficient, and many people still rely on traditional medicine. But in China, too, the spotlight is on one aspect only: How the ruling will affect Obama's popularity, and what it means for the fall elections.