It is now a central dogma of the GOP’s 2012 pre-primary that the biggest obstacle Mitt Romney will face is his history on the issue of Health Care — mainly that RomneyCare is similar to, and was a template for, ObamaCare (which Republicans rightly loathe). In this multi-part series I will discuss the issue in depth and debunk some of the superficial and opportunistic fire (both “enemy” and “friendly”) Romney has been taking of late.
By way of background, as a practicing physician I live and breath health care everyday. I strongly feel that, as Americans, we have the best health care available in the world and I’m proud to play a part in that. I was actually first drawn to investigate Romney back in 2005 when the Massachusetts Health Care bill (alternatively called MassCare or RomneyCare) was first passed. I was impressed with Mitt’s courage and skill in addressing such a controversial subject, and within such a liberal state. The fact that The Heritage Foundation was on board with the plan gave me an extra level of comfort as well. After thoroughly studying Romney’s history and platform on other issues as well, I strongly supported Mitt from that point, and continue to today. There are definitely major problems with our healthcare system, but rarely do you find conservative leaders willing to tackle any of those problems. It is almost ironic that it would have been a lot less headache politically for Mitt (in retrospect) if he had done nothing on this issue. What’s the old cynical saying? “No good deed will go unpunished” seems to apply here.
Never afraid to speak his mind, Democrat Ed Rendell (who is often known for his candor), summed up Romney’s apparent conumdrum quite well:
“If I were in charge of the Republican Party – by the way, this will be the kiss to death to the guy I’m going to mention – Mitt Romney would be the candidate, no ifs, ands, and buts about it,” Rendell said Friday night. “He’s got the best credentials to talk about the economy and job creation,” he said. “But Mitt Romney, I don’t think can get the nomination, because of healthcare.”
It’s that last point that is becoming the new “conventional wisdom” regarding Romney’s imminent candidacy. Even some conservative columnists have already written Romney’s obituary over the issue. In dramatic and grandiose fashion, John Podhoretz recently wrote:
Mitt Romney cannot be the Republican nominee for president and he cannot be president. He is the author, in his Massachusetts health-care program, of the individual mandate that is the heart and soul of ObamaCare… If he runs, and he will, his origination of this policy will give his opponents in the primaries a stick so large to beat him with that no amount of clever one-liners purchased from high-paid freelance political speechwriters and joke writers will be able to mitigate the damage. And that’s to say nothing of Obama talking throughout 2012 about how he doesn’t understand what the Republicans are complaining about — one of their lead candidates agrees with him! To be completely honest, I can’t understand why on earth he is even bothering to run. This isn’t an albatross. It’s a two-ton weight chained to his torso, and he’s not Houdini.
It’s sometimes very obvious when an argument lacks solid logical strength, the author often covers that up with hyperbole and dramatization.
I mean some of the headlines are dire, right? Politico: “RomneyCare Enough to Make Mitt Sick” or The New Republic: “Romney Death Watch” or Washington Post: “Mitt Romney’s Health Care Gordian Knot” (Actually one sentence from this last article is a prelude to a later installment of this series: “Romney, of course, passed a health plan as governor of Massachusetts containing an individual mandate, unaware that conservatives would soon decide that this once non-controversial policy tool constitutes the gravest threat to American liberty since King George the Third.”)
Even Karl Rove has publically suggested that Romney apologize for the law and distance himself from it:
“Former White House adviser Karl Rove slammed potential presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Thursday, saying the Massachusetts Republican will have to admit he is “wrong” on health care.”
Sorry Karly… but that’s not gonna happen. Romney has consistently defended RomneyCare from Day One, as Governor of MA, as a 2008 candidate, when ObamaCare was passed, and still today (“but how could that be possible from such an opportunistic flip-flopper?” some may say). The reasons for this are two-fold: 1) He truly does believe and stand by the underlying principles behind RomneyCare (though he’s said their are some imperfect aspects of the plan) and 2) it would be the absolute “kiss of death” for Romney to flip on the signature legislation of his tenure as a Governor, given the fact that Romney gets killed as a “Flip-Flopper” even on issues where there really is no significant change. No one should hold their breath for Romney to disavow his history and convictions on health care. It’s just not going to happen. He’s already said that he “won’t apologize” for the law passed in MA. Looks like Mitt’s living life according to his book title, eh?
The most telling factor is how orchestrated and early the White House has been in “dinging” Mitt on the issue. Let’s start at the top with President Obama’s comment on Mitt/Health Care:
…when you actually look at the bill itself, it incorporates all sorts of Republican ideas. I mean, a lot of commentators have said, you know, this is sort of similar to the bill that Mitt Romney passed in Massachusetts.
So, was this just a passing comment? Or, as I would suggest, does President Obama already know that Romney would be his greatest threat and toughest challenger from the GOP’s current field? That Obama is, therefore, trying to sink Mitt’s chances with the conservative base by “praising Romney’s contributions” to ObamaCare? Obama is nothing if not a sly politician, and his comments are very calculated. And there is plenty more evidence that this is a well-rehearsed Obama White House “talking point” . . . his closest advisors and spokesmen are all reading from the same playbook.
Obama’s brand new Chief of Staff has shown that he knows how to read and apply the DNC’s talking points quickly. In a CBS News article that sizes up the strengths and weaknesses of the GOP’s 2012 field of contenders, the chief weakness listed for Romney is his history on health care.
“President Obama’s Chief of Staff Bill Daley recently joked that “ObamaCare” used to be known as “RomneyCare.”
Another wing of the DNC attack machine (i.e. major liberal-leaning news outlets) are also already using the issue to cripple Romney’s potential support from the right. Here’s ABC’s George Stephanopolus getting into the act (don’t forget George used to work in the White House for a Democratic administration).
Robert Gibbs just had to get in on the mix as well. In his last press conference for Obama, the departing White House Press Secretary wondered if the words “Health Care” would ever come out of Romney’s mouth over the next two years.
Most telling, however, is that David Axelrod, when asked about Obama’s potential 2012 GOP opponents, just couldn’t help himself:
Washington (CNN)- Top Obama advisor David Axelrod, who left the White House last week to lay the groundwork for the president’s reelection campaign, is already needling a potential Republican rival.
In an interview with USA Today, Axelrod goes out of his way to credit Mitt Romney for implementing a universal health care plan when he was governor of Massachusetts that shares many similarities with the White House-backed law that has proved so unpopular with Republicans.
“We got some good ideas from him,” said Axelrod in a clear effort to highlight Romney’s involvement with implementing a law similar to that which is so disliked among Republicans nationwide.
Now, please – figure me this: What reason could Axelrod, Obama’s campaign manager (mind you), have to try to meddle with who the GOP chooses to nominate? If Romney were a weak candidate that would be a “pushover” in the general election, do you think Axelrod would try to hedge up Romney’s way like this? If they were salivating for a matchup against Romney, Obama’s team wouldn’t be trying to hurt him with the GOP base. Don’t fall for this, true conservatives!
When Obama himself, and all his key operatives (Gibbs, Daley, and Axelrod) are trying to knee-cap Romney with the conservative base it points to a premeditated and orchestrated plan. And that, my friends, speaks volumes.
**UPDATE: Since the original posting of this, Obama has, yet again, praised Romney for his role in RomneyCare as the pre-cursor for ObamaCare. At that link I also listed yet another time Obama made the same association and another time he had Gibbs make it. The tally is quickly approaching double-digits and, at this point, this “backhanded compliment” is well-established as a White House “talking point.” All this attention is not going unnoticed by Team Romney, as Mitt himself recently quipped: “the President and his people spend more time talking about me and Massachusetts healthcare than Entertainment Tonight spends talking about Charlie Sheen.” Nice one, Mitt . . . nice.
****UPDATE 2: (April 17th) Boston Globe writer Glen Johnson (who has STRONG liberal leanings) summed things up nicely in this YouTube video:
-Jeff Fuller, M.D.
*Stay Tuned: In the next installment (Part 2) I’ll argue that Romney is actually the absolute BEST candidate the GOP could run against Obama and ObamaCare. Part 3 confirms “the bottom line” of all this . . . that Romney stands strong and consistant in his opposition to ObamaCare and promises it’s repeal, if he ever gets the opportunity.