Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 6, 2010

ROMNEY URGED TO ABANDON HIS SIGNATURE ACCOMPLISHMENT.... Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) has a small problem for which there is no easy answer.

He served one term -- had he sought another, Romney would have very likely lost -- during which he had one signature accomplishment: passing statewide health care reform. At the time, the success cast Romney in a positive light, demonstrating his ability to tackle major policy challenges and work with members of both parties to pass a sensible, mainstream legislative milestone.

That, at least in theory, is the sort of thing a governor could parlay into a national campaign. That task was made far more difficult, however, by Democrats passing the Affordable Care Act -- which looks an awful lot like Romney's health care reform package in Massachusetts.

The more Republican activists and donors hate President Obama's breakthrough, and notice that the Democratic policy is eerily similar to Romney's policy, the more they'll likely end up rejecting Romney's next presidential campaign and the one major thing he got done during his only experience in government at any level.

What to do? The right has some advice.

Conservatives ... are increasingly blunt in their advice to Romney: Say you're sorry.

"I guarantee that, at the top of everyone's list on how to differentiate your guy from Mitt Romney, the top of the list is health care -- until and unless he takes the opportunity to say, 'We tried, and it didn't work. The individual mandate at the heart of Obamacare and Romneycare was wrong,'" said Bill Pascoe, a Republican strategist who wrote a post on his blog earlier this year titled "Say Goodbye to Mitt." [...]

"I would advise him to acknowledge he made a mistake," said L. Brent Bozell, president of the Conservative Victory Committee, who has been critical of Romney in the past for his stance on social issues. "You are defending a sinking ship. Put it this way, I don't know of any other potential candidate who has as big of a potential single-issue problem as this one."

At a certain level, this is all terribly silly. Obama's policy, like Romney's policy, is a moderate solution to a long-standing national problem. Their plans are the sort of thing that can enjoy bipartisan support -- and would had the GOP not gotten so hysterical and extreme in recent years.

But that is, of course, the point. Romney did one big thing during one term, and now his own party doesn't want to hear about it. On the contrary, they're demanding an apology before they hear anything else.

The irony for Romney is that he's flip-flopped on practically every issue I can think of, but the one position he's inclined to stick to is the one the GOP base finds wholly unacceptable.

It's worth noting, though, that it's not just Romney. Jon Chait added, "I'd also be curious to hear from some conservatives about how they see this. In 2008, nearly all of them were fine with Romney's health care plan. (National Review endorsed Romney for president.) Now, to a man, nearly all of them believe the imposition of a regulate/subsidize/mandate scheme represents one of the worst catastrophes in American history. How do they account for their dramatic change of mind? Were conservatives all simply wrong and ignorant in 2008, and now they've opened their eyes?"

Maybe we should expect a whole lot of apologies from conservatives who had no problem with Obama's health care policy until it was Obama's health care policy.

Steve Benen 10:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (20)

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Modern conservatism is not a consistent philosophy, it's a consistent emotion.

Posted by: Jon on October 6, 2010 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

Republicans' position on health care in 2008 was one of political convenience, adopted because everything else they were associated with had turned to mud.

BTW, although Steve is correct in noting Romney probably would not have won re-election, it wasn't due to Romney-care. His prospects might have been better if he hadn't started running for President and trashing the state all across the country.

Posted by: Ralph Kramden on October 6, 2010 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

Let's stop using the name "The Republican Party" and call them what the really are: "The Nihilist Party."

Posted by: c u n d gulag on October 6, 2010 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Another option for the right wing would be to acknowledge that medical care for even those who can't afford it is a good idea. I realize that this interferes with their eugenics program where poor people are eliminated from the gene pool, but they'll have to eventually realize that many of their people are in that particular cohort. Where will they be when they've lost their storm troopers?

Posted by: Texas Aggie on October 6, 2010 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

Democrats could of course point out that the "individual mandate at the heart of Obamacare and Romneycare" -- which requires all Americans to guarantee and subsidize the profits of the for-profit insurance corporations -- is a 30-year-old Republican proposal which Republicans have consistently advocated and supported for decades.

But of course, progressive Democrats who have pointed this out have been vilified and ridiculed by the Obama administration as members of "the professional left" who "need to be drug tested" and progressive Democrats who criticized the individual mandate during the health care reform debate were routinely called "idiots" and "traitors" on this and other blogs.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on October 6, 2010 at 11:07 AM | PERMALINK

Repub primary voters would prefer as President a nutcase like Christine O'Donnell over someone who has worked with Dems to pass legislation.

Posted by: Dennis on October 6, 2010 at 11:12 AM | PERMALINK

Best thing Romney could do is hope for a Palin presidential run in 2012. When she loses in a landslide, maybe... just maybe... the Republican establishment will turn toward more mainstream candidates. Around the open race in 2016 the ACA might be polling better and Romney can actually use his health care plan as something to run on.

Posted by: kp on October 6, 2010 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

Speaking of mad Christine O'Donnell, now that she has a new ad proclaiming she is not a witch, I'm sure she would not mind sharing a pair of scales with a duck for all the nation to see. Come on, Christine. How much do you weigh? WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF?

Posted by: hOW on October 6, 2010 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

We spend 18% of GDP on health care. Even with HCR, we're looking at a cost trajectory that will eventually bankrupt us. There is no real discussion here because the health-care industrial complex spends millions diverting our attention to side issues.

I'm tempted to say Mitt Romney has no future in a party as crazy as the GOP. But who else is there? All those Midwestern dark horses and social conservative hillbillies are simply implausible as presidential nominees. Romney is artfully dishonest and should have little problem portraying his plan as the opposite of Obamacare. If there's one thing we've learned about Republicans, it's that reality is little more than so many talking points. Which are short, stupid, contradictory and effective.

Posted by: walt on October 6, 2010 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

But... But... But...

Say your sorry? For reals?
Being a Republican means never having to say your sorry.
What kind of advice is this?

Posted by: koreyel on October 6, 2010 at 11:20 AM | PERMALINK

"We tried, and it didn't work."

Does it matter if this is even true?

Posted by: Grumpy on October 6, 2010 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

Dems need to pull every Republican quote and video clip in support of Romney's Massachusetts healthcare plan and rub their faces in it, HARD.

Posted by: bdop4 on October 6, 2010 at 11:33 AM | PERMALINK

Yes, the GOP is right! Mitt needs to say, "I was for it, before I was against it." -because that worked out so well for Kerry. . .

Posted by: DAY on October 6, 2010 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

walt @ 11:19 grazed the solution. Just lie. This is easy for a GOBP'r to do. Explain that it doesn't do what is needed (but actually does) and all is well. So, short answer and long term solution is to continue lying.

Posted by: Kevin (not the famous one) on October 6, 2010 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Chait: "...Were conservatives all simply wrong and ignorant in 2008, and now they've opened their eyes?"

You had me right up to the part about opening their eyes.


Posted by: admadm on October 6, 2010 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

I forget where I saw it, but Romney's answer to this is to seize on some minor difference between the MA system and the Federal one, and say that's why his is good and the other bad.

Posted by: DonBoy on October 6, 2010 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

"Modern conservatism is not a consistent philosophy, it's a consistent emotion. "

I don't know if you came up with this, but I like it a lot. It's a perfect description.

Posted by: Steve on October 6, 2010 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

Modern conservatism is not a consistent philosophy, it's a consistent emotion.
Posted by: Jon on October 6, 2010 at 10:57 AM

If I may suggest one slight amendment:
Modern conservatism is not a consistent philosophy, it's an insistent emotion.

Posted by: Johnny Canuck on October 6, 2010 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Modern conservatism is an entertainment demographic.

Much like the audience for professional wrestling, or dog fights.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on October 6, 2010 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe we should expect some apologies? Did you just start following politics in the US?

The GOP (and plenty of Dems, for that matter) has never had any problem taking totally inconsistent and illogical positions. I can't see why they wouldn't just say that they endorsed Mitt but his plan was different, or that events have shown his plan was foolish, or that the Dem who replaced him messed it up.

I can see this as a sword for primary rivals to attack Mitt; but I can't see how other GOP-ers would be long or much troubled by the obvious and indefensible 180...

Posted by: Jim Pharo on October 6, 2010 at 6:42 PM | PERMALINK



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