Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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April 3, 2011

ROMNEY TAKES HIS HEALTH CARE PITCH OUT FOR A SPIN.... Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) knows he has a health care problem -- his sole accomplishment in public office served as a blueprint for President Obama's health care policy, considered poison in Republican politics.

But Romney's been working on a defense, and he gave it a shot in Las Vegas yesterday.

It was billed as a foreign policy address, but it didn't take long before the most prominent issue that could haunt Mitt Romney's presidential campaign came up.

The first question from the audience after his 24-minute address yesterday before the Republican Jewish Coalition here was not about Israel or unrest in the Middle East. It was about Romney's health care plan in Massachusetts.

Romney largely defended the rationale of the Massachusetts plan, but he sought to distinguish it from President Obama's national plan by casting it as an issue of states' rights.

"I would never do what President Obama did, which is usurp the power of states and replace it with an overreaching federal hand,'' Romney said. "That's the wrong way.''

I have no idea whether this was well received. It's certainly possible that Romney's pitch will prove persuasive; far-right activists can be a pretty gullible bunch.

But it's worth appreciating how weak this argument really is. For one thing, Romney's argument is wholly at odds with his record. As Greg Sargent explained recently, "The problem for Romney, however, is that he has explicitly suggested that Romneycare should serve as a model for efforts to reform our health system on the federal level.... The plain truth is that Romney was proud of his achievement in Massachusetts, and thought it could -- and should -- help influence policymaking on the federal level."

In other words, when Romney said he'd never have taken his state-based policy to the national level, he's asking voters to overlook the fact that he recommended his state-based policy be taken to the national level.

But that's only part of the problem. The other angle to keep in mind here is the underlying point Romney is hoping GOP voters can live with. The problem with "Romneycare" is that it's so eerily similar to the Affordable Care Act -- one effectively served as the blueprint for the other. For those who consider the ACA to be outrageous and offensive, the federalism point is a fairly minor concern, given the larger context.

Romney's pitch, in effect, asks Republicans to focus on one small problem rather than his larger problem. His argument boils down to, "That radical, communistic health care policy you hate so intensely? Don't worry, I only did that at the state level."

I'm still not sure how or why GOP primary voters would find this compelling.

On a related note, MIT professor Jonathan Gruber, who helped shape Romney's health care law in Massachusetts, has been watching the former governor struggle politically with the issue, and has called Romney's attempts at spin "sad." He's right.

Steve Benen 9:45 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (13)

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Don't be too complacent about apparent flabbiness of Romney et al saying "We're not against doing things blah way, we just think the States should run that and not the Federal Government." After all, that's a conservative staple and few out there will remember subtleties about just how Romney parsed his mix of praise and critique. However, there still is a problem for people like him: teaparty faithful tend to say that it's inherently wrong for "the government" to make people buy something, so just saying it's OK for a State to require it won't go over well with the militant freedom crowd.

BTW, since web crew here can't/won't fix that "URL" tab (nor RPI) I'm putting mine in here, albeit it's almost all science and short on politics: http://tyrannogenius.blogspot.com .

Posted by: Neil B on April 3, 2011 at 9:58 AM | PERMALINK

If health-care is a states' rights issue as Romney says, how does he think the following situation should be handled:
A man from Arizona needs a kidney transplant to live, but he can't afford it and Arizona MedicAid refuses to help him. This man, let's call him Fred Smott, goes to a state that has adopted a single-payer plan -- Vermont, let's say -- which will get him the transplant, but the governor of Arizona demands that he return home to Phoenix to die, and that the Vermont State Police arrest him and put him on a plane. Were this conflict to make its way to the Supreme Court, how does Mitt Romney think the court should decide this Fred Smott decision?

Posted by: hells littlest angel on April 3, 2011 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

(Yeah, that's the basic point made in post anyway, but I'm saying that few will care about just what Romney said about it - more the concept overall. Plus many conservative voters don't care much about what someone thinks States can do, as long as it doesn't happen in their State. If Romney is running for President, they can say "well that's not our concern anymore. Let those lefties in people's republic of _____ talk their Governors or legislatures into whatever, as long as so and so does his job once he's elected President and leaves us alone from now on" etc. It likely won't really hurt him as much as we might like, once he spins it.)

Posted by: neil b on April 3, 2011 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK

Of course, he is playing to a base which believes lies about ACA and Medicare. A friend of ours moved to a conservative area in Pennsylvania. She, now, has her Medicare card. Friday, she tried to use the card for some vision tests. She was not only turned down by several vision specialists, but, one older lady receptionist told her, "We don't take Welfare".

When, you have the so-called "economist", Robert Samuelson of WAPO writing that the majority of social security recipients are drawing welfare because, as he wrote, they are being paid more than they put into the system, no wonder the right wing believes both social security and medicare are "Welfare".

Posted by: berttheclock on April 3, 2011 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

All of this reminds me of Shakespeare:

Deny thy Mother.
Deny thy Father.
Deny thy support of gays.
Deny thy support for choice.
Deny thy Health Care Program.

Deny thou art anything but a knuckledragging, racist, xenophobic, sexist ignorant MFer.

Lest thou lose out to someone who is more of a knuckledragging, racist, xenophobic, sexist ignorant MFer.

'To be, or not to be' a knuckledragging, racist, xenophobic, sexist ignorant MFing asshole?

TO BE!!!

Posted by: c u n d gulag on April 3, 2011 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

When you have a political party's heart beating pure partisan rancor , you may also have the dog whistling code , for members only . The hated e pluribus unum will for all partisan code talkers drift into a more and more distant memory . The greater the distance , the greater the deniability . Bothersome details all the way to , down and up are what rhymes with funny , and before is after .
Not for nothing does a less understandable concept of dividing with all types of separation become a coveted possession in the key attribute desired by the code talker universe . The ability to time travel , bringing the power turn on a dime with no regrets . Being for it and against it is a boring matter of convenience for the time traveling casuist .
Only a subtle matter of , "Because I said so" to bring the dog whistling code contortionists into the right stripe . Ain't it wonderful , if coordinated hate were a recognizable Olympian skill our candy striper's of coordinated gobbledygook , could dog whistle gold from hate .

Posted by: FRP on April 3, 2011 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

A lot of Republicans view Romney as the only possible candidate that can beat Obama. I think that will go along way to helping them embrace Romney's argument, no matter how paper thin it is.

Posted by: lbern on April 3, 2011 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

So Romney did not mention that the President has said that any state that could do a better plan, was free to do so!

Posted by: j on April 3, 2011 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

If nothing else, this provides for an interesting test of a theory of mine, which is that the current crop of Publicans / teahadists are more than just our culture's approximate analog of the Islamic world's Taliban / Islamist types; they are literally the same cultural cancer.
Among the Islamists, it seems typical (tho' u can never be sure, since it's our mass media conveying this impression; clearly it's more than just a theoretic possibility that this is a completely bogus construct) to hear them, within the same breath, first deny that Al-Qaeda / Osama bin Laden was behind the atrocities of 9/11 -- that it was entirely a false-flag operation of the Mossad, backed by (or implemented by) the CIA -- and then take great pride and delight in the damage done the arrogant crusading West in that blow struck for Islamic empowerment...
The point is this: for those -- however many there may be (and I absolutely expect there'll be at least some) -- among the conservatards who accept this blatant nonsense from Mittens as a sufficient explanation to buy off their active enmity and opposition, if not to buy their full-fledged support, it will be strong evidence (I'd really take it as undeniable proof) that (as I strongly suspect) everything they spout is political bullshit.
They don't mean a single word of it; and they never did -- and it doesn't even matter. It is, for them, all and only and purely about us vs them tribal identity, and every political stance or assertion is nothing more than showing the flag-of-the-day, demonstrating your identification with their group, and utterly bereft of meaning or content of its own.
To such people (using the term loosely of course), there's no operational distinction between "rule of law" and "swordfish;" no functional difference between "states' rights" and "open sesame;" no meaningful divide between "exceptional nation" and whatever that Elvish word for "friend" was; they're all just identifiers, not signifiers, and their referents are no more meaningful or real than the Klingon you'll hear bandied about among the nerdiest of convention-goers -- in fact, far less so, because the trekkers are at least consistent in their translations.

Posted by: smartalek on April 3, 2011 at 11:28 AM | PERMALINK

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) knows he has a health care problem -- his sole accomplishment in public office served as a blueprint for President Obama's health care policy, considered poison in Republican politics.

Unless I'm mistaken, Romneycare is the sole accompliahment
of the entire field of GOP candidates for Pretzldent.
...Unless of course, you count newtie's
shutting down the government,
as an "accomplishment".

Posted by: cwolf on April 3, 2011 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Judging by the comments at Politico, apparently Romney's argument will work with conservatives because apparently they have no principles besides doing whatever it takes to win elections.

Posted by: Sam on April 3, 2011 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

Am I the only one that realizes that federally mandated tort reform is an anti "state's rights" policy. This is easy: Romney supports federally mandated tort reform in health care cases, therefore when he claims he is a state's rights advocate when it comes to health care, he is liar, and no deeper reading or examination is necessary.

Posted by: flounder on April 3, 2011 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Mellon. As in: "Ennyn Durin, Aran Moria: Pedo MELLON a minno. Im Narvi hain echant: Celebrimbor o Eregion teithant i thwiw hin." Typed that from memory-not all who are nerds are Trekkers.

Posted by: Werewolf on April 3, 2011 at 9:45 PM | PERMALINK



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