By Elspeth Reeve
One of the funny things about Obamacare roots in the health care reform Mitt Romney enacted while governor of Massachusetts is that Romney has already had to defend himself against all the attacks President Obama is now facing. It makes it tricky for Republicans to attack the law when there's video of their own presidential nominee rebutting the very same attacks. Here are four things Romney wishes he could retract about Romneycare.
1. It's a tax! There wasn't much for Republicans to love in the Supreme Court's ruling that Obamacare is constitutional, except that they concluded the individual mandate is, for constitutional purposes (but not for others), a tax. The soundbites write themselves. Republicans can now brand Obama as raising taxes on the middle class, or, if they're feeling particularly blustery, "the biggest tax increase in the history of the world." But ABC News' Michael Falcone pulls up video from a January 2008 Republican presidential primary debate in which Romney seems to think such a tax is pretty great. When the debate moderator asks, "Governor … you imposed tax penalties in Massachusetts?"
Romney defends the mandate by framing it terms of personal responsibility. "Yes, we said, look, if people can afford to buy it, either buy the insurance or pay your own way," he said. "Don’t be free-riders."
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2. It's "ultimate conservatism." In 2007, Romney said that when the uninsured show up in emergency rooms and get free health care, that's a "form of socialism." By contrast, his health care law was conservative and inspired by the Heritage Foundation, something that is true and that the Heritage Foundation would probably like people to forget.
Romney said a version of this multiple times. In January 2008, he told Fox News Sunday, "I think it's the ultimate conservative plan." Last year, Romney also said his law was based on "fundamentally a conservative principle."
3. It's a good national model. Romney boasted that Congress and the President could learn a lot about health care reform from his Massachusetts plan during an interview with CNN in 2009, "I think there are a number of features in the Massachusetts plan that could inform Washington on ways to improve health care for all Americans," he said "The fact that we were able to get people insured without a government option is a model I think they can learn from." Start at 1:05 and note the lack of concern about constitutional issues.
4. It's humane. When Romney left office in 2007, his staff erased his office's emails from a server computer in an attempt to wipe them from the public record. But earlier this month, The Wall Street Journal found a few survivors, including Romney's own early drafts of his April 2006 Journal op-ed about the passage of Romneycare. Romney used language that would surely irritate many conservatives, and it was toned down when eventually published. Nevertheless, Romney's original thoughts are preserved forever:
Some of my libertarian friends balk at an individual mandate. But is it libertarian to insist that government pick up the tab for those without insurance or means to pay? An uninsured libertarian might counter that he could refuse the free care, but under law, that is impossible — and inhumane.