On Eve of Romney’s Health Care Speech, an Unlikely Source Deals a Body Blow

I happen to like Mitt Romney.  I’ve said before on these pages that, while Romney did not have me convinced early on in the 2008 presidential primary, by the time that he bowed out at CPAC in early 2008 he seemed as though he had sold conservative principles to the American people enough in his capacity as a candidate that he finally understood those principles and was fighting for them — not just parroting what needed to be parroted in order to garner the pre-Tea Party GOP nomination.

In the interest of complete honesty, I have been looking forward to Romney’s entrance into the 2012 campaign.  It’s not that I don’t like Herman Cain, or Allen West, or Mitch Daniels (trust me, I do), but I have enjoyed watching Mitt Romney progress over the past few years.  He has become less plastic and more adept at connecting with voters, all the while continuing to be outspoken in his criticism of the Obama administration’s economic and foreign policy.  He even finally began to acknowledge fault in the failure of RomneyCare, his pet project during his tenure in the Massachusetts State House, and finally started making the federalism argument when attempting to explain away the albatross hanging from his neck as a potential candidate.

Earlier this week, when I heard news that Romney would be delivering a health care-specific address on Thursday, I took it as a sign that he was getting into the race, and I got excited.  Indeed, I do believe that it was his intention all along to throw his proverbial hat in the ring today.  Now, I don’t quite know if the timing is right.

This morning, the editorial board at The Wall Street Journal absolutely savaged Mitt Romney for his role in RomneyCare in years past, and his continuing refusal to admit the program’s abject failure.  The e-board cast RomneyCare not only as the predecessor and comrade-in-arms of ObamaCare, but held the failed program up as an example of entitlements in general gone wild.

“Most immediately for his Republican candidacy, the debate over ObamaCare and the larger entitlement state may be the central question of the 2012 election,” the Journal editors argue in an op-ed entitled Obama’s Running Mate. “On that question, Mr. Romney is compromised and not credible.  If he does not change his message, he might as well try to knock off Joe Biden and get on the Obama ticket.”

A sampling of the Journal‘s rationale:

Like Mr. Obama’s reform, RomneyCare was predicated on the illusion that insurance would be less expensive if everyone were covered. Even if this theory were plausible, it is not true in Massachusetts today. So as costs continue to climb, Mr. Romney’s Democratic successor now wants to create a central board of political appointees to decide how much doctors and hospitals should be paid for thousands of services.

The Romney camp blames all this on a failure of execution, not of design. But by this cause-and-effect standard, Mr. Romney could push someone out of an airplane and blame the ground for killing him. Once government takes on the direct or implicit liability of paying for health care for everyone, the only way to afford it is through raw political control of all medical decisions.

Mr. Romney’s refusal to appreciate this, then and now, reveals a troubling failure of political understanding and principle. The raucous national debate over health care isn’t about this or that technocratic detail, but about basic differences over the role of government. In the current debate over Medicare, Paul Ryan wants to reduce costs by encouraging private competition while Mr. Obama wants the cost-cutting done by a body of unelected experts like the one emerging in Massachusetts.

Mr. Romney’s fundamental error was assuming that such differences could be parsed by his own group of experts, as if government can be run by management consultants. He still seems to believe he somehow squared the views of Jonathan Gruber, the MIT evangelist for ObamaCare, with those of the Heritage Foundation.

In reality, his ostensible liberal allies like the late Ted Kennedy saw an opening to advance their own priorities, and in Mr. Romney they took advantage of a politician who still doesn’t seem to understand how government works. It’s no accident that RomneyCare’s most vociferous defenders now are in the White House and left-wing media and think tanks. They know what happened, even if he doesn’t.

Brutal, and brutally damaging for a campaign in its infancy. In perhaps the funniest tweet of the evening yesterday, National Review‘s Andrew Stiles shared the following text and link (WARNING: Tons of Explicit Language at the link):

@AndrewStilesNRO: BREAKING: Mitt Romney reacts to WSJ editorial: http://tinyurl.com/3t2jnbf

All kidding aside, consider that no matter who the eventual GOP nominee may be, he or she will want the blessing and endorsement of The Wall Street Journal.  After an introduction like this on what inevitably is the eve of the launch of the Romney campaign, the question remains as to how the Journal, should Romney prove to be the nominee, reconcile any endorsement with such a pointed commentary.  As an editorial board, how do you suggest that the Republican nominee run alongside the incumbent Democrat at the start of primary season, and then endorse him as the GOP nominee at the end?

Part of me thinks that the Journal‘s piece is not fair.  After all, Romney stood fast against unions and the auto bailout in a November 2008 New York Times op-ed entitled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt,” and has made cogent and strenuous arguments against Barack Obama’s foreign policy, like the op-ed he penned for National Review in April 2009.  From “A Timid Advocate of Freedom”:

The words spoken by the leader of the free world can expand the frontiers of freedom or shrink them. When Ronald Reagan called on Gorbachev to “tear down this wall,” a surge of confidence rose that would ultimately breach the bounds of the evil empire. It was the same confidence that had been ignited decades earlier when John F. Kennedy declared to a people surrounded by Communism that they were not alone. “We are all Berliners,” he said, because “freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s confident commitment, spoken as he led us into the war that would free millions in Europe, inspired not only Americans but freedom fighters around the globe: “The American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.” Such words of solidarity, of confidence, and of unwavering conviction that America is indeed “the last best hope on earth” are what freedom’s friends would have expected to hear from our president when our nation was slandered. Instead he offered silence, smiles, and a handshake.

Even more troubling than what he has or has not said is what he has not done. Kim Jong Il launched a long-range missile on the very day President Obama addressed the world about the peril of nuclear proliferation. As one of the world’s most oppressive and tyrannical regimes is on the brink of securing the “game changing” capability to reach American shores with a nuclear weapon, the president shrinks from action: no seizure of North Korean funds, no severance of banking access, no blockade.

Not to be outdone by Kim Jong Il, President Ahmadinejad announced that his nation has successfully mastered every step necessary to enrich uranium, violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty it has signed. So, like North Korea, Iran will have changed the world’s equation for peace and security: It will be capable of devastating Europe and America, and of annihilating Israel. And as with North Korea, the Obama administration chooses inaction — no new severe sanctions, no hint of military options. Ahmadinejad can act with confidence that the forceful options once on our proverbial table have been shelved.

The problem, however, is that the editorial board at The Wall Street Journal is absolutely right.  Think back to the summer of 2009.  Think back to Christmas Eve of that year.  Think back to “deem and pass.”  Health care reform will absolutely be at the center of the 2012 election, and will only be a small part of the bigger picture that is entitlement reform and America’s fiscal future with and without it.

Mitt Romney has the economic bona fides.  The question, as appropriately raised by the Journal, is whether or not Mitt Romney has learned how government works.  Furthermore, even if he has, can he explain that transformation to the American people?  My guess, given his scheduled address later today, is that we’ll know soon whether Mitt Romney launches his campaign from a position of strength, or from the doldrums of public opinion in this Tea Party age.

It’s not as though health care reform is the only issue in which Romney has made his presence known.



  1. 2012 says:

    Why can’t WE as a party, find a questionable character, raised by communists, who has a completely secretive and hidden past (even kindergarten records), BUT that has a really nice skin tone that excites everybody?

  2. graypanther says:

    So the field thins down. Not Romney, health care; not Gingrich, environmentalism; not Huck, knows he’d get pasted; not Trump, distrusted as a city slicker; not Paul, Palin, Bachmann, Cain, West, de Mint — appeal too narrow and they know it. So many candidates who would get 30%-40%! and most of the above are McCain over again.

  3. Ryan says:

    Gary Johnson Please…

  4. Linda C. says:

    I disagree graypanther. Once people know Allen West, his appeal will be extremely widespread. Sorry, Jeff. Have to disagree with your choice here. I think Romney will get stamped on if he is the candidate and we will be left with four more years of watching our country fall into deterioration.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Christie/West….. just sayin. Everybody else…… yawn.

  6. 2010, 2012 says:

    romney probably stepped out early with this speech
    to test the reception. this will be his biggest
    hurdle even though he is presenting it in a manner
    as if to put it to bed once and for all.

    my guess – he’s guaging the response before he chances
    another 20+ million.

    i like his response in that he was able to offer what
    makes sense: his was for one state not the entire country
    and the people of that State DID buy into it. afterall, it’s
    their choice. unlike obamacare which was shoved down our throats
    destpite clear rejection from voters.

    my problem with romney is his willingness to compromise on
    issues such as sexuality, etc. . . this is where he appears
    non-conservative. if conservatives leave him he’s toast.

    bad timing re obama-romneyCare and morality of gay marriage
    because now more than ever conservatives sticking to their
    guns. we see where complacency on these issues has taken
    this country and we are saying enough, and reverse.

    this is not romneytime. he will be another MegWhitman if
    he goes forward with a bid.

  7. Gail B. says:

    We’ll see who I am for, if the right avatar comes up!

  8. Gail B. says:

    Nope. Wrong avatar here.

    I’m not sure Allen West is going to say no. There are at least three grassroots efforts, petitions being signed, newspapers being written to, and then there is this conversation and video on the HOME page–

  9. wrong timeing says:

    this is not just a cliche but it really is literally
    throwing money away even though much of it will
    probably come from his personal purse.

    i think romneycare is baggage but with his skills i
    believe it is a hustle he can muscle. the gay marriage
    thing though is concrete wall and not going anywhere.

  10. 2010, 2012 says:

    1. Palin is my choice\
    2. I’d like Beck to run just for the pleasure of having beck debate obama.
    3. whomever the republicans run is our next president.
    4. obama’s numbers are already back below 50 despite just having the b.ladin
    5. birth certificate shown recently still not good paper:
    =rubber stamp used apparently was made up and they mis-spelled the word, “the” bottom right.
    =Hawaii now refuses to make an official statement that what obama is showing is a certified copy(possibly because it lacks a Seal?) (i kno – here we go again…)
    =sorry, but it’s true. ‘don’t kno how they missed this but there is no Official Seal of Hawaii on the document, front or back.

    6. typeface used was not available in the 60s so this couldn’t possibly be a “copy,” as the administration would have us believe.

    ** percentage of those who said they were now satisfied that obama was born here had increased according so some polls. now, however those same polls are showing an increase who have yet again changed their minds in light of the newly found irregularities on what appears to be a bogus long form certificate.

    ……… jeff i kno this is not one of your favorite subjs., but it is what it is ……..

  11. Anonymous says:

    Where’s the Like button for 2010,2012?

  12. Randy Wills says:

    I have to disagree “that whomever the republicans (sic) run is our next president”.

    I hope that you’re right, but I think the odds are no greater than 50/50 and probably more like 40/60 in favor of Obama. It would be a big mistake to underestimate the power of the incumbancy. In addition, the demographics (Progressive/Liberals, minorities, recently minted 18-24 year old neo-Socialist graduates from our high schools and universities) favor Obama and the Democrats.

    Any real progress that the Republican House attempts to make towards fiscal sustainability will run contrary to the mind-set of a huge portion of the electorate. Obama’s biggest challenge will be to get his constituency to the polls in 2012, and he will have the benefit of the “bully pulpit” and deep, deep, pockets.

    I believe it will take a very special Republican candidate to beat him, and, frankly, I don’t see anyone of that stature on the scene right now. Thankfully, Trump has dropped out, giving the Republicans a little more credibility.

    I also believe that Romney is whatever he thinks that the public will buy. In other words, I see him as an intellectually dishonest person. which, coupled with good looks and access to great wealth, may make him the consumate politician, but not someone whom I can support.

    Just my personal opinion. I may be all wet, but at the moment, I like a West and _________(fill in the blank with Cristi, Cain, Bachman, Pawlenty, Santorum, etc.) ticket. Most people will respect a military person who comes from a family tradition of service to the country over a politician, especially in troubled times.


  13. Linda C. says:

    Romney cannot win. As much as you might like him, like is not going to win the election. We not only need a good candidate, we need someone who can WIN. There is a difference. Romney does not relate to the common man – something which our rouse-in-chief has managed to master (even though they don’t realize that he is, in fact, talking down to them). For my money, Allen West is the only person who can actually WIN. He immediately negates the race card; he intellectually knows the enemy(ies) without and within; and first, and foremost, he believes in this country – a patriot of which we are in dire need.

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