“THERE IS NO DENYING IT … GINGRICH ADVOCATED FOR THE OBAMACARE MANDATE.”
That’s the headline on a release the Romney campaign blasted to reporters today. It includes several recent quotes from Gingrich in which he did indeed advocate for a national health insurance mandate.
But as Igor Volsky notes, Romney himself has said a number of things very similar to what Gingich said about the mandate, in the course of defending Romneycare, his own health reform achievement.
The Romney campaign cites this Gingrich quote from May of 2009 as proof of Gingrich’s embrace of Obamacare:
“We would not allow people to be free riders, failing to insure themselves and then showing up at the emergency room with no means of payment.”
But Romney himself said this in June of 2006:
“We’re not going to have free riders…And that`s a model which I think has some merit more generally.”
The Romney campaign also cites this 1993 Gingrich quote:
“I am for people, individuals — exactly like automobile insurance — individuals having health insurance and being required to have health insurance.”
But Romney himself said this in September of 2011:
“The government of course has a lot of mandates … mandates kids go to school, mandates they have to have auto insurance if they have an automobile. And my conservative friends say, well we don’t have to have automobiles, well what state do you live in? Of course you have to have automobiles in this nation.”
As Adam Serwer joked the other day, Romney has emerged as “Obamacare’s most eloquent defender.” This is why conservatives worry that Romney will not be able to prosecute the case against Obama’s signature domestic achievement all that effectively.
The Romney campaign argues he never advocated for a federal mandate, claiming that only states have the right to impose one on its citizens. But Romney has blurred the lines more than his campaign will allow. He has said that he hopes for “a nation that’s taken a mandate approach.” He viewed the mandate as a solution that would be national, or quasi-national, in scope. What’s more, conservatives reject the federal-state distinction Romney has made — they see the mandate as tyranny on the state level, too. But Romney has defended it in the same terms that the Romney camp is now citing as proof that Gingrich was a supporter of “Obamcare.”
If the Kerry or Gore campaigns had tried even a fraction of the equivocating, dissembling and outright howlers we’ve seen from the Romney camp, they would have been the targets of wall to wall media mockery for months.