We are beginning, I suspect, to learn that our worst fears concerning Mitt Romney are justified. If you remember, the proud father of Romneycare initially recommended that despicable piece of legislation as “a model for the states.” Then, he suggested it as “a model for the nation,” and in the hardback version of his campaign book No Apology, which came out in March, 2010, he wrote, “From now on, no one in Massachusetts has to worry about losing his or her health insurance if there is a job change or a loss in income; everyone is insured and pays only what he or she can afford….We can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country….”
Then, when his handiwork was, in fact, taken as a model for the nation by Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi, Mitt Romney came forward to say, “Repeal the bad, and keep the good” within which he included the individual mandate. Later, of course under pressure from the Tea-Party Movement, Romney came out against the whole thing, and in recent debates he has vigorously called for a total repeal.
Is Romney as good as his word? Does he mean what he says? This is a question that we all ask ourselves, and all but the true believers harbor doubts.
Two weeks ago, I came across a hint that Romney might not mean what he said in a post on National Review Online in which Kevin D. Williamson advocated the election of “a bloodless manager” like Mitt Romney in preference to “an ideological flamethrower” like Newt Gingrich on the grounds that the former would better be able to do what Romney once proposed – repeal the bad and keep the good. “The smart way to repeal Obamacare,” he explained,
is to revisit the legislation and to amend it in ways that remove the worst of its statist overreach and replace it with the best available free-market alternatives. The Wyden-Ryan approach is one possible model for amending Obamacare, but it is not the only one, and it is not sufficient by itself. In any case, it will be more effective to amend the legislation in such a way that it is effectively repealed and replaced than to have an emotionally satisfying but probably unwinnable fight over repeal per se. The Supreme Court may give Republicans an assist on this by ruling against the mandate, which, regardless of any additional rulings about the remainder of the legislation, would render the entire package economically unworkable and necessitate reopening the case.
Williamson was no doubt speaking only for himself. But he is wired, and I am not. For this reason, I would not be surprised to learn that he heard someone in the know lay out this scenario before he wrote it up. After all, this past weekend, as Ben Domenech pointed out a few hours ago, Romney advisor and former Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman spelled out the very same scenario, predicting that “the GOP won't repeal the Democrats' healthcare reform law even if a Republican candidate defeats President Obama this November,” and adding:
You will not repeal the act in its entirety, but you will see major changes, particularly if there is a Republican president. You can't whole-cloth throw it out. But you can substantially change what's been done.
The Romney campaign has, of course, distanced itself from Coleman’s remarks. But it is striking that, when Romney announced that Coleman would be an advisor back in September, he observed that the former Senator’s advice would be “critical as I lay out my vision for improving our economy at home and strengthening our partnerships around the world." And it is no less striking that Coleman remains to this very day a Romney advisor.
Were I associated with the campaigns of Rick Santorum or Newt Gingrich, I would urge that my candidate jump on this, and I would suggest he raise the question whether, as an aspirant to the Republican nomination, Mitt Romney is not in the process of snookering conservatives – in the manner in which managerial progressives have so often done so in the past. Not so long ago, I would remind my candidate, Mitt Romney embraced Obamacare, saying that it only needed amendment and that it would be sufficient to “repeal the bad and keep the good.” Why, I would urge him to ask, is a leading Romney advisor talking the very same line if this is not, in fact, what Romney has in mind? Is Romney as good as his word? Or is he leading the Republican Party down the primrose path?
On the other hand, were I an advisor to Mitt Romney, I would say to him,
Mitt, my friend, it is time to wake up and smell the coffee. Barack Obama has raised up within the ranks of the Republican Party a force that you can neither ignore nor contain. You have promised a total repeal. Half-measures will not do. If you are to get the nomination, you will have to stick to that pledge. If you are to be elected, you will have stick to that pledge. And if you are to have a successful Presidency, you will have to deliver on that pledge. Conservatives are no longer willing to be sold out by the managerial progressives in their midst. They will no longer tolerate betrayal.
Let’s face it, my friend. You are in deep trouble right now. If you cannot defeat in South Carolina and Florida a disgraced and much disliked former Speaker of the House of Representatives, it is not very likely that you can be elected President of the United States. The Republican base does not trust you. Hardly anyone, to be frank, trusts you. Your record and your statements over time do not inspire confidence. You cannot afford to have the likes of Norm Coleman saying what he said. If you do not dismiss him from your campaign, Santorum and Gingrich will roast you, and then you will look weak when you find yourself forced to dismiss him. Move quickly, my friend. There is no time for poll-testing!
Then I would add some more concrete advice. “What,” I would ask, “is the obstacle to repeal? The filibuster? You are aware that the filibuster has no constitutional sanction – that it is a function of the rules of the Senate, which are established at the beginning of each session by a majority vote of the Senate. If you win in 2012 and the Republicans take the Senate and you and they want to have a political future, you and they will do what needs to be done.”
We are, as I argued in a recent post, in something like a pre-revolutionary situation. The old order is bankrupt literally and morally, and it will be swept away. Barack Obama has unmasked his party and its agenda, and there is discontent on a scale not seen in my lifetime. Those with the wit to ride the tempest will prosper. Those who lack the wit are destined to go down. Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and the Republican leaders in the Senate and the House need to listen to the song writer’s song:
Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'
And, when they have done so two or three times, they need to sing in unison, “Obamacare delenda est!” Nothing short of this will even begin to suffice.