Once upon a time, Mitt Romney liked health insurance mandates. Then he started sucking up to the new Republican orthodoxy.
This is especially true with health-care reform.
As you probably know, when he was governor of Massachusetts Romney advocated and signed into law a reform package that is basically the precursor of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), what's come to be known as Romneycare, or Masscare. Once upon a time, pre-Obama, that was the standard (and orthodox) Republican position on health-care reform, a market-based system with an individual mandate.
But of course that is no longer the standard Republican position, and so Romney, as part of his larger effort to remake himself as a conservative with sufficient ideological fervor to appeal to the Republican base in order to win the party's presidential nomination, has had to lie, lie, lie his way out of his own past. Here's Jon Chait:
In 2009, Mitt Romney had a problem. He was running for the Republican presidential nomination, and the towering achievement of his governorship in Massachusetts — health-care reform — had been embraced by President Obama. Romneycare played almost no role in Romney's 2008 presidential run, but the emergence of the issue onto the national agenda threatened to link Romney with a president Republicans had already come to loathe.
His solution was simple. He seized upon the one major difference between his plan and Obama's, which was that Obama favored a public health insurance option. The public plan had commanded enormous public attention, and Romney used to it frame Masscare as a conservative reform relying on private health insurance, and against Obama's proposal to create a government plan that, Romney claimed, would balloon into a massive entitlement. Andrew Kaczynski collects several televised appearances and one op-ed in which Romney holds up Masscare as a national model.
This tactic backfired when Obama had to jettison the public plan, and Republicans came to focus on the individual mandate as the locus of evil in Obamacare. What was once a Republican idea in good standing was now, suddenly, unconstitutional and the greatest threat to freedom in American history.
This left Romney in an awkward spot.
It's hard to run for president as the advocate of an idea that your party considers the greatest threat to freedom in history. His response was to simply revise the past, much as he did with abortion. Romney now claimed he had never advocated a federal version of his Masscare program.
Ah, but of course he did, and we have more than enough evidence to prove it. Like, for example, when he said during a 2008 Republican debate that he doesn't just like mandates but thinks they're fine for national health care:
Charles Gibson (moderator): But Governor Romney's system has mandates in Massachusetts, although you backed away from mandates on a national basis.
Romney: No, no, I like mandates. The mandates work.
Fred Thompson: I beg your pardon? I didn't know you were going to admit that. You like mandates.
Romney: Let me -- let me -- oh, absolutely.
Yes, that's Fred Thompson, awake and engaged enough to be astonished that Romney would be so honest about supporting mandates.
And it didn't stop if 2008. Kaczynski shows that Romney thought his Masscare could be a model for national reform well into 2009, that is, even after Obama became president. And he has three clips to prove it. Sure, Romney was against a public option, but he was for Masscare as a national program and specifically for the individual mandate.
All of which is to say, Romney's more recent denials and contortions, claiming that he never thought Masscare was a model for national reform, including the mandate, amount to a massive lie, self-rejection for the sake of courting votes, a shameless pander to the new far-right orthodoxy of the Republican Party.
Just what you'd expect, in other words, from Willard Mitt Romney.