Mitt Happens, Again

Our former governor, the once and future Presidential candidate, has decided to take the bold step of giving a big, self-promoted "important" speech on health care tomorrow. This has pretty predictably prompted a lightning-round of "haul out yer Romney clips." 

Our lovable local liberal bloggers Blue Mass Group came up with a good one, if dated: Mitt backing federally mandated health coverage back in his 1994 US Senate campaign. Sure, it's a long time ago -- and really, who didn't go through a liberty-hating socialist phase in their late 40s? -- but still not pretty.

Then upped the ante, with 2008 tracking video of Romney talking up the wisdom of the mandate, which by then of course was in effect here in the state he once led and loved.

And finally (so far), Greg Sargent, on his Washington Post blog, pitched in with Romney's December, 2007, Meet the Press appearance (mostly remembered, by me anyway, as the interview that prompted me to check whether George Romney ever actually marched with Martin Luther King Jr.) and found the candidate positively bragging about the brilliance of the individual mandate.

It's hard to feel very sorry for Romney, because he usually digs his own grave, but he really did get kinda screwed on this one. As I mentioned as an aside in my latest column, few conservative Republicans were bothered at all by the individual mandate until after the health care bill passed, and the question of the mandate's constitutionality emerged as the "actionable" objection -- that is, the one that seemed to hold a path for taking the law off the books. So, all the built-up (and manufactured) anger over health care reform got funnelled into that one, now suddenly horrific, aspect. How was Romney supposed to know that would happen?

What's been interesting to watch about Romney's struggles with this health care conundrum is how little help and support he's getting. In other circumstances, I would expect that the party's presumptive frontrunner would have plenty of major party or movement figures willing to speak out in defense of Romney's position -- and, I would think, blame the criticism on the evil liberal media machine. I've seen very little of it; they're all pretty much letting their top Presidential contender twist in the wind.

I believe (and get the sense from others) that this is not just about the skittishness of those others about getting on the 'wrong side' of health care -- it's about them not liking Mitt Romney, and more specifically, about them not wanting Mitt Romney and his people to take control of the national party.

I have to believe that Romney's campaign will do everything they can to get those surrogates out there after Thursday's speech, to say how great a job he did, and how well he's now turned the issue around going forward and so on. Will they do it for him? That's what I'll be watching for. That, and more fun clips from the vaults.

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