At the risk of beating a dead horse, there are two other items from Ann Coulter’s pro-Romneycare column that require a response. Coulter contends, “What went wrong with Romneycare wasn’t a problem in the bill, but a problem in Massachusetts: Democrats.”
We heard a version of this argument when Congress passed the Medicare prescription drug benefit under George W. Bush — the original Bush proposal was better than the final product. But in both cases, Bush and Romney decided to sign the finished product into law with great fanfare. They both accepted credit for the programs as major legislative accomplishments. You can’t take credit for these bills without accepting the blame too.
In the case of Romneycare, while it is true that the Democrats pushed some details to the left, the basic architecture of the plan — mandates, subsidies, government-run exchanges, and expanded Medicaid — were all in the original proposal backed by the governor. The final product didn’t differ in kind from Romney’s proposal, though it did to some extent by degree. And Romney had already decided not to run for reelection, thus leaving the plan’s implementation totally up to Democrats.
“Romney, incidentally, has always said his plan would be a bad idea nationally,” Coulter writes. But that’s not entirely clear from his repeated references to the Massachusetts plan as a national model. Romney also predicted, erroneously, that most states in the nation would end up with his mandate-driven approach. Jonathan Gruber, a liberal scholar who helped design both Romneycare and Obamacare, favored federal mandates. The Heritage scholars Coulter cites were originally supporters of the federal mandate. (Many of them have renounced their support; see this op-ed from the oft-Coulter-quoted Bob Moffit who called “operationally ineffective and legally defective.”
The point here isn’t to vilify Coulter, a fine columnist, or even Romney. Romney should be defended from attacks from his left. The point is avoid consolidating liberal policy gains by a.) engaging in revisionist history to let our favorite Republican co-conspirators off the hook, b.) making arguments that will make the reversal of those gains much more difficult, and c.) turning serious constitutional and policy differences into partisan squabbling.
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