JONATHAN CHAIT FEBRUARY 14, 2011
John Podhoretz agrees with me:
The one-term Massachusetts governor is speaking at CPAC right now. He’s offering lots of good applause lines. Sounding very right-wing. Mitt Romney cannot be the Republican nominee for president and he cannot be president. He is the author, in his Massachusetts health-care program, of the individual mandate that is the heart and soul of ObamaCare.
If he runs, and he will, his origination of this policy will give his opponents in the primaries a stick so large to beat him with that no amount of clever one-liners purchased from high-paid freelance political speechwriters and joke writers will be able to mitigate the damage. And that’s to say nothing of Obama talking throughout 2012 about how he doesn’t understand what the Republicans are complaining about — one of their lead candidates agrees with him!
I know Romney thinks he can get away with saying there’s a difference between an individual mandate at the state level and one at the federal level, and that might technically be true, but it’s not true when it comes to the conceptual origins of the policy. Plus, it’s sophistry.
To be completely honest, I can’t understand why on earth he is even bothering to run. This isn’t an albatross. It’s a two-ton weight chained to his torso, and he’s not Houdini.
Obviously I agree. However -- I wish Podhoretz would think through the implications of what he's saying. What I think is that Romney will lose because the Republican Party is insane. Romney pushed through a perfectly sensible and successful moderate reform policy as governor. He had essentially zero problems with conservatives on account of this policy in 2008. National Review endorsed him. Conservatives liked him, and to the extent they had questions, they concerned social issues.
Now, however, the GOP has decided that Romney's health care plan is not only not fine, it's the End of Freedom and an unconstitutional assault on the core of American freedom. If you believe that the GOP will reject him for this reason, as Podhoretz and I do, then what's your explanation for what happened between the 2008 campaign and now? Did the entire Republican Party simply overlook the massive freedom-destroying properties of a mandate-subsidize-regulate health care reform that were being smuggled into their midst without objection? I'd like to see Podhoretz explain what he thinks happened here.