In last night's GOP debate, Rick Santorum tore into Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich for supporting the "individual mandate" that requires everybody to buy health insurance (deemed necessary to prevent "free riders" from taking advantage of Obamacare's new requirement that health insurers accept all comers, including people with pre-existing conditions). This is breathtakingly hypocritical, given that Santorum himself once supported the individual mandate. Let's go to the tape (courtesy of Kaiser Health News):
Santorum: [G]overnment is going to mandate you buy something that's a condition of breathing, mandate that you buy an insurance policy, something that Governor Romney agreed to at the state level, something Congressman Gingrich for 20 years advocated, that the federal government can force each and every person to enter into a private contract. Something that everyone now, at least up on this stage, says is radically unconstitutional, Congressman Gingrich supported for 20 years.
Santorum: Does everybody in Massachusetts have a requirement to buy health care?
Romney: Everyone has a requirement to either buy it or pay the state for the cost of providing them free care. Because the idea of people getting something for free when they could afford to care for themselves is something that we decided in our state was not a good idea.
Santorum: So in Massachusetts ... Just so I understand this, in Massachusetts, everybody is mandated as a condition of breathing in Massachusetts, to buy health insurance, and if you don't, and if you don't, you have to pay a fine. What has happened in Massachusetts is that people are now paying the fine because health insurance is so expensive.
Santorum: Your mandate is no different than Barack Obama's mandate. It is the same mandate. [...] You take over 100 percent, just like he takes over 100 percent, requires the mandate. The same fines that you put in place in Massachusetts are fines that he puts in place in the federal level. Same programs.
PolitiFact verified several days ago that Santorum's claim that Gingrich has supported some version of the mandate for 20 years was "mostly true." But it didn't think to ask whether Santorum, too, has supported the individual mandate in the past. And as it happens, he has. He supported it in 1994, according to this April 7, 1994 article in the Allentown, Pa. Morning Call, and this May 2, 1994 article in the same newspaper. It's possible that the newspaper would have gotten this wrong once, but in the heat of a primary campaign it's highly unlikely Santorum's campaign would have allowed it to get this wrong twice.
It wouldn't have been at all odd for any of these Republicans to support the individual mandate in the past, because it was a Republican idea, hatched by Stuart Butler and some others at the Heritage Foundation. (Documentation here.) Heritage has desperately tried to disavow it, but to no avail. Even James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal, apparently present at the creation, concedes the point. You sometimes hear conservatives defend their past support for the individual mandate by saying that something was needed to head off more ambitious health insurance schemes like Hillarycare, but that's another way of saying that whenever a conservative proposes any solution to the health care crisis he or she does so in bad faith. Vote Republican if you like, but don't kid yourself that a Republican president would replace Obamacare with anything at all. Not even Romney would. You might even say especially Romney, since the issue has brought him nothing but grief since the 2012 cycle began.