Health Care: The Straw That Should Break Newtmania's Back
Of all the arguments against nominating Mitt Romney for president, perhaps the strongest is that his enactment of RomneyCare and his refusal to disavow it could neutralize the Republicans' ability to run against Barack Obama's own intensely unpopular health care plan. If Romney is the GOP standard-bearer, expect Democrats to play up the similarities and common ancestry of the two plans, challenging Romney to explain why one is a bipartisan success story and the other is an intolerable threat to our way of life. It's certainly a concern Republican primary voters must take seriously.
But the idea that Newt Gingrich would be preferable on that score is about as unserious as it gets. The former speaker may be talking tough now on how "you can't make the difference" between RomneyCare and ObamaCare and boasting that "I can ask [Congress] to repeal ObamaCare because I haven't passed something which resembles it," but the truth is that Gingrich is every bit as compromised on health care as Romney is -- perhaps even more so.
You wouldn't know it from his bluster on the stump, but Gingrich endorsed RomneyCare in 2006. Despite some criticism of the bill's imperfections, he "agree[d] entirely with Governor Romney and Massachusetts legislators that our goal should be 100 percent insurance coverage for all Americans" and, to that end, called RomneyCare "the most exciting development of the past few weeks," with "tremendous potential to effect major change in the American health system."
And while Romney has consistently opposed enacting health insurance mandates at the federal level, Gingrich can't say the same. He has repeatedly backed federal individual mandates throughout his career; in particular, during a 2009 conference call following a White House press conference on health care, Gingrich expressed optimism toward the reform process and spoke about the need to require everyone to have health insurance, which was "the general model we're going to be advocating" that eventually became ObamaCare. Mission accomplished!
The only real point in Gingrich's favor is that he admits he was wrong, whereas Romney has dug in his heels. However, accepting that Gingrich's reversal is sincere rather than opportunistic would be a courtesy Gingrich hasn't extended to Romney, and Obama certainly wouldn't extend any such courtesy to Gingrich.
If the nominee's ability to effectively campaign against ObamaCare is your chief concern, there is no reason to prefer Newt Gingrich to Mitt Romney. If anything, Romney is slightly better, since his federalist approach is closer to the Constitution and farther from Obama than is Gingrich's record.
Despite an absurd narrative being hysterically promoted by pundits and bloggers like Sarah Palin, Jeffrey Lord, William Jacobson, and Dan Riehl, Newt vs. Mitt isn't some epic struggle of Reaganites vs. RINOs or grassroots vs. establishment. It's simply a choice between two moderates running as conservatives. The simple truth is that Gingrich only seems more conservative than Romney because he's got the style down pat -- on substance, he's a total mess. Further, doubts about Gingrich's electability have nothing to do with his being too conservative and everything to do with his undisciplined, narcissistic character.
The saddest part of this debacle is that, if these people are so desperate for a more conservative choice than Romney, they don't even have to settle for Gingrich. As Michelle Malkin pointed out on Monday, Rick Santorum is the only candidate who's been consistently conservative on health care, bailouts, stimulus, the right to life, environmentalism, immigration, and defense. And if you're sincerely offended by Romney going negative, why on earth would you prefer Gingrich, who deployed left-wing smears of Bain Capital and is now invoking the Holocaust in dishonest robocalls, to Santorum, who refused to join either the class-warfare pile-on or the Freddie Mac bickering?
If you reject Santorum because you doubt his political chances, fine. If you're willing to overlook Gingrich's flaws because you think his strengths outweigh Romney's, okay. But for heaven's sake, enough with the hypocrisy and the persecution complex. Newt fans have already made compromises in their assessment of two candidates, and they have no standing to look down on Mitt supporters for doing the same. If the truth about Gingrich's health care record isn't enough to cure Newtmania, nothing will be.