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Romney Opposes Himself. Again.

March 27, 2010

If Republicans suffered a devastating defeat this week with the passage of President Obama's health care reform bill, Mitt Romney was the biggest loser of all. While the 2012 White House hopeful declared that "President Obama betrayed his oath to the nation," even conservatives acknowledged that the individual insurance mandate Massachusetts Governor Romney signed into law is virtually identical to the federal one he now decries. And as his long history of acrobatic flip-flops and painful political contortion acts on abortion, immigration reform, Iran and so much else show, Mitt Romney is opposing himself yet again.
Romney, of course, isn't just one of the legions of Republicans who supported the individual mandate in the past, he's the only one to affix his signature to it. While Mitt has joined the conservative echo chamber now arguing the mandate is unconstitutional, in 2006 he declared:

"Some of my libertarian friends balk at what looks like an individual mandate. But remember, someone has to pay for the health care that must, by law, be provided: Either the individual pays or the taxpayers pay. A free ride on government is not libertarian."

Reflecting in 2008 on the Bay State system which reduced the ranks of the uninsured to a national low of 3%, Romney praised his handiwork. "I like mandates," he said, adding, "The mandates work." Romney's current cognitive dissonance was evident in his feeble attempt to explain it all away:

"I like what we have in Massachusetts, despite some flaws," Romney said. "But what I see in Obamacare is a very different piece of legislation -- and one that followed a very different track. In our case, our bill was carried out in a bipartisan basis."

As ThinkProgress suggested, "Romney is exactly right." While the Republican minority in Massachusetts (including now Senator Scott Brown) joined the Democratic majority to create overwhelming momentum for health care reform, "Congressional Republicans, however, refused to cooperate with the President."
Embarrassing as this episode is for Romney, his complete reversal on abortion is more painful still.
Romney's problems with uber right Republican primary voters began during his failed 1994 run for the Senate against Ted Kennedy and continued with his successful 2002 gubernatorial bid. Hoping to appease progressive voters in Massachusetts wary of his pro-life Mormon past, Romney flip-flopped on abortion, declaring "I believe women should have the right to make their own choice." Romney and his wife went so far as to attend a Planned Parenthood fundraising house party. Romney successfully defused the issue in his 2002 race against Democrat Shannon O'Brien by promising to avoid changing the status quo in the Commonwealth:

"I promised that if elected, I'd call a truce - a moratorium, if you will...I vowed to veto any legislation that sought to change the existing rules...I fully respect and will fully protect a woman's right to choose."

Those gymnastics on reproductive rights may have worked with socially liberal, suburban voters in 2002, but they offered a recipe for disaster with the Christian Coalition's so-called "values-voters" in the 2008 GOP primaries. Predictably, Romney began his sharp right turn. By the fall of 2005, Romney flip-flopped again on abortion, claiming that his position has "evolved" and that "my political philosophy is pro-life." By the spring of 2006, his spokeswoman Julie Teer laid out Romney's position of a proposed South Dakota abortion ban:

"If Gov. Romney were the governor of South Dakota he would sign it. The governor believes that states should have the right to be pro-life if that is the will of the people."

It's no wonder that in 2005, Romney advisor Michael Murphy said of Mitt that "he's been a pro-life Mormon faking it as a pro-choice friendly."
On immigration, too, Mitt Romney suffered the slings and arrows of his own outrageous fortune. As it turns out, before he attacked GOP rival Rudy Giuliani before being soft on immigration, Romney himself provided aid and comfort for illegal alien workers at his posh Belmont, Massachusetts estate.
Romney campaigns ads tried to paint Giuliani as weak on illegal immigration during his time as New York mayor. After a voice-over intones "Immigration laws don't work if they're ignored," Romney chimes in:

"Legal immigration is great. But illegal immigration, that we've got to end. And amnesty is not the way to do it."

But as the Boston Globe reported in December 2006, Romney hired a landscaping firm that routinely utilized illegal alien workers to tend to his 2-1/2 acre family residence just outside of Boston. The firm also tended to the grounds of his one of his five sons, Taggart. The Globe team interviewed four undocumented workers in Guatemala who confirmed that Romney never asked for them or their employer to produce immigration papers.
Confronted by Globe reporters, Romney offered a Romneyesque response:

Asked by a reporter yesterday about his use of Community Lawn Service with a Heart, Romney, who was hosting the Republican Governors Association conference in Miami, said, "Aw, geez," and walked away.

Romney the ultra-hard liner on Iran also has had some 'splainin' to do. A harsh critic of President Obama, Romney previously called for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to be indicted on war crimes charges. That failed effort followed Romney's 24 hour disinvestment campaign in early 2007, an effort cut short by revelations his own former employer had recent business dealings with Tehran.
Following the lead of once and future Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Romney began his grandstanding on Iranian disinvestment by targeting the Democratic-controlled states of New York and Massachusetts. On February 22, Romney sent letters to New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, Senators Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton as well as state comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli urging a policy of "strategic disinvestment from companies linked to the Iranian regime."
As it turns out, scrutiny begins at home. As the AP detailed, Romney's former employer (Bain and Co.) and the company he founded (Bain Capital) had links to very recent Iranian business deals. Caught flat-footed by his hypocrisy that took the AP less than a day to uncover, Romney feebly responded that his crusade didn't apply to him:

"This is something for now-forward. I wouldn't begin to say that people who, in the past, have been doing business with Iran, are subject to the same scrutiny as that which is going on from a prospective basis."

And so it goes for Mitt Romney, a man destined in the future to oppose his past. In 2007 during the run-up to the GOP primaries, Romney was forced to recant his stunning wartime claim that "one of the ways my sons are showing support for our nation is helping me get elected because they think I'd be a great president." After saying of Osama Bin Laden in April 2007, "It's not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person," Mitt reversed course within days to pronounce, "He's going to pay, and he will die." And the same man who during his 2008 presidential claimed the mantle of Ronald Reagan said during his '94 campaign against Ted Kennedy:

"I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush; I'm not trying to return to Reagan-Bush. My positions don't talk about the things you suggest they talk about; this isn't a political issue."

Against Reagan before he was for him, Mitt Romney was for the individual mandate before he was against it.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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