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Posted at 12:01 PM ET, 02/11/2011

Mitt Romney's health care Gordian Knot

By Greg Sargent

Mitt Romney just wrapped up his speech at CPAC, and for someone who threw around all kinds of red meat attacks about the President -- the "Obama Misery Index," "Obama's Hoovervilles," etc. -- it's awfully strange that he said virtually nothing about the big one: "Obamacare."

The omission has already attracted the bemused attention of conservative bloggers. Soren Dayton, for instance, Tweeted: "so was Romney the first candidate for 2012 to not mention the repeal of ObamaCare?"

The National Review's Jim Geraghty, meanwhile, snarked: "Look, as long as Obamacare isn't a big issue in the 2012 Republican presidential primary, Romney will be fine."

Romney, of course, passed a health plan as governor of Massachusetts containing an individual mandate, unaware that conservatives would soon decide that this once non-controversial policy tool constitutes the gravest threat to American liberty since King George the Third. It's now perhaps the gravest threat to his 2012 hopes, too.

He's tried various ways of getting around this vexing problem. He's argued that the mandate is a "conservative" solution, which makes it even more amusing that he avoided health care today. He has also cast the state-based mandate as a freedom-solution of sorts, arguing that while the federal mandate is borderline tyranny, state governments should have the right to pursue ideas as they see fit. These haven't washed with the right.

Implicit in this morning's right-leaning Tweets is the suggestion that Romney decided it would be easier not to talk about Obamacare today, in order to avoid calling attention to his Romneycare conundrum. But, amusingly, this has only succeeding in drawing more attention to it.

Romney is caught in a trap: Conservatives continue to demand he explain his heretical support for the mandate in order to persuade them he's not ideologically suspect. And yet, when Romney does try to justify his support for it -- or when he tries to paper over the problem by blustering hard about "Obamacare," something he conspicuously avoided doing today -- all that does is reinforce the sense that he's ideologically malleable and opportunistic.

Maybe this is Romney's Gordian Knot: Only cutting Romneycare loose with one big, bold stroke of the sword can undo it. But it's not clear how he would do that, either.

By Greg Sargent  | February 11, 2011; 12:01 PM ET
Categories:  2012, Health reform  
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Next: Egypt

Comments

He'd be better off either admitting he made a mistake or owning it. Say I was wrong because of X, Y or Z and have learned from this error. Or, say he was so focused on the policy problem that the mandated solves. The mandate is needed for all the reasons we know, but don't care to admit. It's absolutely defensible as policy. Whether that makes it right or fair is a separate argument.

Posted by: NoVAHockey | February 11, 2011 12:09 PM | Report abuse

Egypt Greg, Egypt.

Today belongs to the people of Egypt. Mitt is a mere piss-ant, compared to what has now been ignited in the Middle East.

Posted by: Liam-still | February 11, 2011 12:12 PM | Report abuse

The Republican Presidential bid in 2012 is stillborn. CPAC is an illustration of how far out of the mainstream of American life the party has fallen. The kooks are in charge of messaging, the moderates have been purged. Go on all you want about Nov 2010 Republicans, it was not even close to what happened in 2008. Republicans are going to reprise the McCain Palin campaign, just a little more to the right and a lot more shrill.

Posted by: shrink2 | February 11, 2011 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Re: Romney: "the sense that he's ideologically malleable and opportunistic"

That is very high on the list of things I don't doubt. That's his Ace-in-the-Hole. Now he has to connect all his various spots and make a coherent image. Can he do it? Won't be easy in a party that considers subtlety un-American. But he does have great hair and lots of money so I wouldn't count him out.

Posted by: wbgonne | February 11, 2011 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Romney could have bitten the head off of live chicken today and it wouldn't get coverage because of Egypt. In fact, he probably should have, given his audience.

Posted by: oldabandonedbeachhouse | February 11, 2011 12:24 PM | Report abuse

The Islamists must be horrified. I am hearing the word secular [revolution] again and again and again from the BBC livestream in interviews with protesters. They want to change the name of the country. They say they don't want any more martyr hero culture.

Iran isn't an Arab state, but its Mullahs are ruling on borrowed time.

Posted by: shrink2 | February 11, 2011 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Again Egypt is not an oil state, it depends heavily on the West, for its tourists and for direct aid. They will not close Suez, they will not abrogate the treaty with Israel, they will regard the commerce with Gaza/Hamas from an economic, not political perspective. Again, I think this is a disaster for the Islamists, the Death to America crowd is simply not there, vanished, poof.

Posted by: shrink2 | February 11, 2011 12:34 PM | Report abuse

"Iran isn't an Arab state, but its Mullahs are ruling on borrowed time."

Iran is the big one, I think. Assuming this revolution spreads throughout the ME it would be a great thing if the Iranian Regime went down before some others like Yemen or, far more more dramatically, Saudi Arabia. I would hate to see the current Iranian Regime in a position to capitalize on the uncertainty and instability.

Now that all the people in the ME have a role model in the Egyptian People, here's wishing the Iranian People the same success the Egyptian People just had. Unfortunately, in Iran they still know how to crush dissent and it will undoubtedly be a bloody business.

Posted by: wbgonne | February 11, 2011 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Hezbollah and Iran have said the "Egyptian people" have, "won a great victory."

Posted by: shrink2 | February 11, 2011 12:40 PM | Report abuse

The Chinese crony-socialists will be threatened by this.

Imagine, the former protesters now celebrants in Cairo are carrying Army tankers around on their shoulders. Not like Tienanmen.

Posted by: shrink2 | February 11, 2011 12:44 PM | Report abuse

We need an Egypt open thread.

Watching Al Jazeera now and the take-away from Israel is that, despite the jitters, they are happy with transition in the military's hands because the USA and Israel have been giving them $1.5B/yr in military aid, and that "buys stability."

This is frigging awesome.

Posted by: ronnieandrush | February 11, 2011 12:45 PM | Report abuse

obama speaks 2:30 EST

later

Posted by: wbgonne | February 11, 2011 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Al Jazeera just flashed that the Swiss have frozen Mubarak's bank accounts.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | February 11, 2011 12:46 PM | Report abuse

or 1:30 EST rather

Posted by: wbgonne | February 11, 2011 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Headline on AJ:

"Switzerland has frozen Mubarak's bank accounts"

A banner in the crowd:

"Yes to Al Jazeera, no to state-run TV"

Posted by: ronnieandrush | February 11, 2011 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Switzerland Freezes Mubarak's Assets -- Rumored As Much As $70 Billion

http://www.businessinsider.com/mubarak-swiss-bank-2011-2

wowwwww.

Posted by: ronnieandrush | February 11, 2011 12:48 PM | Report abuse

"...the Swiss have frozen Mubarak's bank accounts..."

Thank you, this is more important than it may seem. Maybe the Swiss are learning, lining your pockets with bloody money isn't as cute a trick as it used to be before the information age.

Posted by: shrink2 | February 11, 2011 12:49 PM | Report abuse

"...the Swiss have frozen Mubarak's bank accounts..."

Thank you, this is more important than it may seem. Maybe the Swiss are learning, lining your pockets with bloody money isn't as cute a trick as it used to be before the information age.

Posted by: shrink2 | February 11, 2011 12:49 PM | Report abuse

I re-read Obama's Cairo speech and I think juxtaposing a re-boot of American-Middle Eastern relations with his statements on promoting Democracy have helped Iran's and Egypts protests.

Posted by: ChuckinDenton | February 11, 2011 12:49 PM | Report abuse

I can't wait for Obama's speech today. It should be spectacular.

Posted by: shrink2 | February 11, 2011 12:51 PM | Report abuse

RomneyCare is not PelosiCare. Massachusetts (like Hawaii) represents FAILED state healthcare system vs. UNCONSTITUTIONAL Federal healthcare system.

CBO Director: 800,000 Will Lose Jobs Because of PelosiCare
http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/cbo-director-says-obamacare-would-reduce-employment-800000-workers_547288.html

Testifying today before the House Budget Committee, Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Director Doug Elmendorf confirmed that Obamacare is expected to reduce the number of jobs in the labor market by an estimated 800,000.

*wicked smaht*

Posted by: KaddafiDelendaEst | February 11, 2011 12:51 PM | Report abuse

LOL. Now Fox is all for Democracy in Egypt. Won't surprise me if they start suggesting to send Bolton to smooth things over during the transition.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | February 11, 2011 12:54 PM | Report abuse

Three words of advice for President Obama as he drafts his speech:

Opportunity Not Crisis

Posted by: wbgonne | February 11, 2011 12:55 PM | Report abuse

mikefromArlington, I flipped to CNN last night to see what they were saying... guess who they trotted out...

Negroponte. And Wolfowitz!

Lol!

Posted by: ronnieandrush | February 11, 2011 12:56 PM | Report abuse

TO........shrink

I did not see it, but understood that
Hosni M gave his powers to the military; but I am not sure he has relinquished the office of President, did he?

smd

'''''''''''''''''''''
The Egyptian constitution has been ignored. The speaker of parliament should be taking over the role of President. So why didn't he? The military is not going to let go of anything, this revolution is either just getting started, or it is already over.

Posted by: shrink2 | February 11, 2011 11:39 AM

Posted by: smd1234 | February 11, 2011 12:57 PM | Report abuse

"The biggest news in the middle east since the victory in Iraq."

That's Megan Kelly's opening statement regarding Eygypt.

lmfao

Posted by: mikefromArlington | February 11, 2011 1:01 PM | Report abuse

(brought forward from Morning Plum)

TO............caothien9 and ALL

RE: quarterback1 AND Robert H. Bork

cao I thank you for your comments last evening; and I appreciate being welcomed to this board.

quarterback1 is not worth my time, I know that.

QB's somewhat spirited though dishonest defense of Bork got me looking for more about Bork, as he is the most famous "reject" ever to have been nominated for a seat on the US Supreme Court.

I did find an article with some interesting stuff about Bork, and about Archibald Cox, who Bork fired (at Nixon's insistence) from his post as Watergate Special Prosecutor (i.e., after Attorney General Elliot Richardson resigned rather than dismiss Cox, and Richardson's second-in-command, Deputy AG William Ruckelshaus, did the same - - this was the event dubbed by journalists as the Saturday Night Massacre).

About Bork, he apparently is just not a very nice guy, as well as a lazy-bones who can't keep a steady job.

I found a great article exposing some of Bork's lack of dedication to students, single minded, my-way-or-the-highway manner of teaching, and other less-than-admirable qualities.

No wonder the only steady job Bork has had since being "rejected" for Supreme Court is a hack "scholar" position at the ultra-conservative Hudson Institute. Oh yeah he has been a faculty member at Univ. of Richmond and most recently at a 4th tier "Catholic" law school in Naples FL, but he never seems to teach or publish anything except his signature rants (see, e.g., http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2540408/posts [Welcome to Free Republic! America's exclusive site for God, Family, Country, Life & Liberty constitutional conservative activists!] and http://old.nationalreview.com/issue/bork200503231109.asp )

See page 42 from 1973
(A piece on Archibald Cox begins on page 39)

http://books.google.com/books?id=JucCAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA43&lpg=PA43&dq=yale+bork+cox&source=bl&ots=dht6f300nn&sig=it7cG3UBbGr7vzPOWo-6Bbx9mxU&hl=en&ei=AWBVTaXnMMXZgQf8pvWdDQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CBoQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=yale%20bork%20cox&f=false

Posted by: smd1234 | February 11, 2011 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Eventually America will renounce the Republican paranoid style, their obsessive preoccupation with the dwindling number of people who hate America. This is an enormous opportunity for the Democrats. The left was in front of this, the left led this (movie directors, grad students...) We can celebrate.

The great mass of people want to be citizens of the world, people who matter, not subjects of this or that clique, or dictator, or ideology. As I said 18 days ago, there is no way to stop what the internet has done.

Wikileaks were more remarkable for what we already knew rather than what we didn't. Everyone is connected, the involuted, secret societies are a thing of the past, except at CPAC.

Posted by: shrink2 | February 11, 2011 1:03 PM | Report abuse

"The biggest news in the middle east since the victory in Iraq."

LOL! *sigh*

Posted by: ronnieandrush | February 11, 2011 1:03 PM | Report abuse

TO........shrink

sorry, apparently he did give up the office of Pres.

TO........shrink

I did not see it, but understood that
Hosni M gave his powers to the military; but I am not sure he has relinquished the office of President, did he?

smd

'''''''''''''''''''''
The Egyptian constitution has been ignored. The speaker of parliament should be taking over the role of President. So why didn't he? The military is not going to let go of anything, this revolution is either just getting started, or it is already over.

Posted by: shrink2 | February 11, 2011 11:39 AM

Posted by: smd1234 | February 11, 2011 1:04 PM | Report abuse

"The biggest news in the middle east since the victory in Iraq."

That's Megan Kelly's opening statement regarding Eygypt.

lmfao

Posted by: mikefromArlington | February 11, 2011 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Mission accomplished.

Posted by: wbgonne | February 11, 2011 1:04 PM | Report abuse

All, here you go, an Egypt thread:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2011/02/egypt.html

Posted by: Greg Sargent | February 11, 2011 1:04 PM | Report abuse

CNN confuses me. They sometimes start to have a small twinkle of the legitimate news source they once were then bam, they pull a Fox and turn to spin masters for what should be a moment for someone who takes foreign policy seriously.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | February 11, 2011 1:05 PM | Report abuse

"I did not see it, but understood that Hosni M gave his powers to the military; but I am not sure he has relinquished the office of President, did he?"

Hi there, yes, he did, he has no official title. He is a private citizen.
In other places and times, this would be called a coup. But he fact that the population seems so supportive of its Army makes that word seem inappropriate, except to the Muslim Brotherhood which clearly recognizes the Egyptian military as its enemy and which has called this a coup d'├ętat.

Posted by: shrink2 | February 11, 2011 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Radical insurgents intent on destroying AMERICA and replacing it with a new nation: AMERICO.

Posted by: TOMHERE | February 11, 2011 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Romney edited reference Romneycare in the paperback edition of his book.

The Boston Phoenix David Bernstein has the story under the headline:

Mitt Rewrites Himself

http://thephoenix.com/Boston/news/115412-mitt-rewrites-himself/

Mitt stand tall in his flip-flops.


Posted by: FauxReal | February 11, 2011 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Romney edited reference Romneycare in the paperback edition of his book.

The Boston Phoenix David Bernstein has the story under the headline:

Mitt Rewrites Himself

http://thephoenix.com/Boston/news/115412-mitt-rewrites-himself/

Mitt stand tall in his flip-flops.


Posted by: FauxReal | February 11, 2011 2:41 PM | Report abuse

@ TOMHERE 2/11 2:17pm ("Radical insurgents intent on destroying AMERICA and replacing it with a new nation: AMERICO.")

Hang on there, Tom -- nurse is on her way with your meds.
She is soooo sorry she forgot your afternoon dose.
Yes, I know it hurts...
I know you're so scared...
so confused...
Try to hang on;
she'll be here in just a moment or two, then everything will be all right again.
Everything will be all right soon...


And who the hell left those Abbie Hoffman and Noam Chomsky books lying around again?!
You know what that does to him!

Posted by: smartalek | February 11, 2011 7:16 PM | Report abuse

The largest population of the country is sick and tired of bashing. They want politicians to work for the people and not against or start a political bomb throwing hate rhetoric against each other. They have heard enough of it. United we stand divided we fall.

Posted by: mac7 | February 12, 2011 9:43 AM | Report abuse

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