Alex Massie points out that Mitt Romney continues to be utterly unprincipled. This has become so common and unremarkable that the only thing that should get Romney any attention is when he actually stays true to a position for longer than a couple of years. Romney has taken up the banner of repealing a bill closely modeled on the bill he signed into law. One could say that there are many cynical, opportunistic politicians willing to adopt whatever position works to their advantage. How is Romney any different? Well, he has become a pro-repeal leader while continuing to insist that the state health care bill he signed was good and necessary. So he has continued to advance the completely untenable Scott Brown position: we will never yield in our opposition to the outrageously irresponsible and unaffordable federal bill, and we will defend the outrageously irresponsible and unaffordable Massachusetts bill to the death!
Any ordinary opportunist would lamely try to say that he had been misled about the the original measure (see any prominent liberal hawk on the Iraq war resolution for that), or that new information had since come to light that changed his mind, or he could act like Harold Ford and openly abandon earlier positions out of political desperation. But Mitt Romney is no ordinary opportunist. He will completely abandon every position he held when it helped him gain power in Massachusetts, but at the same time he wants credit for his successful record of reform and his technocratic expertise in solving major problems. He wants to be considered a serious, mainstream part of the political class, and so he endorsed the TARP during the financial crisis, but he also wants to throw red meat to the rank-and-file and has since denounced the mismanagement of the TARP.
Just as he wants credit for what he claims are the good aspects of TARP while taking no responsibility for the abuses that inevitably grew out of the TARP he supported, he wants credit as a health care reformer and as a stalwart opponent of the Democratic health care legislation that copies the most significant legislation he ever signed while governor. To use Romney’s TARP formulation, Governor Romney’s health care reform was a great success, but President Obama’s health care reform was a disastrous blunder the likes of which we have rarely seen. One of these claims is probably true for both, but either way Romney loses. Either he helped undermine the fiscal health of Massachusetts, or he is now opposed to the substance of similar federal reforms purely because of political expedience on the national level. If the former is true, he should never be entrusted with power again, and if it is the latter he cannot be trusted.
So it isn’t really true that Romney disavows the state health care bill he signed. He just desperately wants people to think that there is some substantial difference between the legislation he signed and has praised ever since and the legislation he has been denouncing.