Romney on Romneycare: "I Stand for the Things I Believe In
There are obvious similarities between Obamacare and what you did in Massachusetts. Do you acknowledge that what you did in Massachusetts has become a model for nation under Obama, whether you wanted it to or not?
I can't speak for what the president has done. I don't know what he looks at... If what was done at the state level, they applied at the federal level, they made a mistake. It was not designed for the nation.
Jonathan Gruber advised both you and Obama on health care. He told me that you are "the one person who deserves the most credit for the national plan we ended up with." Is that a title you're willing to accept?
[Laughs.] I think you've already heard my answer on that.
Do you think the Republicans in Congress made a mistake by using Obama's desire for Republican votes as leverage to align the plan more closely with conservative views? For political reasons, he was almost desperate at first to get bipartisan support for the bill.
I think what President Obama wanted was Republicans to vote for an extremely ideologically big-government plan. And Republicans weren't going to do that....
But he was elected president, right? Wasn't there room within those negotiations for Republicans to push his plan to the right if they chose to play ball?
Republicans put forward several pieces of legislation to reform health care, and those were rejected by the president in favor of the Pelosi-Reid plan.
Former Bush speechwriter David Frum wrote the following: "We do know that the gap between [Obama's plan] and traditional Republican ideas is not very big. The Obama plan has a broad family resemblance to Mitt Romney's Massachusetts plan. It builds on ideas developed at the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s that formed the basis for Republican counter-proposals to Clintoncare in 1993-1994." Is it fair to say that the new national plan has conservative roots, even if you disagree with it being imposed on a national level?
Let's see, I can't think of a great metaphor. Maybe Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: they both have two arms and two legs, but they're very different creatures...there's simply an enormous difference when you have one plan that imposes massive tax hikes and another that does not. [There's] a huge difference with a plan that dramatically cuts Medicare Advantage and one that does not impose a new burden on senior citizens.
Those are real differences, but aren't they measures designed to control costs and pay for the plan? The president's plan has cost controls that the Massachusetts plan didn't need--tax increases on people earning over $200,000 a year, reductions in wasteful Medicare spending. In Massachusetts, you could just repurpose hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds to pay for it. But that doesn't work on the national level. So it seems a little disingenuous to call the Democrats fiscally irresponsible, then criticize the parts of the plan that are designed to make it fiscally responsible.
But you see, we go back to the initial premise. I reject the idea of a federal mandate imposed on states and individuals. If you open the door to the federal government, then it leads to all sorts of unattractive elements, such as raising taxes and cutting Medicare. If instead one said at the federal level, "We're going to give resource flexibility to states to use money they're already receiving as a way to help the poor buy insurance," that says, "All right, we're using funds that have already been allocated, we're letting states create their own plans, and we'll see how that works. And we'll learn from the experience." That's the idea of states as the laboratories of democracy. What we've gotten into by opening the door to a federally imposed plan is the creation of the Mr. Hyde monster.
Obviously concerned how this might play with GOP audiences when the presidential primary season rolls around, Romney stuck to the PR script and struck a stoic pose:
Many political pundits believe that the passage of Obama's health-care plan and the related animosity among Republicans toward what you did in Massachusetts has greatly diminished your chances of winning the Republican nomination if you run for president in 2012.
I stand for the things I believe in. I don't know what the politics are of it.
And there you have it: the primaries may be more than two years away but he's already in prime talking point form.
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