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Don’t Blame The GOP For Mitt Romney’s Flip-Flops

As former Gov. Mitt Romney gets battered by the likes of George Will, expect to hear a lot more arguments along the following lines.

David Frum:

It’s not Romney who is the flip-flopper. It’s the conservative movement. It was only three years ago that Jim DeMint was praising the Massachusetts healthcare plan. Post-2009, conservatives have flip-flopped on individual mandates, they have flip-flopped on monetary policy, in these cases they have adopted ever more extreme positions.

Yes Romney has had to shape-shift to keep pace, and that’s unfortunate. But don’t blame him—blame them.

God bless David, but this is too cute. It’s impossible to deny, at this point, that the idea of an individual mandate emerged from the right. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was forced to admit this onstage in the primary debate in Las Vegas.

But that hardly means the conservative movement has flip-flopped on the issue.

Sure, it was a feature of the Senate Republican alternative to Hillarycare, but that was spearheaded by Sens. Lincoln Chafee and Bob Dole. If Frum would like to make the case that those guys were emblematic movement conservatives, he can go right ahead.

I was around Capitol Hill in the late-’90s and, truth be told, I don’t remember hearing much about the mandate at all.

After Hillarycare unraveled, the healthcare debate came to focus on the late Rep. Charlie Norwood‘s “patients’ bill of rights.”

It was a genteel, middle-of-the-road proposal, sure to appeal to women voters (guaranteed access to OB-GYNs was a frequent talking point). It rattled around for a few years, garnered bipartisan support, but most Republicans were happy to see it wither.

On substance, conservatives pointed out, rightly, that the bill wouldn’t do anything to increase access to insurance. And so they proposed market-friendly solutions (“association health plans,” for example) that would have reduced the number of uninsured citizens by a few million.

That the patients bill of rights did nothing for the uninsured was always slightly embarrassing for Democrats to admit—but this was the safe, piecemeal strategy they had embraced until 2009, when they got regulations of that sort on insurance companies and coverage for most of the uninsured, the costs for which would have to be borne by healthy people not paying into insurance pools (hence the need for an individual mandate).

Look: I’m not denying that some Republicans have been more than a little squirrelly on the mandate. I’m just saying it was never an issue that movement conservatives seriously fought for, to the extent that they thought about it all.

Now, onto Michael Gerson, who praises Romney’s pragmatism and downplays the risk that he’ll flip-flop away from the movement after Inauguration Day. Moreover, Gerson argues that Romney’s “multiple choice” reputation will actually strengthen the movement’s grip on his presidency:

Precisely because he has a history of ideological heresy, it would be difficult for him to abandon his current, more conservative iteration. He has committed himself on key conservative issues. Having flipped, he could not flop without risking a conservative revolt. As a result, conservatives would have considerable leverage over a Romney administration.

This is interesting, I’ll admit.

I would agree with Gerson that the chances of Romney switching back to pro-choice on abortion is vanishingly small. Ditto for embryonic stem-cell research. There really is no plausible way for Romney to climb back from these positions.

And when Romney said recently that “the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us,” I was inclined to believe him. I can’t see his administration spending a penny on climate change.

The problem with Romney isn’t that he’s changed his mind on this or that issue. Every politician not named Rep. Ron Paul has done this.

The question Gerson and movement conservatives should be asking themselves about Romney isn’t whether, having checked the right box now, he’ll uncheck it later. It should be: Do you think he’d spend political capital or risk his presidency on any issue that you care about?

Put another way: Do you believe that Mitt Romney is more than nominally pro-life? Will he fight to change the status quo on abortion?

I suppose Gerson’s assurance depends, too, on what constitutes a “key issue.” Does the building of a border fence count? If so, does Gerson really believe that President Romney is going to build a “high-tech fence” to “secure the border”?

How about gays in the military? Romney’s most recent position on the issue is that he didn’t think “Don’t ask, don’t tell” should have been interfered with. Does Gerson think Romney, a la former Sen. Rick Santorum, will fight to reinstate the policy?

Does Gerson think that Romney will try to dismantle Obamacare in its entirety—or just the “worst aspects” of it?

Romney isn’t just a flip-flopper. He’s just downright weaselly.

By: Scott Galupo, U. S. News and World Report, November 2, 2011

November 4, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Uninsured | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Ohio Tea Party’s Big “Obamacare” Fail

Ohio tea partiers will finally get their big moment at the ballot box on November 8. That’s when Ohioans vote on Issue 3, a referendum spearheaded by tea party groups that would amend the state constitution to ban any law or rule requiring that citizens buy health insurance. The intent is obvious: to rebuke President Obama by blocking the individual mandate—the part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires Americans to buy health insurance or pay a fine. Issue 3 was also seen as a way to fire up conservative voters in an off-year election when the fate of Gov. John Kasich’s anti-union SB 5 bill is on the line.

But the measure backfired. Not only won’t it block the ACA’s individual mandate, but it’s so vague, legal experts say, that it could have the damaging, unintended effect of undermining key public services and regulations in Ohio, including blocking the state’s ability to collect crucial data on infectious diseases. If passed, it could also spark a wave of costly lawsuits, with taxpayers likely footing the bill. “It’s extremely sloppy and extremely overbroad,” says Jessie Hill, a professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law. “I hesitate to say whether these potentially extremely troubling consequences were intended or whether the amendment was just misguided.” And if you trust the polls, Issue 3 isn’t even energizing Ohio conservatives.

Issue 3 is the brainchild of the Ohio Liberty Council, a coalition of tea party chapters, 912 groups, and other liberty-loving activists. The Council tried to put Issue 3—which it calls the “Healthcare Freedom Amendment”—on the ballot in November 2010, but fell short in the signature-gathering process. This year, the group redoubled its efforts and managed to gather nearly 427,000 signatures, enough to put the issue before voters. (The Liberty Council did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)

The amendment, endorsed by Ohio Right to Life and Republican state Sen. Bob Peterson, was pitched as a direct response to Obama’s Affordable Care Act. An early pamphlet (PDF) created by the Ohio Project, the grassroots group created to promote the amendment, focuses entirely on defusing “the new federal health care measure passed by Congress.”

But if Issue 3 passes, it won’t affect the Affordable Care Act. Richard Saphire, a professor at the University of Dayton Law School, says passage of Issue 3 might deliver a symbolic rejection of the individual mandate, but legally it would have zero effect, because Article VI of the US Constitution says that federal law trumps state law. “It’s very defective,” he says. “Folks that come out and vote for it, probably most of them are going to think they’re going to accomplish something that they’re not going to accomplish, which is prevent federal law from going into effect.”

Issue 3 supporters now concede this. But they insist the measure will still prevent a Massachusetts-style, state-based individual mandate from becoming law in Ohio and will set the stage for individual Ohioans to challenge the Affordable Care Act in court. Ohioans could say “you are fundamentally restricting our liberty and property here, and there was no due process,” Chris Littleton, a cofounder of the Ohio Liberty Council, said at an Issue 3 debate in late October.

While Issue 3 won’t derail “Obamacare,” it would have potentially “massive and disastrous impacts” on health care delivery and public health regulation in Ohio, says Case Western’s Hill.

A report (PDF) cowritten by Hill and released by Innovation Ohio, a liberal public policy group that opposes Issue 3, found that the amendment’s overbroad language could undermine a slew of programs that include some form of mandate. The amendment reads, in part:

No federal, state, or local law or rule shall compel, directly or indirectly, any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in a health care system.

Although the amendment would exempt laws in place before 2010, any new reforms to, say, workers’ compensation, which requires employers to buy insurance in case of workplace injuries, would violate the measure. State law also requires that public schools pay to immunize students whose families can’t afford it; reforms of that program would be blocked under Issue 3 because the immunization requirement is a type of mandate, according to the Innovation Ohio report. The amendment, the report noted, would likely render unconstitutional a key reporting element in a state law to regulate so-called pill mills, because it compels “participation” in a “health care system.” And Issue 3 would handcuff the state’s ability to gather data on infectious diseases including HIV and influenza for the same reason.

Hill and Saphire both say Issue 3’s passage would likely set off a wave of litigation aimed at discovering the true meaning and reach of the amendment. And it would be Ohioans, Hill says, footing the bill for those lawsuits.

Issue 3 isn’t getting much love from Ohio opinion makers, liberal or conservative. Despite its opposition to the “deeply flawed” Affordable Care Act, the conservative editorial board of the Columbus Dispatch, the state’s largest newspaper, urged a “no” vote on the measure. Arguing that state constitutions should not be subject to “short-term political gamesmanship,” the Dispatch wrote that “trying to counter the federal law with an ineffective amendment to the Ohio Constitution is a bad idea. This is not where that battle should be fought.” Every major newspaper editorial board in Ohio that’s taken a position on Issue 3 has opposed it.

If recent polls are any judge, Issue 3 hasn’t done much to mobilize conservative voters, either. An October 28 survey by the University of Akron Bliss Institute of Applied Politics found that 34 percent of respondents favor Issue 3 and 18 percent oppose it. The remaining 48 percent remained undecided less than two weeks before the vote. More importantly, the Akron survey found much more enthusiasm around Issue 2—which polls suggest will be defeated, repealing Kasich’s SB 5 bill—than around Issue 3, which polls suggest will pass.

If Issue 3 becomes law, it wouldn’t be the first time voters approved an amendment to a state constitution that didn’t serve its intended purpose, Saphire says. After the US Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling declared racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional, a handful of states passed symbolic amendments expressing opposition to the Brown decision. The Supreme Court is expected to decide the fate of the ACA’s individual mandate in its upcoming term. If the high court decides to uphold the law, Ohio tea partiers—Issue 3 or no—will have to buy health insurance or pay a fine.

By: Andy Kroll, Mother Jones, November 3, 2011

November 4, 2011 Posted by | Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Wisconsin Assembly: Cameras Are Dangerous, Guns Still Allowed

Eighteen people were arrested Tuesday for using cameras in the Wisconsin Assembly gallery, including the editor of The Progressive magazine, Matt Rothschild.

Rothschild and others had gone to the capitol to protest a series of arrests in recent weeks of individuals who carried signs or took photos or video in defiance of an Assembly ban.

“We ought to have a right to take a picture,” Rothschild said.

Guns Yes, Cameras No

The protest was organized through a Facebook event called “Concealed  Camera Day at the Capitol!” The event coincided with the implementation of Wisconsin’s new concealed carry law, which allows residents to carry a concealed firearm — including inside the Assembly gallery.

Stephen Colbert said Governor Walker was bringing “a new freedom to America’s dairyland” with the concealed carry law, but said people would not see “images of gunfire in the statehouse” because of the camera ban. “Thank God. Cameras are dangerous,” he said.

On the agenda in Tuesday’s session was a bill to institute the Castle Doctrine, a “shoot first, ask questions later” bill that gives a person immunity from civil and criminal liability if they shoot another in self defense in their home, work, or vehicle. The American Legislative Exchange Council also has a model Castle Doctrine bill — see the side-by-side here.

Event organizers were clear that the protests were not about the gun laws, but instead about protecting First Amendment rights.

But Is It Legal?

The Open Meetings law includes this provision (§19.90):

Use of equipment in open session. Whenever a governmental body holds a meeting in open session, the body shall make a reasonable effort to accommodate any person desiring to record, film or photograph the meeting. This section does not permit recording, filming or photographing such a meeting in a manner that interferes with the conduct of the meeting or the rights of the participants.

The statute also contains this provision (§ 19.87(2)):

No provision of this subchapter which conflicts with a rule of the senate or assembly or joint rule of the legislature shall apply to a meeting conducted in compliance with such rule.

The legal issue here appears similar to the one that arose in the challenge to Governor Walker’s collective bargaining law. In that case, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne alleged that the union-busting law should be struck down because it was passed in violation of another provision of the Open Meetings law requiring notice. In part, Ozanne’s challenge failed because the legislature had passed a rule that trumped the Open Meetings law.

Likewise, here the Assembly had a rule banning cameras and video, but under the court’s ruling in the Ozanne suit, that rule trumped the Open Meetings law permitting their use.

Despite this, both the Wisconsin and U.S. Constitutions have provisions protecting the right to free speech, free assembly, and a free press. “The gallery is a free speech area,” says attorney Jim Mueller, who was ticketed in October for violating the Assembly rule. “Even if there are rules against signs, they’re unconstitutional. It is our right to peaceably assemble and petition the government.”

By: Brendan Fischer, Center for Media and Democracy, November 2, 2011

November 4, 2011 Posted by | Democracy, Freedom, Wisconsin | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mystery Man: Who Is Mitt Romney Conning?

Mitt Romney’s problem with the Republican Party is not just that he previously held liberal positions on a wide-ranging array of issues. That can be explained away, at least a bit, as pandering necessary to win votes in a Democratic state. The deeper problem is that Romney was promising behind closed doors to act as essentially a sleeper agent within the Republican Party, adopting liberal stances, rising to national prominence, and thereby legitimizing them and transforming the Party from within. Today’s Washington Post has more detail:

Mitt Romney was firm and direct with the abortion rights advocates sitting in his office nine years ago, assuring the group that if elected Massachusetts governor, he would protect the state’s abortion laws.Then, as the meeting drew to a close, the businessman offered an intriguing suggestion — that he would rise to national prominence in the Republican Party as a victor in a liberal state and could use his influence to soften the GOP’s hard-line opposition to abortion.

He would be a “good voice in the party” for their cause, and his moderation on the issue would be “widely written about,” he said, according to detailed notes taken by an officer of the group, NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts.

“You need someone like me in Washington,” several participants recalled Romney saying that day in September 2002, an apparent reference to his future ambitions.

That’s a very smart argument. Liberals have far more to gain by having a Republican advocate their views than by having a Democrat advocate their views. The article proceeds to detail meetings in which Romney told gay-rights activists the same thing:

In an Aug. 25, 1994, interview with Bay Windows, a gay newspaper in Boston, he offered this pitch, according to excerpts published on the paper’s Web site: “There’s something to be said for having a Republican who supports civil rights in this broader context, including sexual orientation. When Ted Kennedy speaks on gay rights, he’s seen as an extremist. When Mitt Romney speaks on gay rights he’s seen as a centrist and a moderate.

Now, conservatives can live with this if they think that once in office Romney will have to watch out for his right flank at all times. “Having flipped, he could not flop without risking a conservative revolt,” writes former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson. “As a result, conservatives would have considerable leverage over a Romney administration.”

That’s not crazy. It’s also possible to believe Romney was simply conning liberals all along — that’s something he has hinted at in debates, referencing the fact that he was running in Massachusetts. (He couldn’t oppose abortion in Massachusetts — he’s running for office, for Pete’s sake.) Of course the risk of nominating a con artist is that there’s always the chance he’s conning you.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine, November 3, 2011

November 4, 2011 Posted by | Abortion, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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