Governor Christie is already catching hell on social media for his full-throated defense of Mitt Romney’s MassCare plan during his endorsement presser this afternoon. Comparing Romneycare with Obamacare, said Christie, is “completely intellectually dishonest” since, among other things, Romney’s plan “didn’t raise a single tax.”
Let me say that I think there are dishonest comparisons between the plans. They consist of pointing out that the two plans are similar in a number of ways — a brute fact — and then stopping there. Plenty of folks do this, under the assumption that the mere family resemblance is enough to damn Romney, relying on the crude premise that it is fair to apply standards for the proper role of the federal government to policies undertaken at the state level. This stuff has been covered around here plenty, so I won’t say much more than that such tactics are “intellectually dishonest” in the sense that they strategically ignore everything Romney has said about the matter during the campaign — that he’d have done some things differently in MassCare, that he doesn’t think it’s the right approach for the country at large and that federalism matters, that he’ll grant 50 Obamacare waivers on day one in the Oval Office, and so on.
The problem for Christie — and Romney — is that plenty of folks do go beyond merely noting the resemblance, and do address candidate Romney’s evolving position. They say that there may be lots of areas where bad federal policy isn’t necessarily bad state policy, but the individual mandate is not one of them: it’s wrong at any level. They say that the affair reinforces the view that Romney is not a principled conservative, that with MassCare, he showed a willingness to embrace big-government liberalism and massive social engineering for political gain, and that that should concern primary voters. They say his subsequent vacillations on the topic show that we can’t trust him to follow through on any promises he may make on the trail, and so on.
These latter are legitimate arguments, principled arguments. They are hardly “intellectually dishonest” and they are very, very big issues for Romney.