The Corner

Flagging on Obamacare

My column this weekend is about why Mitt Romney, however inevitable he may seem to some, has not closed the deal for me. Hint: I couldn’t care less about Bain Capital.

The issues in the election are Obamacare and debt. Focusing on them massively favors the GOP … except that Romneycare is the building block for Obamacare and, far from admitting error, Mitt has doubled down. As readers will see, I believe his federalism defense of Romneycare is fatuous. The Massachusetts program is indefensible. By nominating someone who vigorously defends it, I am very worried that we are giving away our best rationale for deposing the president and dispiriting the base whose enthusiasm is vital. 

Moreover, the Republican establishment’s rallying around Mitt despite his continued championing of Obamacare’s precursor is of a piece with the GOP’s abdication of the Obamacare fight which, as I pointed out in a November column, has been delegated to the lawyers fighting the constitutional issues in court. This has counterproductively made these issues center-stage. Important as they may be, they are a sideshow in the greater scheme of things.

I happen to think the Supremes are going to uphold Obamacare — not that they should, but that they will (for the reasons outlined in the aforementioned column). That won’t mean Obamacare is good policy; it is disastrous policy. It will just mean that Obamacare is one of the many suicidal things our Constitution allows a free people to do to itself. But when the Court’s ruling comes down, the GOP will have done nothing to lay the groundwork for what should be the far more consequential political battle to repeal Obamacare — indeed, by doing nothing and nominating Mitt, the GOP will be saying, implicitly, that it is fine with most of Obamacare, perhaps with a few Washington-style modifications. The Supreme Court decision will thus hit in July — the campaign stretch-run — and, if it comes out the way I think it will come out, it will be a crackling political victory for the Obama campaign.

I appreciate the great work Hans and others have done on keeping us abreast of the 8 zillion reasons why Justice Kagan should recuse herself. But guess what? She’s not going to recuse herself. If the best we can do to make an argument for deep-sixing Obamacare is that one of the nine justices who will hear the case should be disqualified, the battle is already lost.

I loved Mona’s column yesterday. As she powerfully demonstrates, the individual mandate — which has gotten almost all the attention as the political debate morphed into a legal debate — is not the worst thing about Obamacare. Her summation cannot be repeated often enough: “[W]hatever the outcome of these legal cases may be, the effort to get this poisonous hydra repealed — by the elected branches of government — cannot flag.

I fear it is flagging.

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