Mandates and Candidates

We all believe in giving government control of major parts of our lives sometime.

That was one of the themes advanced by the apparent Republican frontrunners — Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich — in Saturday night’s debate on ABC.

The tell-tale moment came at approximately 9:35 Eastern time, when Texas governor Rick Perry challenged former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney for signing a law forcing people to buy health insurance in Massachusetts. Romney answer was: You’re for mandates, too.

“You had a mandate in your state,” Romney said to Perry. “You mandated the girls at 12 years old had to get a vaccination for a sexually transmitted disease. So, it’s not like we had this big difference on mandates. We had different things we mandated over. I wanted to get people health insurance, you wanted to get young girls a vaccine.”

A moment later, it was former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s turn.

“I just wanted to make one point that is historical,” said Gingrich. “In 1993, in fighting Hillarycare, virtually every conservative saw the mandate as a less dangerous future than what Hillary was trying to do. The Heritage Foundation was a major advocate of it. After Hillarycare disappeared, it became more and more obvious that mandates had all sorts of problems built in to them. People gradually tried to find other techniques. I frankly was floundering trying to find a way to make sure that people who could afford it were paying their hospital bills, while still leaving an out for libertarians to not buy insurance. And that’s what we were wrestling with. It’s now clear that the mandate, I think, is clearly unconstitutional. But it started as a conservative effort to stop Hillarycare in the 1990s.”

So, Newt Gingrich — that brilliant man and historian — was floundering for nearly two decades before he discovered that for the federal government to force people to buy health insurance is “clearly unconstitutional”?

And, no, Newt, conservatives were not for a health-insurance mandate in 1993.

Michele Bachmann had the best line of the night when she dubbed the current frontrunners “Newt Romney.”

— Terence P. Jeffrey is editor-in-chief of

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