In a surprising move, Mitt Romney seemingly took credit on Friday for inspiring the Affordable Care Act -- after famously running as the 2012 Republican nominee on a platform of repealing the law. Romney championed and signed a comprehensive health care law in Massachusetts when he was governor. Known as “Romneycare,” it had strong similarities with Obamacare, including a mandate to purchase insurance, but he had long resisted comparisons between the two. In a Boston Globe obituary of Staples founder and longtime Romney backer Thomas Stemberg, however, the former Republican nominee finally embraced the connection.
Given the Affordable Care Act's striking successes, it's not surprising that its champions would look for some credit for bringing health security to millions of families. President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and plenty of other Democrats have reason to be proud of one of this generation's greatest policy breakthroughs.
It is a little jarring, though, seeing a Republican look for credit, too. MSNBC's Benjy Sarlin reported this afternoon:
“Without Tom pushing it, I don’t think we would have had Romneycare,” Romney told the Boston Globe. “Without Romneycare, I don’t think we would have Obamacare. So, without Tom a lot of people wouldn’t have health insurance.”
And as a factual matter, there's certainly some truth to that. Romney approved a state-based law that served as an effective blueprint for President Obama's federal model. The two-time failed Republican presidential candidate has a point when he says "Romneycare" helped pave the way for "Obamacare."
But that doesn't make his new boast any less jarring. Romney wants credit for one of the president's signature accomplishments -- which Romney was committed to tearing down just a few years ago?
Those who followed the last two presidential elections closely may recall that Romney's position on health care got a little convoluted at times. The former one-term governor initially said he believed his state-based plan could serve as a model for the nation. Then he said the opposite.
By 2012, Romney was promising voters that he would -- on his first day in the White House -- issue an executive order to undo the federal health care law without congressional input, regardless of the consequences.
Or to use Romney's phrase, he vowed to scrap health insurance for "a lot of people.”
Three years later, however, Romney is apparently shifting gears once again, taking partial credit for the system he embraced, then rejected, then vowed to destroy, and is now re-embracing again.
And to think this guy struggled as a candidate for national office.
Update: MSNBC's report added, "After an uproar on social media, Romney clarified in a Facebook post that he still opposed Obamacare, but did not backtrack on his apparent praise of the law’s expansion of insurance coverage and its ties to his own legislation."
Romney wrote that "getting people health insurance is a good thing," which he followed with some dubious criticisms of the ACA. To my mind, his online clarification changes very little about the substance of the story.