Commentary Magazine


Romneycare Blurb Not What Newt Needed

GOP Presidential candidate Ron Paul published bigoted newsletters in the 1980s. Now a much more recent, and not nearly as morally offensive, newsletter by Newt Gingrich will cause him problems with some conservative primary voters.

An April 2006 newsletter published by Mr. Gingrich’s former consulting company, the Center for Health Transformation, and discovered by the Wall Street Journal, included a two-page analysis, “Newt Notes,” which begins this way: “The most exciting development of the past few weeks is what has been happening up in Massachusetts. The health bill that Governor Romney signed into law this month has tremendous potential to effect major change in the American health system. We agree entirely with Governor Romney and Massachusetts legislators that our goal should be 100% insurance coverage for all Americans.”

Mr. Gingrich had some criticisms of the Massachusetts plan, including what he referred to as the state’s over-regulation of health insurers, and his full analysis is worth reading. But there’s no question that Gingrich was a strong supporter of RomneyCare. ”Massachusetts leaders are to be commended for this bipartisan proposal to tackle the enormous challenge of finding real solutions for creating a sustainable health system,” Gingrich wrote. The Journal reports that a follow-up newsletter in August 2006 called Mr. Romney’s plan “the most interesting effort to solve the uninsured problem in America today.”

The effect of this revelation is that it will undermine Gingrich with primary voters who want a candidate who provides a sharp conservative contrast with both Romney in the primaries and Barack Obama in the general election. Mr. Gingrich has already acknowledged supporting an individual mandate; the release of this memo substantially weakens his attacks on what Gingrich now calls Romney’s “big-government, bureaucratic, high-cost system.”

Until now, it’s been Mitt Romney who has had to justify to Republicans (not always persuasively) his support for RomneyCare. Now it’s Mr. Gingrich’s turn to justify his. Pretending he didn’t say what he said and invoking the Charles Barkley defense (Barkley once claimed he was misquoted in his autobiography) won’t do the trick.

Nobody said running for president is easy.