That’s the lowlight from this pitiful spectacle, in which a guy who’s famous for uttering hard truths whether or not people want to hear them endorses a guy who’s famous for telling people whatever they want to hear to win votes. (See Ben Smith’s post today for a vivid illustration of the latter.) In one sense, it’s a no-brainer: Christie’s a centrist and Romney’s the great centrist hope, so the endorsement was a fait accompli. But then, Christie’s no ordinary centrist. Along with Ryan and Mitch Daniels, he’s one of the GOP’s three warriors on the all-important subject of entitlement reform. And here he is boosting a guy whose chief line of attack against Rick Perry is … demagoging him for being too hardline on entitlement reform. Disgraceful. And insofar as Romney’s opportunistic timidity on entitlements presages timidity on cutting federal spending generally — take two minutes to read this Peter Suderman post from last week to see why — it’s a betrayal of Christie’s budget-slashing ethos.
But as I say, this was the lowlight:
Speaking about Romney’s Massachusetts health-care program, Christie said it was “completely intellectually dishonest” to compare it to Obamacare.
“Gov. Romney did not raise one tax in doing what he did in trying to improve the health-care system in Massachusetts,” Christie said. “I will tell you, that I’m proud of him for standing up for doing what he believes is right.”
“The president of the United States is raising taxes over and over again to pay for this plan he still won’t pay for. What Gov. Romney did was what he believed was responsible as governor of Massachusetts to allow people to have access to health care. All the governors should have that opportunity to make that judgment on their own,” continued Christie, who emphasized that he believed each state should be allowed to put forward their own health-care solutions.
It’s actually completely intellectually dishonest not to compare it to ObamaCare, which is why even Christie’s pal Paul Ryan has remarked publicly on the similarities between the two. Christie tried to distinguish the programs today on grounds that RomneyCare, unlike ObamaCare, didn’t raise taxes, but that’s a mighty cold comfort:
Depending on whether or not you consider the penalty for non-compliance with the mandate a tax, Romney could argue that technically, his health care plan didn’t raise taxes. However, what it did do was lead to massive cost overruns that ended up triggering future tax increases. As the New York Times reported in 2008, “The legislature and (Gov. Deval) Patrick filled a health care spending gap that approached $200 million for this fiscal year by increasing the tobacco tax by $1 a pack, levying one-time assessments on insurers and hospitals, and raising more money from businesses that do not contribute to their employees’ insurance.”
That’s from Philip Klein’s post in April offering five reasons why RomneyCare and ObamaCare really are siblings. Follow the last link and see reason five for his rebuttal of Christie’s “state and federal are totally different” argument. Another key similarity, as lefty Ezra Klein notes, is that many of the same people who worked on RomneyCare in Massachusetts are now helping to implement ObamaCare nationally. Follow that link too and note how long the list of names is. It wasn’t just consultations with top advisors, it’s personnel all through the administrative chain. And if that’s not enough for you, revisit this analysis published last month calculating how many jobs Massachusetts has lost due to Romney’s health-care bill. That’s something else he and Obama have in common. But hey — at least he didn’t raise any taxes at the time.
I hope Romney promised Christie a cabinet position in exchange for going this deep into the tank with such a dumb, nasty accusation about RomneyCare’s critics. It’s not as bad as Perry accusing immigration hawks of being heartless, but it’s still plenty stupid and alienating. The irony is, the whole thing’s likely to be overlooked as the media scrambles to cover Romney’s and Christie’s tag-team attack on Perry for refusing to repudiate Jeffress’s remarks about Mormonism. Perry’s team stood by that refusal this afternoon on grounds that it’s a distraction from RomneyCare, but the press won’t let him get away that easily. Should be a fun debate tonight.
Update: Great minds think alike. Here’s Philip Klein again, this time destroying Christie over today’s endorsement.