Romney's new attack: Why did Obama focus on ObamaCare instead of on the economy?

I want to highlight this because it’s a terrific line of argument and maybe a little blog enthusiasm for it will get him to keep it up. Byron York’s pleased too:

In an appearance in Texas Wednesday, Mitt Romney charged that President Obama “knowingly slowed down the recovery in this country…in order to put in place Obamacare.” The president’s action, Romney said, “deserves a lot of explaining.”

Speaking to an audience at USAA, an insurance and financial services company headquartered in San Antonio, Romney cited a book, “The Escape Artists: How Obama’s Team Fumbled the Recovery,” by the liberal journalist Noam Scheiber. In the book, Scheiber discussed Obama’s thinking on the question of whether, early in his term, to focus more attention on passing a national health care law or to devote more energy to bringing about economic recovery. As Scheiber put it, Obama saw health care as a bigger long-term accomplishment. “There was a strain of messianism in Barack Obama, a determination to change the course of history,” Scheiber wrote. “And it was this determination that explained his reluctance to abandon his presidential vision.” So health care it was…

Scheiber recently wrote that Romney is “misreading” his book. But Scheiber’s explanation essentially conceded that Romney is, in fact, reading the passage correctly. ‘While he’s definitely misrepresenting Summers and the administration, there’s a kernel of truth to his interpretation of my book,” Scheiber wrote. “I argue that Obama really was more focused on long-term, historically significant accomplishments than marginal, near-term differences in the pace of the recovery. On some level, Obama was prepared to accept (and I’m making up these numbers for argument’s sake) three years of painfully high unemployment with health care reform rather than 30 months of painfully high unemployment without it. And the reason is the one Summers alluded to (before disputing): Health care was simply more historically important than avoiding those extra six months of pain.”

What makes this attack bruising, of course, is not only that it ties Obama’s two biggest political liabilities together, it blows a hole in the idea that he’s some centrist pragmatist who’s working around the clock to generate jobs for the unemployed. On the contrary: When faced with the biggest economic crisis in decades, he passed a stimulus and then spent the better part of a year obsessing over the mega-boondoggle atop his Great Society II wishlist. It makes him look grossly negligent on the key issue of the election, in service to a program that a huge chunk of the public hates and which may end up being cashiered by the Supreme Court before the month is out. If Romney can somehow convince people that ObamaCare is part of the reason why the economy’s still as sluggish as it is, I think he’s got a killer attack line. More of this, please.

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