Question for Josh Earnest: Does Obama believe vaccines for kids should be mandated by law?

He was asked this no fewer than three times at today’s briefing. The first comes at around 58:00 in the clip below, the second comes courtesy of Major Garrett at 1:13:00, and the third picks up at around 1:18:00 when Jon Karl revisits it. If you have the patience for only one exchange, watch Karl’s, as he makes clear that he’s not asking about a federal vaccine mandate specifically but a mandate at any level of government. The media’s spent 36 hours treating Chris Christie and Rand Paul as cranks, not because they question the benefits of vaccination (well, Paul questions them in some cases) but because they question the state’s right to overrule parents on the decision to vaccinate children, at least with respect to some diseases. Simple question, then: Does Obama, avatar of liberal enlightenment, share their allegedly crankish belief that parents get the final say? Or does President Mandate think the state, whether at the federal level or lower, should have the final say? Three times Earnest is asked that — and three times he responds by saying we shouldn’t need to compel behavior that’s already clearly compelled by basic common sense. Vaccines are obviously the right thing to do, he says, so why should you need the state to twist people’s arms?

Which is an amazing answer. The reason you need to twist arms, obviously, is because a small but significant minority believes it’s not common sense to vaccinate. Just the opposite, and their disagreement on that point is why there are already more measles cases through one month of this year than there were in most of the last 14 years. It’s particularly weird to rely on persuasion rather compulsion on this subject given that anti-vaxxers have already rejected mainstream conventions on vaccination as corrupt and coercive. Having the spokesman for the most powerful man in the world, the head of the U.S. government, urging them to vaccinate will probably only serve to convince them how right they are to resist. More importantly, since when does this White House rely on persuasion and common sense to get its way? Where was this “we don’t need compulsion, we need persuasion” attitude when Obama was trying to jump-start new federal gun control laws after Newtown? Where was it, say, when the individual mandate was being written into ObamaCare? If ever there was a matter where persuasion could obviate the need for legal coercion, one would think, it would be convincing people that signing up for health insurance is a prudent thing to do. I can understand why someone might oppose the O-Care mandate while supporting vaccination mandates; I can’t understand why someone would support the O-Care mandate, a fiscal measure designed to shift wealth from the healthy to the sick, while opposing a more urgent public health measure like vaccination mandates. But that seems to be the White House’s position.

I wonder why. Do you suppose it’s because the most, er, virulent anti-vaxxers are new-age lefties whom Obama is reluctant to offend?

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