What do Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, the leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination, have in common?There seem to be few former policy "stands" these two won't gainsay to appease the Tea Party crowd.
Long before President Obama, both supported an idea they now pretend to spurn — the idea of requiring people to buy health insurance.
As recently as 2009, Romney publicly supported, the “individual mandate” for buying health insurance. And as recently as last month one of Gingrich’s websites still endorsed the “mandate” for all Americans earning more than $50,000 annually.
...At the CNN debate this October in Las Vegas, Gingrich took a swipe at Romney over the former Massachusetts governor’s healthcare plan that requires citizens in the Bay State to buy health insurance. Romney shot back: “Newt, we got the idea of individual mandate from you.”
Gingrich responded: “You did not get that from me. You got that from the Heritage Foundation.”
They are both correct on this revealing point. The Heritage Foundation, the influential conservative think tank, first developed the idea of an individual mandate for healthcare in the late 1980s. That is how deeply this idea is tied to conservative thinkers.
Romney used the Heritage policy in developing his Massachusetts healthcare law. That reform contained the dreaded individual mandate.
And Gingrich supported the federal mandate as an alternative to Hillary Clinton’s healthcare reform package when he was Speaker in the 1990s.
Solving thorny problems, like health care reform, requires the courage to lead and to stand up for potentially upsetting positions. The late Sen. Paul Tsongas' name for politicians like Gingrich and Romney seems apt--pander bears.