Perpetual presidential candidate Mitt Romney has performed more flips than an X Games champion. The pro-choice Senate candidate (and Planned Parenthood donor) of 1994 did a hard right turn on abortion for the approaching 2008 GOP primaries, prompting adviser Michael Murphy to acknowledge "he's been a pro-life Mormon faking it as a pro-choice friendly." On immigration, disinvestment from Iran, the significance of Osama Bin Laden and even his state of residence, Romney's gymnastic contortions are the stuff of legend. But in his embarrassing effort to whitewash his support for a Massachusetts health care law virtually identical to the federal Affordable Care Act, Mitt Romney has literally rewritten his own book - and history.
On Friday, the former Massachusetts governor delivered a blistering assault on President Obama at the CPAC conference. But 24 hours before a speech in which Romney omitted any mention of his signature health care law, the Boston Phoenix explained that he carefully rewrote critical sections of the paperback edition of his year old book, No Apology.
In a book otherwise unchanged, the Phoenix and later ThinkProgress reported, Romney added new criticism of the Obama stimulus program and performed major surgery on the section about the "Massachusetts Model:"
In the original hardcover, Romney tried to carefully distinguish between the Massachusetts law and the national version that was nearing passage as he wrote.
But the Massachusetts model has become Romney's bête noire among conservatives, who loathe the national reform they call "Obamacare." The rewritten paperback swings much harder, proclaiming that "Obamacare will not work and should be repealed," and "Obamacare is an unconstitutional federal incursion into the rights of states."
Just as important as what Romney put in is what he took out. The 2010 hardcover edition included an explanation of the major difference between his RomneyCare and ObamaCare: a public option. Sadly for Mitt (and the American people), the Affordable Care Act did not include a public option. Which may explain why the following paragraph was amputated from the paperback version of No Apology:
In 2009, the national health-care policy supported by Barack Obama was often and erroneously reported as being based on the plan we enacted in Massachusetts. There were some big differences -- in particular, our plan did not include a public insurance option. The notion of getting the federal government into the health-insurance business is a very bad idea. Government-supplied insurance would inevitably be subsidized at great cost to the taxpayers and, combined with Medicare and Medicaid, it would give government the kind of monopoly we would never allow a private entity to claim. Clearly, the public insurance option is simply a transitional step toward the president's stated goal of creating a single-payer system, one in which the nation's sole health insurer would be the federal government.
It's no wonder Romney altered his conclusion from "We can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country, and it can be done without letting government take over health care" to "And it was done without government taking over health care."
It also comes as no surprise that the once and future GOP White House hopeful added seven paragraphs in the vain hope of explaining his Massachusetts health care plan now gone national. Vain, that is, because of past statements like these:
In October of 2009, Romney urged Democrats to use the Massachusetts law as a model to expand coverage. "We have found that we can get everybody insured without breaking the bank and without a public option," Romney told CNN's Sanjay Gupta. "Massachusetts is a model for getting everybody insured in a way that doesn't break the bank, doesn't put the government in the driver's seat and allows people to own their own insurance policies and not to have to worry about losing coverage. That's what Massachusetts did," he said.
That's not all he said. In 2008, Romney proclaimed, "I like mandates," adding, "The mandates work." And once upon a time, Governor Romney praised the late Senator Ted Kennedy for the vital role he played in the 2006 passage of the Massachusetts health care reform that reduced the ranks of the uninsured to a national low 3%. In November 2007, Time's Karen Tumulty documented their alliance in "Mitt Romney's Defining Moment":
"I asked for his help on certain legislators: 'Could you give a call on this one?'" Romney says. On March 22, 2006, Kennedy did more than that. He went to the floor of both the house and the senate on Beacon Hill and spoke in very personal terms about the battles with cancer his son and daughter had faced. "This whole issue in terms of universal and comprehensive care has always burned in my soul," Kennedy said. The Federal Government had failed the country on health care, he told the politicians, but "Massachusetts has a chance to do something about it."
Of course, these days Mitt Romney has little to say about Ted Kennedy. Instead, Romney declared in 2007, "My life experience convinced me that Ronald Reagan was right." But years before claiming Reagan's mantle for the 2008 Republican primaries, Mitt Romney during his failed 1994 Senate run against Kennedy rejected the Gipper outright:
"I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush; I'm not trying to return to Reagan-Bush. My positions don't talk about the things you suggest they talk about; this isn't a political issue."
Pressed on that point the last time he confronted conservative Republican primary voters, Mitt Romney in 2007 adopted an evasion akin to his current health care Houdini act:
"Now, I wasn't always a Ronald Reagan conservative. Neither was Ronald Reagan, by the way."
(This piece also appears at Perrspectives.)