Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Going Where Few Other Republicans Go

There may be nothing more dangerous than a political candidate who is allowed to have it both ways.

No question about it: Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Mitt Romney are no friends of Medicare. And if nominated Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Jon Huntsman, Michele Bachmann, or Rick Perry would be raked over the coals by an incumbent whose highest priority is not maintenance of Medicare benefits, but at least wants to see the program somehow preserved. Further, Barack Obama understands that the American people are partial to the Medicare program.

But oh, that Mitt Romney. Asked about health care, the former Massachusetts governor last night (transcript of third part of debate, here) replied in part:

First, I’d be careful about trusting what President Obama says as to what the source was of his plan, number one. But number two, if you think what we did in Massachusetts and what President Obama did are the same, boy, take a closer look, because, number one, he raised taxes $500 billion, and helped slow down the U.S. economy by doing it. We didn’t raise taxes.

He cut Medicare by $500 billion. This is a Democrat president. The liberal, so to speak, cut Medicare. Not Republicans, the Democrat.

This wouldn't stop Romney, if nominated, from criticizing President Obama for allegedly being a big-government liberal, imposing too many regulations on business, or raising taxes (whatever the accuracy of the charges). But President Obama, intent that the Affordable Care Act not increase the national debt, did cut payments to some Medicare providers. While it was not directly a cut of benefits, that subtlety will not be acknowledged by Romney, who will attack the incumbent- who also offered Medicare cuts as part of a "Grand Bargain"- for "cutting Medicare." He, too, understands what Americans think of Medicare.

That is a potent charge, and not only in Florida, and is only one of the reasons the former Massachusetts governor would be the GOP's strongest candidate a year from November.

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