By Marty Russell
Do you get the impression that if one of the presidential candidates said the sky is blue, the other would say, no it’s not?
That’s the nature of political campaigns, of course. You can’t have both candidates agreeing on things, otherwise why bother, right? Just flip a coin and see who wins which, in my opinion, would be the actual loser since regardless of who is elected they’re going to be criticized and second-guessed from the get-go.
But sometimes just taking the position opposite of your opponent’s for the sake of political gain can tell you a lot about the candidate. Take the current field of presidential candidates. Please.
With the Supreme Court set to rule as early as Thursday on the constitutionality of what has venomously been labeled as Obamacare, it’s interesting – and would almost be amusing if not so serious – to note just how the two sides have changed positions largely for political gain when, at the core, they would seem to have more in common than not.
The crux of the argument against Obamacare and the provision many feel the Supreme Court will strike down while leaving the bulk of the program intact is the individual mandate that everyone have health insurance. It’s an infringement on individual liberty and choice, critics argue, even though no one squawks about being required to have a license and insurance to drive a car.
In the beginning, it was the Democrats who opposed an individual mandate as a provision of health care reform. They wanted a government-run program that would provide health care for all Americans. But the extreme right in the Republican Party opposed such a federal program citing more government spending and the need to protect the private insurance industry, which lobbied hard against it. The GOP argued the burden should be on individuals and employers to provide health care, not the government.
So the governor of Massachusetts, now GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, started looking for ways to curb health care costs in his state. In a series of emails made public this week by the Wall Street Journal, thanks to inept Romney aides who thought they had erased all traces of the former governor’s correspondence while in office, it was revealed just how hard Romney pushed not only for the individual mandate now in place in Massachusetts, but also for shaming employers into providing health insurance for employees. His aides suggested those employers be named in a full-page ad in the Boston Globe.
Now, of course, both sides have switched views. Romney now opposes mandates but hasn’t really offered an alternative to solve what everyone can agree on, that health care costs in the country have to reined in, especially with an aging population of baby boomers. Meanwhile, Obamacare mandates mandates unless the Supreme Court strikes them down.
It’s enough to make one question sometimes just what color the sky really is.
Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.