OMG! It's a tax. It's not a tax. Or is it that it wasn't a tax when Mitt Romney did it, but it is when President Obama does?
On Independence Day, the Republican Party's Flopper-in-Chief did it again. Romney "corrected" his staff for saying -- repeatedly -- that the penalty for people who refuse to protect themselves and their families with health insurance is NOT a tax.
Romney picked the slow Fourth of July news day to hastily schedule an interview with CBS News aimed at him clarifying his position on the Supreme Court's controversial ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act.
"While I agreed with the dissent," he said, "that's taken over by the fact that the majority of the court said it's a tax, and therefore it is a tax. They have spoken."
That's exactly the opposite of what his senior adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom, said on Monday. And it's exactly the opposite of what campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said Romney's position was in a statement issued later that day.
But Mitt Flopney didn't stop there. He went on to contradict himself, too.
"The chief justice in his opinion made it very clear that at the state level, states have the power to put in place mandates," he said. "And as a result, Massachusetts's mandate was a mandate, was a penalty, was described that way by the legislature and by me, and so it stays as it was."
That's not what he said in a 2009 op-ed piece in USA Today. Then he was very clear.
"Using tax penalties, as we did, or tax credits, as others have proposed, encourages 'free riders' to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others," he wrote.
That sure sounds like a tax.
So it's understandable that his senior adviser might be a little bit confused about exactly where his boss stands.
"The governor disagreed with the ruling of the court," Fehrnstrom said Monday on MSNBC's "The Daily Rundown." "He agreed with the dissent written by Justice Scalia, which very clearly stated that the mandate was not a tax."
It's easy to think that maybe he just misunderstood or misspoke. Or it would be if the campaign hadn't issued a statement making the same point after Fehrnstrom¿s appearance.
Of course, that too could have been a mistake -- a typo that changed the whole meaning of what Romney thinks, sort of like leaving the "not" out of "not guilty."
You might be able to think that, if only Romney's campaign spokeswoman, Andrea Saul, hadn't come out to stress the fine point for reporters.
"The federal individual mandate in Obamacare is either a constitutional tax or an unconstitutional penalty," Saul's release said. "Governor Romney thinks it is an unconstitutional penalty. What is President Obama's position?"
The real problem might be that Tim Pawlenty had it right. The reason it's so hard to draw the distinction between Romneycare and Obamacare is that it really is "Obamneycare," as Pawlenty called it during the primaries.
Of course, no one should be that surprised if Romney is saying something today that sounds like the opposite of what he said yesterday, which was the opposite of what he said the day before that. That's been an issue for him throughout his presidential campaign, and a major cause of concern for conservatives across the country.
As Nicholas D. Kristof pointed out in the New York Times, this is the same guy who said, about abortion:
"I will preserve and protect a woman¿s right to choose and am devoted and dedicated to honoring my word in that regard."
"I am fighting for an overturning of Roe v. Wade."
About the economic stimulus:
"No time, nowhere, no how."
"There is need for economic stimulus. Americans have lost about $11 trillion in net worth. That translates into about $400 billion a year less spending that they'll be doing. ... Government can help make that up in a very difficult time. And that's one of the reasons why I think a stimulus program is needed."
And about financial bailouts:
"The idea of trying to bail out an institution to protect the shareholders or to protect a certain interest group, that's a terrible idea. And that shouldn't happen."
"TARP got paid back, and it kept the financial system from collapsing. ... Well, it was the right thing to do."
So it's hardly a surprise that Romney and his campaign would be issuing conflicting statements. It's hard to imagine that a micromanager like Mitt would let both his senior adviser and chief campaign spokeswoman put out statements of any kind without his prior approval, but maybe that is what happened. (Of course, if that is what happened, it gives strength to Rupert Murdoch's contention that he should dump the whole lot of them.)
Or, then again, it could be that Fehrnstrom was right back in March when he suggested that Romney's right-wing rhetoric was merely a tactic to help him win the primary and that once he had that sewed up, Mitt would tack back toward the center.
"Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It's almost like an Etch-A-Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and restart all over again."
Flip-flop? Campaign staff run amok? Or Etch-a- Sketch?
Only Mitt Romney really knows.
Source: Terra/Carlos Harrison