Thursday, September 01, 2011


Writing for The Boston Globe, Joshua Green provides three reasons why Rick Perry is "singularly ill-suited to mount a convincing attack on Romney" over Romney's Massachusetts health care plan. In all three cases, Green is wrong.

Let me dispense with reasons #2 and #3 first.

The principle behind Romney's plan -- the individual mandate -- is what galls some conservatives. Perry's second problem is that he is in no position to capitalize on that sentiment, because he has cast himself as a champion of the 10th Amendment and an ardent defender of states' rights. Romney's response to critics of his health care plan is precisely that it suits Massachusetts, but not the rest of the country. In fact, Perry conceded just this point in his recent book, "Fed Up!": "If federalism is respected, the people of Massachusetts are free to try [the Romney plan] while the rest of the nation sits back and watches to see if they have any success."

But even I can see this as having a real logic (not merely a wingnut logic). A key principle of Tentherism is that the states are free to try any damnfool thing they please, except in areas where the Constitution specifically gives responsibility to the Feds. That doesn't mean voters elsewhere have to like what a given state does -- in fact, they can hate what a state does so much that they can hold it against a pol from that state who wants to be president. Generally speaking, I agree with that principle (I don't want Rick Perry to be president because of his Texas record, though I think he has a right to do most of what he's done in Texas).

Now here's #3:

Perry's third problem is that he too is besmirched by associations with unpopular Democratic health care plans. In a 1993 letter to Hillary Clinton, who was then trying to pass "HillaryCare," Perry wrote: "I think your efforts in trying to reform the nation’s health care system are most commendable."

This is silly. The #1 demigod in the Republican pantheon, Ronald Reagan, was once an FDR Democrat; large swaths of time on Fox News are given over to people (Dick Morris, Tammy Bruce, Pat Caddell) recognized by the faithful as former enablers of the Antichrist Party (and beyond that there's David Horowitz, a former Marxist, not to mention Christopher Hitchens, whose socialism didn't prevent him from being a popular Clinton-basher and Iraq War flack). The key point for the base isn't that Perry once was a Democrat and went on to praise Democrats; it's that he now hates Democrats with every fiber of his being.

But this is Green's key error:

First, Texas has the highest rate of uninsured residents in the country -- more than 25 percent lack coverage. Massachusetts has the lowest rate, with fewer than 2 percent of residents uninsured. Perry will have a hard time making the case that Massachusetts health care is a disqualifying problem without drawing attention to the much more acute problem in his own state.

Oh, please. To the wingnut base, a high rate of uninsured citizens isn't a bug, it's a feature. It isn't merely that angry GOP voters assume the uninsured are that way as a result of some set of personal failings, it's that, being angry wingnuts, they're happy the uninsured are uninsured. On this and so many other issues, they divide the populace into the deserving and the underserving, the saved and the damned, and they know precisely in which category they (and Jesus) would put the Texas uninsured. I'm sure they think Perry's Texas doesn't insure too few citizens -- other states insure too many. I'm sure they think that, in a just world, every state would have an insurance rate as low as the one in Texas.

You know the story about the focus-group participant in Texas who, after hearing about the wrongly executed Cameron Todd Willingham, said of Perry's role, "It takes balls to execute an innocent man"? Well, it's my sense that the GOP base thinks it takes balls to keep sick and vulnerable people off the insurance rolls.