Eric Fehrnstrom, senior advisor to the Romney campaign and renowned Etch-a-Sketch aficionado, appeared on MSNBC Monday morning to discuss the Supreme Court???s ObamaCare ruling . Much controversy ensued when Fehrnstrom said his boss does not believe ObamaCare???s individual mandate is a ???tax.??? Since Democrats have been frantically trying to make the American people forget that Chief Justice John Roberts just ruled that it is a tax – and therefore constitutionally acceptable – Fehrnstrom???s presentation of Romney???s position has been decried as the surrender of important intellectual terrain.
But Fehrnstrom took pains to point out how inconsistent Obama and his allies have been on this point, alternately insisting the mandate is either a ???tax??? or a ???penalty,??? depending on whether they???re talking to Supreme Court justices or American voters:
Romney isn???t trying to let Obama ???off the hook??? by agreeing with his latest absurd rhetorical gymnastics. He???s saying the Supreme Court decision was reached incorrectly ??? the individual mandate should have been regarded as a penalty, and struck down as unconstitutional, as the dissenting justices insisted.
Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg reinforced this point to ABC News after Fehrnstrom???s MSNBC appearance: ???The Supreme Court left President Obama with two choices: the federal individual mandate in Obamacare is either a constitutional tax or an unconstitutional penalty. Governor Romney thinks it is an unconstitutional penalty. What is President Obama???s position: is his federal mandate unconstitutional, or is it a tax????
Romney has also been consistent in arguing that states like Massachusetts can take actions which are constitutionally forbidden to the federal government. Some critics fear this will not be a winning argument with the American people, who have not generally been adamant about requiring the federal government to observe the finer points (or, lately, some of the more blunt points) of Constitutional law. But whatever its political deficiencies might be, Romney???s point is both intellectually valid and consistently made. He raised it every single time Romneycare was mentioned during the presidential debates.
It is not inconsistent to simultaneously believe that the Supreme Court should have ruled ObamaCare contained an unconstitutional penalty, and insist that ObamaCare apologists deal honestly with what the Court actually did say. The true, and mind-boggling, inconsistency lies in embracing and celebrating the marvelous Roberts decision because it upheld ObamaCare, while simultaneously claiming Roberts was wrong.
It???s not surprising that Team Obama would try to portray Romney???s position as a big wedge between the Republican nominee and much of the party, as in the case of Obama strategist David Axelrod, who portrayed Republican depiction of ObamaCare as a tax increase as ???sliming their own nominee??? because Romney says he does not believe it proper to classify the individual mandate as a tax. This will only become a ???wedge??? if Republican voters allow themselves to be played by the Obama campaign. ObamaCare, and the Roberts decision, are so awful that they can be criticized on numerous grounds, all of them quite firm. It would be absurd to insist upon absolutely uniform criticism of a wildly inconsistent law.