What do Sept 11 and ObamaCare have in common? Both were “game changers.” In neither case should we blame the politicians responsible for the events leading up to those “game changers” overmuch. In the aftermath of Sept 11, many pundits blamed Pres. Clinton for failing to act decisively on the issue of Islamic Terrorism. Andrew Sullivan wrote the most comprehensive such critique of the Big Creep, “An AWOL President.” My attitude toward these things has never been one to blame Clinton or as some on the Left would do, blame George W. Bush. My attitude has been this: in retrospect, Clinton and his predecessors should have done more and they look foolish in retrospect, and had they known what would happen they would have done more. They didn’t know and they shouldn’t be overly blamed (nor overly praised) for missing something that very, very few saw. The real failure is the failure to react to the event intelligently after it happened. In this, Sept 11 was not like the run up to World War II, which any prudent statesman could see coming and should have acted to prevent. I do blame Neville Chamberlain, but I do not blame Bill Clinton.
ObamaCare is similar. Conservatives might have embraced the individual mandate in one form or another before the passage of ObamaCare. That mandate was always connected to a much different, more market-based solution to health care reform. So I can’t blame them for embracing it as a solution to the “free rider problem” of people not buying health insurance and then abusing the system after sickness arrives. Mitt Romney was the “conservative” candidate in 2008, but ObamaCare changes things and he is the “somewhat conservative” or “moderate” candidate in 2012 because of this game changer. Rick Santorum backed Romney in 2008 and called him “conservative” in doing so; but ObamaCare “changes everything” in this respect and once Romney decided to defend much of the basic structure of ObamaCare, it was difficult to call him the “conservative” candidate.
I must confess to thinking Romney the Richard Nixon of this election. He may be able to win, but what he will do as President may be to validate Obama’s Presidency in much the same way that Nixon ran against the Great Society and then validated it and expanding it. That would not be something for conservatives to fight for. Romney may and would have been perfectly acceptable in 2008; his “acceptability” is much less today because he is the pre-ObamaCare candidate.