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White House, Christie and others respond to Romney's health care speech at U-M

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

The responses are in for Mitt Romney's health care speech, and they are pretty mixed. 

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie praised former Massachussetts Governor Romney's honesty without commenting directly on either his policies or his candidacy. 


Mitt Romney earned a big political thumbs-up Friday from New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who praised the former Massachusetts governor for talking straight with voters in his speech on health care... In a statement to POLITICO, Christie applauded Romney for that approach, though Christie stopped well short of endorsing the Massachusetts policy itself. “Gov. Romney’s speech yesterday was just the type of tone we need,” Christie said. “While folks may not agree with what he said, that type of candor is what Americans expect from a serious presidential candidate today.”

The Wall Street Journal, on the other hand, thought that the speech was a "political tragedy," claiming that Romney's arguments were logically flawed and that the policy he defended "hadn't worked out," and that the former governor would have been smarter to admit that.

From the WSJ:

F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote that "The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function." If we may judge by his health-care speech at the University of Michigan yesterday, Mitt Romney is a very smart man. The likely Republican Presidential candidate fulfilled the White House's fondest wishes, defending the mandate-subsidize-overregulate program he enacted as Massachusetts Governor in 2006 even as he denounced President Obama's national reprise. He then proposed his own U.S. reform that is sensible and might do so some actual good, but which also runs against the other two plans. These are unbridgeable policy and philosophical differences, though Mr. Romney is nonetheless trying to leap over them like Evel Knievel heading for the Snake River Canyon. Mr. Romney says that Massachusetts was "a state solution to a state problem" and that the other laboratories of democracy should also be allowed to run their own experiments free of ObamaCare's controls. But if Massachusetts is the triumph that Mr. Romney claimed yesterday, well, what's the problem with Washington exporting the same successful model? If an individual mandate to purchase health insurance was indispensable in the Bay State, as Mr. Romney argued, why isn't it necessary in every other state too?... The political tragedy is that Mr. Romney could have emerged as one of ObamaCare's most potent critics had he made different choices two years ago amid one of the country's most consequential debates in generations. He might have said that as Governor he made a good-faith effort to resolve some of health care's long-running dysfunctions, but that it hadn't worked out and that's why state experiments are valuable.

The Democratic National Committee, not surprisingly, didn't even wait for the speech to happen before criticizing it.

Roll Callreports:

Before the speech, the Democratic National Committee on Thursday morning will email supporters a message that attempts to poke Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, in an area where he’s vulnerable. The DNC email, obtained by Roll Call for an early look, accuses Romney of trying to “reinvent himself” over health care given that the plan he crafted in the Bay State served as a model for Obama’s program. The email mockingly claims that it includes “missing slides” from a Romney "PowerPoint" on health care. The “slides” show quotes that paint Romney as having shifted positions on the issue many times over the years as he sought political office.

The White House responded to the speech by praising the Massachusetts' health care law in a move which the Huffington Post labeled "a veritable death hug."

From HuffPost:

The Obama administration, on Friday, continued to apply a veritable death hug to likely Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, praising the health care law he passed as Massachusetts’ governor despite Romney’s insistence that there were major distinctions between his and the president’s approach. “We have said before that health care reform that then Governor Romney signed into law in Massachusetts is in many ways similar to the legislation that resulted in the Affordable Care Act,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in an off-camera briefing at the White House.... “We wholly endorse flexibility and we obviously feel that Massachusetts took a smart approach towards health care reform,” the press secretary added. “Its provenance was so mainstream, there are great similarities between Massachusetts' law, the Affordable Care Act and legislation proposed by then Rhode Island Republican [Senator] John Chaffee in 1993.”

Former Governor Romney's speech was given at the University of Michigan's Cardiovascular Center. The university released a statement noting that the fact that speech occurred at U-M was not meant as an endorsement of former Governor Romney or his policies.

-Brian Short, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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