The Biggest Loser This Week Isn’t Obama — It’s the Health Insurance Industry

Obama health care news conferenceThe President’s administrative decision to ignore another section of the Obamacare legislation for a year does not redeem his promise that “if you like your health plan, you can keep it,” but it’s a significant step in that direction.  It may slow the stampede of Democratic legislators seeking to distance themselves from the President, but it won’t eliminate it.  Yesterday 39 House Democrats voted for a Republican bill that would go slightly farther than the President did yesterday.  Politico reports:

It’s a significant show of disloyalty to the White House, but House Democrats had expected the defections to be far higher before the Obama administration said Thursday that it would pursue an administrative fix to the cancellation problem.

While Obama may have bought himself a little time, let’s pause for a moment to consider the plight of the health insurance industry.  No, really. The Obamafix hurts the insurance companies in three ways.

1. It worsens the problem of adverse selection.  The people who opt for their old plans will disproportionately be those who would have to pay more for coverage under Obamacare.  The whole financial structure of the law is based on convincing young, healthy people to overpay for insurance they don’t need, thereby subsidizing older, sicker people who cost the insurance companies a lot of money.  That’s why there’s an individual mandate to purchase insurance in the first place.

2. It creates crisis conditions for the industry.  Crises cost money, and could lead to bad decisions.  As insurance consultant Bob Laszewski writes (h/t: Megan McArdle):

The Obama administration may not be ready for Obamacare but the insurance industry is. The health insurance companies spent the last many months rolling their old policies off the books and replacing them with the 2014 Obamacare compliant products––Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum.

Cancellation letters have been sent. Their computer systems took months to program in order to be able to send the letters out and set up the terminations on their systems. Even post-Obamacare, the states regulate the insurance market. The old products are no longer filed for sale and rates are not approved. I suppose it might be possible to get insurance commissioners to waive their requirements but even if they did how could the insurance industry reprogram systems in less than a month that took months to program in the first place, contact the millions impacted, explain their new options (they could still try to get one of the new policies with a subsidy), and get their approval?

Plus, there will be increased ongoing costs for administering both sets of plans throughout 2014.

3. It sets the insurance companies up as the villains. Insurance companies have to decide very quickly whether to play along with Obama’s desperate gambit.  Playing along is very much not in their financial interest in the short term… but how much latitude do they have to make a prudent business decision and stand by the cancellations?   Remember, this is the president who, in the auto industry crisis, summarily fired the head of GM, forced Chrysler to begin selling itself to Fiat, and summoned the auto executives to the White House to tell them, “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.”

The president’s action is going to cost the health insurers a lot of money, and the only way for them to recoup that money will be by raising premiums in future years. Yes, I know that many consider Obamacare to be a giveaway to the health insurers, by forcing everyone to buy their products.  But I don’t think the industry is particularly grateful for Obamacare this week.

Meanwhile, still says ” If you like your plan you can keep it and you don’t have to change a thing due to the health care law” — now a full week after Politico pointed out that the falsehood is still there.  The phrase has been indefensible for longer than a week, of course, but I count the Politico story as the event that destroyed the fig leaf of a possible excuse that it’s just old website content that hasn’t been updated.

You know you’re in trouble when utter incompetence is your only defense against a charge of lying.

(Photo of Obama news conference from

White House Can’t Solve a Small Website Problem — How Will They Do With the Big Ones?

There are countless ideas floating around for fixing the Obamacare mess — and there are legions of partisans on both sides gearing up for a street fight over whatever approach may be taken.  In a post titled “Hope Is All Obamacare Has Left,” the indispensable Megan McArdle convincingly argues that none of the ideas will work.

What a mess.  But one thing is clear — the time to say “if you like your health plan, you can keep it” has passed.  A few diehards may still be trying to justify the use of that statement in the past, but surely all can agree that the phrase is poison and the White House should not keep saying it.

On Saturday, Nov. 9, weeks after the controversy erupted, Politico posted an article reporting that parts of the healthcare section of had been updated.  However:

“If you like your plan you can keep it and you don’t have to change a thing due to the health care law,” the website still reads.

I saw the Politico article on the 10th, I believe, and I kind of shrugged.  I’ve been responsible for website content, and I know how easy it is for outdated text to live on longer than it should.  I was curious to see how the White House had updated the passage based on the Politico article, so I clicked through to

Unbelievable.  The language was still there.  If you click on the tiny screenshot at right, you’ll get a version you can read.

And to spare you any further dramatic buildup, as I write this on the afternoon of Nov. 13, four days to the hour after the Politico story was posted, the official White House website still says “if you like your plan you can keep it.”

The mind reels.

(The unrelated photo of the president’s reflection seems metaphorical, somehow.)

Did the President “Lie” About Obamacare, or Did He Believe What He Wanted to Believe?

I’m always reluctant to accuse a politician of lying. Far too often, disagreements about facts morph into accusations of “lies” by political opponents.

Take the ludicrous but widespread notion that President George W. Bush “lied” about Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction. Never mind that the intelligence agencies of major Western powers, including war opponents like Germany and France, believed Saddam had WMD.  Never mind that the Clinton administration and prominent Democrats with access to intelligence reports thought Saddam had WMD. Never mind that it is an established fact, about which there is no controversy, that Saddam actually used WMD, in the form of chemical weapons, in the Iran-Iraq war and against his own people in the Kurdistan region.  Never mind that it would make no sense for a president to lie about something momentous, knowing that the lie will be discovered.

Never mind all that — it doesn’t even rhyme.  It’s much easier for opponents of the war to put their fingers in their ears and chant, “Bush lied, thousands died.”

All of this comes to mind as various voices on the Right, including some I highly respect, are ratcheting up their accusations that President Obama “lied” when he promised, “if you like your health insurance plan, you can keep it.”

He made this promise again and again in the campaign to sell Obamacare to a skeptical public, as you can see in the video above.  My favorite bit is from the president’s September 9, 2009 speech to a joint session of Congress, starting at the 56-second mark:

Nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor that you have. Let me repeat this: Nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have.

That’s simply not true, of course.  There was never any hope that it would be true.  Obamacare sets minimum standards for coverage, and any plans that don’t meet those standards have to be changed or discontinued.  CBS News, not exactly a hotbed of anti-Obama sentiment, reports that more than 2 million Americans have had policies canceled for this reason.

The White House is on the defensive, trying to explain how, when the president repeatedly said this: “If you like your doctor or health care plan, you can keep it” — he really didn’t mean it.

It’s not just conservative pundits throwing around the L word.  The Washington Post’s left-leaning “Fact Checker” yesterday awarded the president “four Pinocchios”, the rating reserved for the biggest “whoppers.”  Lefty comedian/commentator Bill Maher told Piers Morgan “I don’t think Obama should have lied to people,” and Morgan agreed, calling it “a barefaced lie.”

I’ve always been convinced that President Bush may be guilty of believing what he wanted to believe about WMD in Iraq — but there’s no doubt that he believed it. You can agree or disagree, of course — I presented my evidence above.  I’ll be looking to see if evidence emerges that Obama somehow, against all logic, believed what he said about Obamacare.

Jon Stewart Savages the Obamacare Rollout — And Why It Matters

Unsurprisingly, conservative pundits have been relentless in emphasizing the ongoing problems with the introduction of Obamacare. Some headlines: “The Obamacare Fiasco” (National Review);” “Obamacare Rollout Worst Since New Coke” (John Fund on Newsmax); “Poll: White House Blames ‘Volume,’ But Majority Believe’s Problems Hint at Broader Obamacare Problems” (PJ Media).

But now the funniest liberal in America, Jon Stewart of The Daily Show, has lashed out with a scathing review; the video clip above (the audio of which is NSFW) is less than half of the 10 minutes he devoted to the “glitches” on Monday. A sample: After a news clip noting that less than 10 percent of applicants were successful in applying the first week, Stewart said:

“Less than ten percent — how bad is that? Twenty percent is the number of dentists who recommend sugared gum.”

I can just see some drone in the basement of the White House crafting a talking point in rebuttal: “Actually, when four out of five dentists recommended sugarless gum for their patients who chewed gum, most of the remaining dentists recommended not chewing gum at all.” But if you’re poking holes in the joke premise after Jon Stewart has gotten his laugh and moved on, you’re in trouble.

Here’s why it matters what one comedian thinks: The Daily Show‘s biggest demographic is 18- to 29-year-olds — the very people who have to be persuaded to purchase a product they don’t think they need at a price that will subsidize their elders. James Taranto dissects a new ad featuring a woman in her 50s who

“is purportedly getting a free lunch: better coverage with lower premiums, deductibles and copayments than someone with her risk profile would be able to negotiate absent price controls. But people can get a free lunch only if other people pick up the tab. The technical term for those other people is “suckers.” In the case of ObamaCare the suckers are young and healthy people who normally would be cheaper to insure.”

Gallup polling data shows that one in three uninsured Americans currently plan to pay the penalty rather than spend the money on a healthcare plan. Obviously, the penalty-payers will skew heavily toward young people who think they don’t need insurance. Older people with pre-existing conditions can be expected to enroll at a very high rate, thereby loading the insurance pool with the most expensive people.

I wonder, though, how compliance will shift once young people actually start doing the math. The first-year penalty is $95 or 1% of income, whichever is higher — increasing to $325 or 2% in 2015, and $625 and 2.5% in 2016. I think the first-year number that sticks in people’s minds is the $95, which sounds almost trivial — whereas the 1% is going to kick in for anyone making more than $19,500 a year (there’s a $10,000 income exemption for individuals). For an entry-level professional in New York City struggling to pay rent and college loans on a $46,000 salary, that’s $360.


Yes Mr. President, Raising the Debt Ceiling DOES Raise Our Debt

I grow weary of hearing Democrats intone that the debt ceiling — the first word of which is “debt” and the second word of which is “ceiling” — has nothing to do with the level of the debt.*  The President just said it again on TV:

“And because it’s called ‘raising the debt ceiling’ I think a lot of Americans think it’s raising our debt. It is not raising our debt. This does not add a dime to our debt.”

In a Clintonian “what the meaning of is, is” kind of way, I suppose you can justify the statement that raising the debt ceiling doesn’t increase the country’s debt.  It “merely” gives the Treasury Department permission to increase the country’s debt — and of course the Treasury will promptly do so.

Yes, raising the debt ceiling means that the government would be able to continue to pay obligations that already exist.  But it doesn’t just mean that — it also means we’ll be deeper in debt.  More debt is not the only option the government has for paying its existing obligations. Unfortunately, the alternatives are far too cumbersome to put in place by October 17, and some are arguably more harmful: raise taxes, print more money, reduce spending going forward and use those funds to service existing obligations.

I do not favor the current Tea Party strategy of tying first the continuing resolution and now the debt ceiling to the demand for defunding Obamacare.  First, as a pragmatic matter, it will not work. Second, the prospect of defaulting on Treasury bonds is scary. I examined the risks back in January, and discussed why it’s unrealistic to think the Treasury could stave off default for long by prioritizing debt payments.

A default might not be apocalyptic — damage from the 2011 credit rating reduction was tempered by the fact that everyone knew the United States still had the world’s strongest economy.  But default can’t be good, and Republicans will get the majority of the blame.

The debt ceiling law was passed in 1917, and probably should be changed.  I’m all in favor of workable mechanisms to reduce spending and indebtedness, but the debt ceiling process as it currently exists is too blunt an instrument.

The fight to reverse Obamacare can and should continue, but I expect enough Republicans will back raising the debt ceiling in time to avoid default. However, in the words of Kevin D. Williamson, “one should never underestimate the Republicans’ ability to screw up being on the right side of an issue.”

(Public domain chart via Wikipedia.  Yes, I know it only goes up to 2011 — it still shows a trend.)

* Apologies to Maureen Dowd, whose 1998 punchline was more elegant: President Clinton, she wrote, “denies that oral sex (the second word of which is sex) is sex.”

Ted Cruz Casts Himself as Shaw’s Unreasonable Man

Ted Cruz’s daughters watch him reading “Green Eggs & Ham” during his marathon speech

“Politics is the art of the possible.”
Otto von Bismarck

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
George Bernard Shaw

Part of me wants to admire Ted Cruz.

If you believe, as I do, that the current welfare state is unsustainable and Obamacare will make it worse, it follows that at some point there will be a wrenching readjustment.  When that readjustment occurs, we will wish it had happened earlier, when the problem was more manageable.  Cruz and his confederates are trying to make it happen now.

Besides, it’s about time somebody read “Green Eggs & Ham” on the floor of the Senate.

But Cruz doesn’t make himself easy to like.  Surely no other senator has ever become so unpopular among his own party in just nine months in office.  Rep. Peter King described his fellow Republican as “a fraud.”  Sen. John McCain reportedly “hates” the man.  Sen. Bob Corker suggested Cruz is “confused” and, channeling Bismarck. Sen. Tom Coburn said:

“Tactics and strategies ought to be based on what the real world is, and we do not have the political power to do this.”

Cruz has created what right-leaning columnist Kathleen Parker (or her headline writer) describes as “the GOP’s lose-lose proposition“:

Here’s the problem for Republicans, which will not be news to those with a view of the long game. The short game is to stall Obamacare, but to what end ultimately? Until Republicans can seize the Senate in 2014 and the White House in 2016, at which point they can repeal the whole thing?

Skinny chance, that.

More likely, whether the government shuts down or, should Tinker Bell suddenly materialize and persuade Obama to cave and postpone his personal dream act, Republicans will be viewed by a greater majority than previously as having no talent for leadership.

Democrats own Obamacare — they passed it without a single Republican vote, in a series of shady maneuvers and dead-of-night debates, against the clearly expressed will of the American public.  People are supposed to be able to start purchasing health care coverage on the exchanges on Tuesday — good luck with that — and the costs and shortcomings of Obamacare will become more apparent as the rollout lurches along.  This is the very time when the GOP should heed Paul Begala’s advice: “Never interrupt your opponent when he is destroying himself.”  But Cruz & Co. are about to change the subject with a costly government shutdown that will accomplish nothing.

Former Rep. Artur Davis, a Democrat-turned-Republican, said just now on CNN (I’m paraphrasing): Republicans win the argument over the substance of Obamacare, but we’re going to lose on the brinksmanship.

Just so.  Shaw may be right that all progress depends on the unreasonable man — but not every unreasonable man creates progress.

(Photo from a Cruz staffer’s Twitter feed)

Congratulations, Mr. President: Chapter 2 of My Quadrennial Search for Silver Linings

Whether it's Bush or Obama, if he is not your president, then you are not my countryman

Congratulations, Mr. President.  I voted for the other guy, but I wish you well — and if you had to win, I’m deeply relieved that Florida doesn’t matter this time.

Once again, you’ve inherited a mess from your predecessor.  This time, you won’t be able to get as much mileage from blaming him.  One of the beauties of our two-party system is that eventually, both parties end up sharing the responsibility for every major issue.

Unlike some of your critics, I don’t think your re-election is a disaster.  Even though you’ll continue to be the most powerful person in the world, you are not powerful enough to inflict serious long-term damage on America.  We survived Nixon’s thuggery, Carter’s ineptitude and Clinton’s reckless sexual predation, and we’ll survive Obamacare and anything else you may throw at us.

To me, Obamacare was the most important reason to defeat you.  The day before the election, Christopher DeMuth described the stakes as he saw them:

On Tuesday, Americans will go to the polls to choose whether or not to nationalize their health-care system. …

If President Barack Obama is re-elected, ObamaCare’s controls over doctors, hospitals, pharmaceutical firms and other providers of medical care will be tightened, and the operations of private insurance companies will be progressively restricted. Everyone involved will know where the process is going—to a single-payer system or one with a few chosen insurers subject to national public-utility controls—and will negotiate the best possible accommodations to it. Within a few years, a new political equilibrium will be in place, making the system irreversible and subject to only marginal adjustment.

The Heritage Foundation has a helpful Obamacare tax chart -- click for more details

Well, maybe.  I sure wish we had elected a Republican president and enough Republican senators to overturn Obamacare altogether, but we did not.  However, opposition to socialized healthcare is not going to go away. When the tax increases start kicking in a few weeks from now, you may find that your predecessor has bequeathed you a healthcare system so deeply unpopular that you may not be able to enforce party discipline to protect it.

I’m also not overly worried about continuing to entrust you with our national security — although again, I would have preferred the other guy as commander-in-chief.  Despite the ridiculous Nobel Peace Prize, you’ve steered well clear of the moral bankruptcy of pacifism.  To your credit, you green-lighted the risky takedown of Osama bin Laden, rather than taking the safer route of a Predator missile — and you’ve used those Predators to take out thousands of enemy combatants.  You retained Bush’s defense secretary and his strategy for Iraq, and mimicked his surge in Afghanistan.

Heck, you even started a totally unnecessary war in Libya, where we had no national interests at stake.  I don’t want to encourage unnecessary wars, but at least this one got rid of a very bad man, and up until Benghazi it seemed to be turning out all right.  Your administration’s inattention to a deteriorating situation cost four brave men their lives in Benghazi.  But at the risk of sounding flip, all presidents make mistakes that get brave people killed.

If America never uses its military strength, then all that money spent on defense truly is wasted.  On balance I think your Libya adventure was probably unwise, but I like my presidents to have a bias toward action in the face of evil people.  When, not if, the war with Iran enters its kinetic phase, I’m confident now (as I was not in 2008) that you will not preemptively surrender.  And despite your occasionally shoddy treatment of our ally Israel, I have no doubt which side you’ll take.  Even during the crucible of the final weeks of the campaign, you’ve already started laying the ground work for war, through joint exercises with Israel and by condoning Israel’s attack on a weapons plant in Sudan.

You have a tough job ahead of you, Mr. President.  So did your predecessor.  However wrong-headed some of your policies may be, I believe you to be a good and decent family man, a person of substance, and a person dedicated to doing what you believe is right for America. I can’t find the link now, but to paraphrase another voice on the right: The fact that our political system has given us a choice of two such candidates is a testament to the enduring strength of America.

Good luck, Mr. President, and may God watch over you and those you serve.

Who Wins? Q&A on the Obamacare Ruling

Which presidential candidate gets an electoral boost from the Supreme Court’s Obamacare decision?

On balance, I think Obama gains a slight advantage — or at least, I think it would have been worse for him if his signature achievement had been overturned as unconstitutional.  The potential downside for Obama is that voting him out of office now becomes the only way to have any hope of overturning the legislation.  But how potent a factor will opposition to Obamacare really be?  It was pretty potent in the 2010 midterm elections, in the immediate wake of the outrageous shenanigans (remember “deem-and-pass” and the “Cornhusker Kickback“?) employed to pass a bill opposed by a majority of Americans without a single Republican vote in Congress.  Now, however, Obamacare has momentum on its side — hey, it’s constitutional!

What does the decision mean for the credibility and reputation of the Supreme Court?

It’s probably a net positive, at least in the long run.  Most people (including me) expected yet another 5-4 decision along ideological lines.  (The mother of all 5-4 decisions, of course, was Bush v. Gore, where many felt the split was nakedly political.)  Instead, the GOP-appointed Chief Justice joined the four liberal justices in upholding Obamacare.  I wish the decision had gone the other way, but conservatives can take some solace in the fact that Roberts’ ruling limits the expansion of the Commerce Clause.

Did Chief Justice Roberts make a political or an apolitical decision?

Depends on whom you ask, of course.  The Chief Justice’s ruling cited precedent requiring that “every reasonable construction must be resorted to, in order to save a statute from unconstitutionality.”  So one can argue that the ruling is the opposite of judicial activism, paying deference to the legislative and executive branches.  On the other hand, “Mr Roberts rather straightforwardly legislated from the bench by offering and affirming a construction of Obamacare which the administration itself rejected.”

Will Obamacare be reversed if the GOP wins big in November?

Yes.  It’s mathematically possible, but highly unlikely, that the Republicans will end up with a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority.  But a simple majority may be enough, because under the Senate’s arcane “reconciliation” process, votes on tax matters require only 51 votes to pass.

And Obamacare, of course, is a tax.  The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court made it official.

When the Supreme Court Strikes Down Obamacare, Will it Help Obama or Romney?

(Second in a series of posts interpreting momentous issues through the prism of the presidential election.)

Anthony Kennedy

The only vote that matters

At first glance, the answer seems obvious.  If the Supreme Court overturns Obama’s signature legislative “achievement,” surely that hurts Obama and helps his opponent.

But what about the fact that most Americans — 56% to 39% in a recent pollwant the legislation to go away?

James Carville today bravely argued that an overturn “will be the best thing that ever happen to the Democratic party because health care costs are gonna escalate unbelievably… and then the Republican Party will own the health care system for the foreseeable future.”  He also said, twice, “I honestly believe this, this is not spin,” leading Alana Goodman to headline her Commentary blog post, “Dems Spinning Possible Health Care Loss.” Ross Douthat has a rather unlikely theory about how an overturn could help Obama: “setting a clear limit on liberalism’s ability to micromanage Americans’ private decisions might make voters feel more comfortable voting to re-elect their micromanager-in-chief.”  Not Douthat’s best effort.

Goodman also points to a potential silver lining for Republicans the verdict goes the other way:  “if ObamaCare is upheld, the only way for Americans to get rid of the unpopular law may be to vote Republican – but it’s a stretch to say that would be the best possible scenario for the GOP.”

We’ll never know, because it seems clear that the law will be overturned.  The only vote that has ever been in doubt is that of Justice Anthony Kennedy, and I think we can discern his opinion from his remarks from the bench: “But the reason, the reason this is concerning, is because it requires the individual to do an affirmative act… and that is different from what we have in previous cases and that changes the relationship of the Federal Government to the individual in the very fundamental way.”  Why yes… yes it does!

In addition to all this, I think an overturn will help Romney by neutralizing his biggest handicap as the nominee:  the fact that he signed a healthcare bill in Massachusetts that also included an individual mandate.  If the Supreme Court lets the law stand, Romney is going to have to spend a lot of time making fairly subtle distinctions between Obamacare and Romneycare.  There’s the federalism argument: it’s one thing for a state to mandate something, quite another for the federal government to do so.  But anybody who cares about federalism is already a Republican anyway.

Romney’s stronger argument is the fact that Obamacare was foisted on an unwilling public without a single Republican vote, whereas Romneycare had bipartisan support.  This argument actually gets bolstered by an overturn.  “Remember how they passed this legislation? Votes in the middle of the night on a 2,700-page bill that wasn’t even fully collated yet? Remember deem-and-pass?  Americans knew that was wrong, and they promptly swept a lot of Democrats out of office.  Now the Supreme Court has thrown it out, and all that remains is to give a new president an opportunity to reach across the aisle and find healthcare solutions that Americans can support.”

Advantage: Romney.

Who First Asked “Is Mitt Romney the Republican John Kerry?”


... at birth?

When I was in high school, one of my favorite gag lines was, “I’m a reformed Druid — we worship bushes.”  I thought this was hilarious.  More than that, after saying it enough times, I went through the next quarter century honestly believing I had made it up. (According to the spoilsport Internet, it dates at least back to a M*A*S*H episode in 1973 — a year I remember as “10th grade” — and probably to the whimsical founding of the Reformed Druids of North America in 1963.)

Some time ago I started talking about my concern that Mitt Romney might be the Republican equivalent of John Kerry.  Here’s how I described it in my December 12 endorsement of Romney:

The saying is, “you can’t beat somebody with nobody” — and any sitting president is a somebody.  Romney’s not exactly charismatic or inspirational, and the risk is that he becomes the Republican analog to John Kerry.  Lots of people voted against George Bush in 2004, but hardly anybody voted for Kerry.

I don’t remember hearing that analogy offered previously by anyone else, but I’m wary of claiming authorship.  A search for “Is Mitt Romney the Republican John Kerry?” — including the quotation marks in the search — yields more than 7,500 results.  But the vast majority of them turn out to be other sites referring to a post by that name on Daily Kos.  And the Kos reference is more than a full month later than mine.

The Kos post is by someone who hides behind the screen name Zackpunk, and as you would expect, it is highly tendentious:

Both Romney and Kerry have a political issue that makes them unpopular with their own base. For Kerry it was his vote for the war in Iraq (or the authorization for Bush to wage said war). Hardcore progressives were loathe to forgive him on that. Romney’s scarlet letter is the healthcare mandate he enacted as governor for Massachusetts. Trying to help the sick is an unforgivable offense for today’s GOP.

Really, Zackpunk? Do you really think Republican opposition to Obamacare is driven by animosity toward sick people?

But whatev, let’s turn our attention back to me.  Those 7,500 Google hits collapse down to a mere two screens of results, followed by “we have omitted some entries very similar to the 18 already displayed.” Of those 18, only one appears to predate the Kos reference.  It also predates mine: It’s from a group blog I had not previously encountered called Exchange Coffee House.  In a post titled “Is Mitt Romney the Republican’s John Kerry?“, Roland Hulme offered a much more balanced post than Zackpunk, adhering to the blogosphere’s typical inverse relationship between thoughtfulness and web traffic.

[P]oor old Mitt makes the worst possible candidate precisely because of the reason he’s been chosen – his mediocrity.

The GOP are planning to run a middle-of-the-road Republican based on nothing more substantial than the slogan: “He’s not Barack.” The problem is, Romney has a track record of so-called “statism” that rivals Obama’s own! …

For example, he invented the “Obamacare” health care reform that the Republicans now expect him to criticize and discredit. Romney’s political advisers even met with Obama to help draft the bill!

If Romney ultimately takes the candidacy for 2012, Obama will get his second term in office

The post is dated October 18, 2011, which trumps me by two months.  I think I first started talking about the analogy earlier than that, but I can’t prove it.  (Note to self: get off your fetish about research, just start posting stuff as it pops into your head.)

Hulme certainly has correctly identified Romney’s heaviest baggage.  “Romneycare” (a misnomer) makes it much more complicated to take advantage of the wildly unpopular Obamacare.  Complicated, but not impossible.  While Romney signed legislation with a constitutionally questionable individual mandate, the Massachusetts version was a bipartisan effort — not a single-party cramdown advanced in 1 a.m. votes and “deem and pass” maneuvers in a desperate race to get the bill signed before enough people realized just how bad it was.

The healthcare bill Romney signed is more of a liability in the GOP primary than it will be in the general election. And while Romney may be more of a “big-government Republican” than many conservatives would prefer, most of those conservatives will vote for him anyway, correctly reasoning that he’s well to the right of Obama.

I think Hulme is on shakier ground in saying Mitt’s “mediocrity” is the reason he’s been chosen.  (I’m posting this half an hour before the polls open in Florida, where I expect Romney’s inevitability to re-emerge.)  Romney, who can point to his background as a governor and a successful businessman, is bland, not mediocre.  That distinguishes him from Kerry, who was both.