|Pawlenty's Bigger Failing|
By Quin Hillyer
Wednesday, June 15 2011
Pundits universally seem to agree that former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty hurt himself in Monday night's debate by shrinking not just once but a few times from amplifying his own characterization of Obamacare as “Obamneycare,” as a shot at front-runner Mitt Romney's health-care fiasco in Massachusetts.
The pundits are right – but they miss the more important facet of Pawlenty's strange reticence. Many of us could not care less whether Pawlenty hurt or helped his own campaign. The bigger problem is that Pawlenty whiffed on a golden opportunity to promote the conservative cause, and the cause itself suffered as a result.
As an aside before reaching the main point, it's worth noting that it was odd that everybody let Romney skate on everything Monday night, from Romneycare to abortion to Romney's utterly ill-informed and leftist acceptance of global warming mythology. As a conservative, Romney's authenticity rates somewhere between that of Egg Beaters and that of the Great and Powerful Oz.
Now to Pawlenty's evasion: The worst problem with spending so much time claiming merely to have channeled Obama's own comparison of Obamacare to Romneycare was that he completely failed a golden opportunity to make a profound moral case against both.
Pawlenty had a chance to say proudly (and without any rancor or nastiness toward Romney personally) that he did indeed compare the two health care systems in order to draw a contrast between what is and isn't acceptable in a free society. It doesn't matter one bit if Mitt Romney's “individual mandate” was imposed by a state instead of by the feds; either way, a government forcing people to buy a product the person doesn't want, just by virtue of living and breathing within the government's jurisdiction, is a government without any real limits whatsoever.
Tyranny is tyranny at any level. By Romney's logic, it would be better still if your local township, rather than the state, could send police to oversee you filling out your insurance application and writing the check. Next stop: SWAT teams to escort you to the hardware store to buy widgets.
Federalism is, of course, an important principle. Using states as “laboratories of democracy” is a good and practical idea. But federalism should never be an excuse for despotism. What's wrong is wrong. It's not a matter of practicality but of morality writ large. Indeed, James Madison warned that in certain ways the mischiefs of government could be worse – more restrictive of liberty, more apt to cause direct and ineradicable harm – at the local level than in an extended republic where a multiplicity and diversity of interests can keep tyranny in check.
Pawlenty didn't need to go into major philosophical depth to explain this. All he had to say was: “Yes, I called it Obamneycare, for the same reason the president himself compared his system to Gov. Romney's: because both are dependent on an individual mandate to make them work. The reason that is seen as an insult is because the mandate, at any level of government, directly violates essential liberty. I don't care if it was an experiment. So too was the Frankenstein monster.
“Any government that can force you to buy a product is a government that is way too strong. It should especially be anathema to Republicans and independents who believe in limited government -- and it should be a point of embarrassment for Romney, in an otherwise decent career.”
There: That's a 40-second answer. It is an answer Pawlenty should have been prepared to give from the moment he introduced “Obamneycare” into the political lexicon. It is an answer that promotes freedom, and that can help sweep Obama from the Oval Office.
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