Usually I reserve this segment for a commentator or member of the “intelligentsia” who say something during the week. But there’s really no getting around Mitt Romney.
The reason we have ObamaCare is because the Senator you supported over Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter, the pro-choice Senator of Pennsylvania that you supported and endorsed in a race over Pat Toomey, he voted for ObamaCare. If you had not supported him, if we had said, “no” to Arlen Specter, we would not have ObamaCare. So don’t look at me. Take a look in the mirror.
And what makes this statement the dumbest statement of the week is not just that the crowd at the debate actually ate up this convoluted line of logic, but that it’s created a cottage industry among conservatives trying to defend it.
Before getting into the weeds on this one, whenever a statement makes this many leaps it enters tinfoil hat territory. In law the concept is “proximate cause,” which says that only the most direct source of the legal harm can be liable. Santorum’s response should have been direct and dismissive. I’m thinking something like, “that is a ludicrous series of coincidences strung together just to deflect attention from the fact that you invented ObamaCare. Before you tie me to Area 51, let’s just look at Massachusetts.”
Now, getting into the ridiculousness, Santorum’s endorsement of Specter did not guarantee his victory over Toomey. Indeed the Bush White House, who also endorsed Specter, probably did more to guarantee Specter’s victory. But then, you have to consider whether or not Toomey could have defeated the Democrat in the general election in 2004. The conservative conventional wisdom is that Toomey would win because he won in 2010, but that was a massive GOP year — 2004 was not as favorable to conservatives. Had Specter failed to get the nomination, Toomey may well have lost.
Santorum instead tried to explain his support of Specter and cited his impending role as the Chair of the Judiciary Committee and the need to have a reliable Senator in that role to shepherd the nominations of Justices Roberts and Alito. Those supporting Romney are citing the fact that the GOP maintained a majority in the Senate, making Specter redundant, but this overlooks two points: (1) it was impossible before an election to know that the GOP would hold the Senate without Specter and (2) Specter was perhaps more useful had the GOP lost and he become the ranking member and been in a position to use his good will with both sides of the aisle to help conservative Justices through the process.
The Supreme Court is incredibly powerful for enforcing conservative causes (as at least some people have recognized). In the Fall the Supreme Court is might rule Affirmative Action unconstitutional! That is so much more important for conservatives than a statute that can be repealed with a change in Presidency.
I understand why Romney said this. It’s a trick we’ve seen before in these debates. By making a ridiculous attack, you know your opponent never prepared for the argument. After hours and hours of debate prep you catch the opponent completely unprepared and, like here, the candidate might flail. It’s another instance of the dumbing down of political debate, but sadly dumb is effective.