Did Obama dig his own grave on health care?

Krugman thinks so.  He sounds at least a little prophetic here back in December of 2007 during the Democratic primary — this is in response to then-Senator Obama criticizing the individual mandate portions of the health care plans of both Hillary Clinton and John Edwards:

[L]ately Mr. Obama has been stressing his differences with his rivals by attacking their plans from the right — which means that he has been giving credence to false talking points that will be used against any Democratic health care plan a couple of years from now.

Mr. Obama’s health plan is weaker than those of his Democratic rivals, but it’s infinitely superior to, say, what Rudy Giuliani has been proposing. My main concern right now is with Mr. Obama’s rhetoric: by echoing the talking points of those who oppose any form of universal health care, he’s making the task of any future president who tries to deliver universal care considerably more difficult.

I agree the fact that Republicans can run ads with clips of Obama speaking out against the individual mandate is politically unsightly.  But I don’t think the Republican attacks are really that dependent on the notion that “even Obama said this was a bad idea.”  Up to this point they’ve focused a lot on the fact that the mandate was unconstitutional.  With that option now gone, it looks like they’ll turn to attacking the ACA as a “massive tax increase.”  Neither of these are dependent on Obama’s prior opposition to the mandate.  They would stick just as easily even if the president had never been on the other side of the issue.

With regards to the idea that Obama gave Republicans talking points to use against him: this sort of implies they wouldn’t have come up with anything bad to say about it if he hadn’t given them these ideas.  If there’s anything these last few years have proven, it’s that Republicans can pretty well come up with lines of attack on the president on their own; in other words, they would have thought of them anyway.

So, in retrospect, it doesn’t look like Obama’s opposition to an individual mandate during the Democratic primaries has hurt him that much.  Still, the role reversal of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama on the mandate issue is remarkable.  More on that later.

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About Hammertime
Georgetown sophomore, Job Creator.

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