Not even 48 hours after Mitt Romney
's campaign spokesperson Eric Fehrnstrom promised
that the former Bain executive submits to President Obama
's opinion that health insurance mandates are not a tax, Romney himself flip-flopped on that stance in a confusing CBS interview
Romney took a break from a weeklong vacation at New Hampshire's Lake Winnipesaukee to grant the Fourth of July interview to CBS. During questioning, the presumptive Republican nominee contradicted his campaign and refused to disagree with the reasoning
of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts's opinion declaring the mandate a tax. Yet Romney also tried
to draw an unconvincing and confusing federal vs. state distinction between Obama's plan and his own:
ROMNEY: "Well, the Supreme Court has the final word and their final word is that Obamacare
is a tax. So it's a tax. They decided it was constitutional. So it is a tax and it's constitutional."
CBS: "But does that mean that the mandate in the state of Massachusetts under your health care law also is a tax? I mean, you raised taxes as governor."
ROMNEY: "Actually the chief justice in his opinion made it very clear that at the state level, states have the power to put in place mandates. They don't need to require them to be called taxes in order for them to be constitutional. And as a result, Massachusetts's mandate was a mandate, was a penalty, was described that way by the legislature and by me, and so it stays as it was...The chief justice said that states have what's known as police power, and states can implement penalties and mandates and so forth under their constitutions, which is what Massachusetts did. But the federal government does not have those powers, and therefore for the Supreme Court to reach the conclusion it did -- that the law was constitutional -- they had to find it was a tax, and they did. And therefore Obamacare's a tax. Like it or not, it's a tax."
Adding to the confusion, Romney's flip-flop also contradicted Republican National Committee chairman Sean Spicer, who had backed up
Fehrnstrom in an MSNBC appearance Monday. At that time, Spicer agreed with Romney and Fehrnstrom that insurance mandates are not a tax, in order to avoid the inevitable comparison between the mandates in both Romneycare
But rather than placate the Tea Party
, Romney's flip-flop exasperated
conservatives even more. No less than the Wall Street Journal published a scathing editorial
this morning, blasting Romney for his timidity in attacking Obama's federal mandate, for continuing to defend his own Massachusetts mandate, and for yesterday's confusion and flip-flopping inconsistency.
The right-leaning paper described Romney's tax flip-flop as a campaign "turning point" that would breed distrust of Romney as an out-of-touch, cautious
candidate who lacks honor and integrity.