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Republicans scramble to distance themselves from a plan they used to like.

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Presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty got a great zinger when he called the Massachusetts health care system “Obamneycare.” It’s because before there was Obamacare — specifically the rule to require everyone to buy health insurance — Mitt Romney enacted the same policy in Massachusetts. Get it? Obamneycare? Hilarious!

But wait a minute ... Wasn’t the individual mandate a Republican idea? Yes, Republicans who wanted to see the onus for health care coverage shift from corporations to individuals supported it. So did conservatives who preach personal responsibility. So did the GOP idea-factory, the Heritage Foundation, where the concept was the centerpiece of its health care policy starting back in 1990. So wasn’t Romney just proving his bona fides by solving a nagging problem in the conservative way?

Obamneycare!!! See how that works? One pithy put-down can kill the truth. And thus the Republican Party devours the one pup in its litter who could actually win the presidency in 2012.

It’s karma, as pointed out by the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, that it’s Pawlenty lobbing the bombs, as he’s sideways with one-time GOP orthodoxy, too. He supported a cap-and-trade approach to curbing pollution — an idea first championed by conservative think tanks. Now that cap-and-trade is officially a bad idea, Pawlenty simply says he no longer supports it. Oh, the conviction!

What happened? The short story is, Obama adopted these ideas. Instead of making the GOP feel like it won the debate, it infuriated them — if Obama likes it, they have no choice but to hate it. The idea is irrelevant; politics is all that matters.

The long story started when John McCain snubbed Romney and chose Sarah Palin as his running mate. That day, wonky, conservative governing via ideas based in reality was replaced by platitudes served up on a wing and a prayer. Since then, cap-and-trade and the individual mandate got the cement-shoes treatment.

So when you hear that Romney is straying, don’t believe it. Romney didn’t flip-flop — his party did.

Of course he’s all too happy to bend over backwards to explain how his plan is soooo different than Obama’s. There are slight differences, but generally it pretty much is Obamneycare (Robamacare, really, as Massachusetts’ plan came first). And Romney’s Massachusetts experiment is working — coverage is nearly universal, and people are no longer going bankrupt over medical bills.

But somehow, in today’s Republican Party, being effective at your job and fixing a problem is all wrong. Or, as the headline on the fauxnews website The Onion put it: “Mitt Romney Haunted by Past of Trying to Help Uninsured Sick People.”

Ted S. McGregor Jr. is the Editor and Publisher of The Inlander.

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