The conflict of being Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney has always been a conflicted and deeply flawed critic of the Affordable Care Act. This week, he showed just how conflicted he is: Romney stepped all over Republicans’ favorite line of attack following last week’s Supreme Court health care ruling, contradicting his political allies and siding with President Obama in insisting that the penalty for not obtaining insurance under the reform is not a tax, regardless of the Court’s labeling it as one.

Last week, the Supreme Court decided that the Affordable Care Act oversteps Congress’s ability to police interstate commerce. Still, the majority opinion said the national mandate requiring Americans to buy health insurance, and penalizing them when they don’t, holds constitutional muster as a tax. This line of reasoning had Republicans off the ledge, and giddily running against “the largest tax increase in the history of the world.”

Romney’s senior advisor, Eric Fehrnstrom, put an end to all that talk yesterday. He went on MSNBC and declared his undying love for Antonin Scalia. When pressed, he conceded that the federal health care penalty must not be a tax, since in Massachusetts, Romney had thought of his regime of individual mandates and fines as penalties, not taxes.

“The governor believes that what we put in place in Massachusetts was a penalty,” Fehrnstrom said, “and he disagrees with the court’s ruling that the mandate was a tax.” And of course, what happened in Massachusetts matters, since Obama’s health care people just took what Romney did here and scaled it up. So now there is much wailing and gnashing of GOP teeth, since Romney would rather guard his own anti-tax flank than decry the monstrous health care tax.

Back in 2006, when Romney yukked it up with Ted Kennedy and Sal DiMasi and Robert Travaglini, health care reform was going to be his legacy. He’d partnered with the eggheads at MIT and pushed through a market-based, Heritage Foundationendorsed scheme for covering the entire state without wiping out private insurers. He eagerly promoted the Massachusetts health care overhaul as a model for other states. Then Republican politics turned upside down, the individual mandate became the enemy of freedom, and Romney began engaging in some impressive mental gymnastics, whereby he castigated Obama’s health care regime but defended his own, even though they’re both variations on the same theme. And that worked for a while. Until yesterday, when it didn’t.

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Rep. John Keenan of Salem is taking heat for putting a provision in the state energy bill that would financially benefit the firm preparing to replace the coal power plant in his city with a gas-fired one, the Salem News reports.

NECN’s Broadside covers the effort of a group of teenagers to pass a law giving 17-year-olds in Lowell the right to vote in municipal elections. CommonWealth has done stories on the grassroots lobbying effort as well. Here’s the latest.


A Scituate grandfather protesting the town’s ban on the long-time tradition of holiday beach bonfires can keep his makeshift patriotic fence made from wooden pallets that he had planned to burn.

A home-rule petition returning Fall River’s fire chief position to Civil Service has stalled on Beacon Hill and supporters are bracing for the likelihood that it won’t be passed by the time the Legislature ends its session. CommonWealth examined the Civil Service process in the spring 2011 issue.

Kingston’s embattled town administrator has resigned.


Congress is actually getting some work done.


They haven’t actually seen it yet but international researchers are expected to announce tomorrow they have evidence of the Higgs boson — the so-called “God particle” — that could explain the origin of the universe.


CBS News reports that US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts changed sides in the court’s debate on health care. Then he got out of town, quickly. The Obama campaign is already blowing its second chance at selling health care reform. Time analyzes the two candidates and their flips flops on the health care mandate.

The Globe reports on the boost Republican challenger Richard Tisei is getting from the family scandal that has engulfed incumbent Democratic US Rep. John Tierney. The Gloucester Times, in an editorial, says Tierney went too far when he said the judge at his wife’s trial said he was not aware of her family offshore gambling operation. Republican political consultant Todd Domke piles on in his WBUR column. Tierney will stage a no-holds-barred press conference today — the statements from which will likely be swallowed by fireworks and grilled hot dogs.

Scott Brown elbows Elizabeth Warren by heaping praise on Martha Coakley.

Do not look for a vacationing First Family on Martha’s Vineyard this summer.


Former New Bedford mayor John Bullard, a vocal advocate for commercial fishermen, has been named National Marine Fisheries Service regional administrator for NOAA. Here’s the Gloucester Times report.


On Greater Boston, David D’Allesandro talks about his rise from the son of an addicted gambler who had problems with the mob to the top of Boston’s business scene.


The Globe looks at the recently passed legislation that puts the state’s public community colleges on some of the same sort of accountability oversight as the state’s K-12 schools.

Merrimack College in North Andover puts its athletic director on paid leave, but officials decline to say why, the Eagle-Tribune reports.


The Christian Science Monitor explores how the Bay State has fared under its own health care reforms.


Like clockwork, there were problems with the MBTA’s rollout of fare increases that only compounded rider resentment. State Transportation Secretary Richard Davey talks with NECN’s Broadside.


The Democratic governor in North Carolina vetoes natural gas fracking legislation because she says it doesn’t do enough to protect the environment, Governing reports.

The Environmental Protection Agency has fined Fairhaven Shipyard Companies for allowing polluted water from pressure-washing to flow into New Bedford Harbor dating back to 2005.

State economic development secretary Greg Bialecki says Massachusetts has done its part to advance Cape Wind, and it’s now up to the developer to “put all the pieces together.” Scott Brown calls for a federal investigation into whether regulators overlooked well-known safety concerns in the rush to do a “backroom deal” with the project’s developer.

Seals may be cute, but Chatham officials tell people to stay from them since they tend to attract great white sharks.


A program aims to get juvenile offenders running in the right direction.


A loosening of Rhode Island fireworks laws two years ago is worrying Massachusetts fire officials as stores open just over the state line to attract Bay State buyers south of Boston who no longer have to drive to New Hampshire for their holiday explosives. Meanwhile, Holliston’s Marty Lamb, a Republican running for state representative in the 8th Middlesex district, wants to legalize sparklers.

This might sober you up: Michigan officials have distributed talking urinal cakes to bars and restaurants that come equipped with motion detectors to play a message designed to keep drunken drivers off the road over the holiday.


Huffington Post gives software developers access to polling data, the Nieman Journalism Lab reports.

Dan Gillmor of the Guardian reveals what he told the New York Times during his unsuccessful bid to become the paper’s next ombudsman.