Romney ridicules Obamacare

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was speaker at a noontime luncheon in downtown Des Moines today.  He took some shots at Democrats’ health care reform proposals.  Here’s the Radio Iowa story.  The key quote:  "The path of Europe is not the way to go.  Socialialized medicine.  Hillarycare.  Obamacare.  They don’t get it," Romney said.  "The best way to make health care work is to make health care more like a market and with the dynamics of the private market, that’s the way to go."   

Romney was introduced to the crowd by Des Moines attorney Steve Roberts, a long-time member of the Republican National Committee. Roberts told the crowd that when he first met Romney and his "stunning wife" — he thought the two could have been "chosen by central casting to be president and first lady."  Roberts also joked that he’d never imagined he ever be introducing a former Republican governor of Massachusetts. Romney thanked Roberts for the "generous" introduction.

Romney gave his standard stump speech for business types, throwing in that "Obamacare" line, then he opened it up for questions.  The first came from a doctor in the crowd who asked about health care reform.  During his answer, Romney quoted PJ O’Roarke: "If you think health care is expensive now, wait ’til it’s free."

Doug Gross, a Des Moines lawyer/2002 GOP gubernatorial nominee/Romney’s Iowa campaign chair, got up from his front-and-center table at this point and gave Romney a glass of water, since Romney was coughing a bit.

"You think water will help," Romney said.

"It’s the job of the state chair," Gross replied.

Romney took a drink, then continued.  The second question was bout the American Medical Association’s health care reform proposal.  "A follow-up to that long answer.  That’s amazing," Romney said.

"…I have to be honest with you here.  I’m not looking to take what I did in Massachusetts…I wouldn’t take that and impose that on all 50 states. My inclination would be to let states develop their own plans to get their citizens insured and we’re going to find a system that works better than somewhere else," Romney said. "…Let states try their own plans…I see the federal government as allowing greater flexibility to the states instead of mandating what you have to do."

The next question was from a woman whose husband has been in the Army for 25 years.  She asked about Iraq, Darfur and the Sudan.  "I think it’s a good idea for us to tighten sancions on Sudan," Romney said.  "…If there is military action to be taken in Sudan, it’s something that should be done on a broader basis than just the United States of America.  We’ve got our hands full right now…."

And then Iraq.  Romney said the US won the initial war — toppling Saddam Hussein’s regime, but then made a number of mistakes (not having enough troops) for the second phase of the operation.  "I think we’ve made a number of mistakes since the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s government," Romney said.  "…We were underprepared for what developed…We have a number of options.  One is just to get up and walk out.  That’s very tempting.  It presents an additional risk to America and our interests — a pretty severe risk.  If we were to walk out precipitously, it’s very possible the nation would devolve into massive civil wars and the neighbors would start grabbing power…because of that and the potential for a more…regional conflict and our having to go back again in a worse setting, I support the president’s planned troop surge and to give al Maliki’s government time to establish its footing.  We’ll see if they’re successful in doing that.  They’ve got political objectives as well as military objectives and we’re going to get a report from General Petraeus in December.  If it’s working, we’ll celebrate that.  If not, the other options are always available to us, but at this stage I support the president’s plan."

Romney then tacked on his call for increasing the military by 100,000 soldiers because the guard and reserve have been "overtaxed" by this war. 

Diane Crookham-Johnson, an executive at Musco Lighting in Oskaloosa, asked Romney to define success.  Here are Romney’s articles of success — the condensed version:  make money, be ethical, have fun, build something lasting.

Then came a question about immigration, from an attorney who said she was a Democrat. 

"I agree with a lot of the things you’re saying," she told Romney to start.

"That’s good.  Take the microphone away from her right now," Romney joked.  The crowd, and Romney, laughed, as did the questioner.

"…I’m a little puzzled at your position on immigration.  I guess I’d like to know what you believe beyond not supporting amnesty," she concluded.

"I’d be happy to.  First, I strongly support legal immigration.  Legal immigrants have been a source of technology, innovation, hard work and culture that have enhanced our country.  My guess is that the majority of the people in this room are either legal immigrants themselves or the descendants of immigrants and we welcome immigration.  America has been the golden door of opportunity from the beginning and will remain so.  I do not support illegal immigration in part because I think illegal immigration threatens legal immigration.  It keeps us from being able to bring in and attract some of the best and brightest from around the world and so I want to see if we can’t end illegal immigration but not in any way to the detriment to legal immigration so my principles on illegal immigration are pretty straight forward.  I want to secure the border.  Two, I’d like to have an employment verification system.  I’d like employers who are looking to hire someone to either be able to determine through their Social Security number that they’re a US citizen, or through an identification card whether they’re legally able to work here so the employers don’t have to go through this guess work of determining is this person legal or not and am I going to get stung for hiring someone who is not a legal resident.  So, I want a residency verification system and number three for those who are here illegally today, I would welcome their application for becoming a permanent resident or citizen, but on the same basis as everyone else in the world — not getting ahead in the line and the reason I’m not supportive of the bill that’s currently before the senate, one of the reasons is it says to all of those who are here illegally that they all get to stay and in my view that puts them ahead in the line.  I know that some debate: is that amnesty? Is that not amnesty? I’m not going to worry so much about the word. It has amnesty-like features in that it says everybody who’s come here illegally gets a special privilege to stay here and I think that’s just fundamentally unfair.  I want legal immigrants to come here but I don’t think those who’ve come here, violating our law, should be given a privilege ahead of those who’ve stood in line in their home country and applied to come here."

He said more, focusing on the desire that immigrants speak English and the desire to have "brains come here" to help the US workforce compete globally. 

Steve Roberts, the RNC member, then asked whether it was time to raise immigration quotas.  Romney talked about the visa program, and his argument when he was governor of Massachusetts for visas for temporary workers at Cape Cod during high season.  "I needed immigrants to come in to help manage hotels and restaurants in Cape Cod in the summer time, but by the time summer came around all the visas had been given in California who had an earlier season need and I said ‘Gosh, can’t I get some more of those visas,’" Romney told the crowd.  He suggested the feds need to be more flexible on visas.

That was it.  Romney held a brief question and answer question with reporters afterwards.  Some of what he said is quoted in that Radio Iowa story linked int eh frist graph of this blog post.  He also talked about what it means to be conservative, his joke about Leona Helmsley, and he compared/contrasted his Massachusetts health care reform plan with Obama’s proposal.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.


  1. Mitch Henry says

    I agree with Senator Barack Obama that we need to “break the stranglehold” that big drug and insurance companies have on the health care market. We need to limit the amount of profit health insurance and drug businesses could make and prosecute companies that monopolize the insurance industry.

  2. Mitch Henry says

    Why isn’t Mitt Romney promoting his own Massachusetts health care reform plan? Very few if any of the Republican candidates are pushing forward on the health care front. Many opinion polls indicate that health care is one of the top issues for Americans today. Approximately 45 million Americans are without health care today. Iowa has one of the highest percentages of citizens over the age of 65 in the United States.