Gingrich’s support for ‘must-carry’

The New York Times pointed yesterday to Newt Gingrich’s previous support for an individual health care mandate, but this time, uncovered a tidbit we hadn’t seen or heard before.

More broadly, he has indicated his agreement with the most controversial aspect of President Obama’s heath care plan, the requirement that every American buy health insurance. Although he now says he is opposed to the so-called individual mandate, in a May 2009 conference call — previously unreported — he told health care executives, “We believe there should be must-carry; that is, everybody should have health insurance, or if you’re an absolute libertarian, we would allow you to post a bond.”

In 2011, this is apparently controversial, since Gingrich is now a leading Republican presidential candidate who claims to oppose the individual mandate.

But I sure would appreciate it if the political world stopped pretending this is controversial.

In the summer of 2009, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), one of the leading Republican lawmakers in the talks over health care reform, told Fox News, “I believe that there is a bipartisan consensus to have an individual mandate.” Did Fox News freak out? Did GOP leaders immediately distance themselves from the comments? Was Grassley forced to immediately backpedal? No, none of those things happened. Grassley said there was a bipartisan consensus to have an individual mandate because there was a bipartisan consensus to have an individual mandate.

And this came a month after Gingrich’s behind-the-scenes chat with health care executives that we’re just hearing about now.

The point is, Gingrich’s previous support for the policy isn’t at all surprising. What would have been odd is if Gingrich didn’t endorse the individual mandate.

For those who’ve forgotten, this was a Republican idea in the first place. Nixon embraced it in the 1970s, and George H.W. Bush supported the idea in the 1980s. When Dole endorsed the mandate in 1994, it was in keeping with the party’s prevailing attitudes at the time. Mitt Romney embraced the mandate as governor and it was largely ignored during the 2008 campaign, since it was in keeping with the GOP mainstream.

In recent years, the mandate has also been embraced by the likes of John McCain, Orrin Hatch, Bob Bennett, Tommy Thompson, Lamar Alexander, Lindsey Graham, John Thune, Scott Brown, and Judd Gregg, among many others. Indeed, several of them not only endorsed the policy, they literally co-sponsored legislation that included a mandate.

Newt Gingrich privately touted the same idea? Well, sure, of course he did.