Pawlenty’s Health Care Flip-Flop


Lame duck Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty has become the latest Republican to sue the government over health reform—only months after saying he didn’t believe there were any legal objections in the bill. Newsweek’s Andrew Romano catches Pawlenty’s blatant flip-flop:

Back on Sept. 13, Pawlenty explicitly ruled out taking legal action against Obamacare. … Stephanopoulos asked a direct, unavoidable question. “So just to be clear,” he said, “are you suggesting that any parts of the plan as the president has laid it out are unconstitutional?”

Pawlenty’s response was equally direct: “I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a legal issue.”

It’s no surprise that Pawlenty’s trying to burnish his conservative credentials in hopes of fueling his 2012 presidential aspirations, aligning himself closely with Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann before their joint appearance in Minnesota on Wednesday. For months, Pawlenty has been trying to use health care as a wedge issue to attack his rival Mitt Romney, who’s made an even more radical reversal on the issue given his role in crafting health reform in Massachusetts. But Pawlenty’s flip-flop makes his own political motivations even more transparent—and shows just how far the opposition has moved rightward.

While national Republican legislators have gone soft on their call for full repeal of the law, there’s little sign that these state leaders are letting up on the bombast. South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster—who’s running for governor this year, like a number of other attorneys general heading up the lawsuits—is passing around an “almost gothic” video that touts the lawsuit in his own bid for office, as Ben Smith reports. Such efforts may cheer the conservative activists—but they also drive home the fact that the lawsuits are a pure political ploy.

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  • Suzy Khimm was a reporter in the Washington bureau of Mother Jones from March 2010 until June 2011. For more of her stories, click here. Follow her on Twitter here.