POST-GAZETTE - Res Publica

Personnel is Policy

by David Trumbull -- August 12, 2011

During the Administration of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s an often heard conservative aphorism was personnel is policy, meaning that a conservative man or woman in the executive office wasn’t sufficient to effect conservative policies; he or she had to appoint conservatives, otherwise the liberal establishment and bureaucracy would continue to churn out ruinous liberal policies.

To most of us it seems fairly self-evident: when the people elect a Republican they expect Republican policies to follow, and, surely, a Republican appointee is more likely to promote Republican policies than is a Democratic appointee. But, as the saying (often attributed to George Orwell) goes, There are some ideas so wrong that only a very intelligent person could believe in them. Well, there is no doubt former Massachusetts governor and presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is a very intelligent man who has fallen for some every wrong ideas. “He never asked me if I was a Democrat or a Republican, and never asked most of the Cabinet members who came with me,” said Romney cabinet member Barbara Berke in a July 2, 2007, New Republic article. We know the result, Romney, who now styles himself “a conservative” gave us four years of typical Massachusetts liberalism from the “corner office.”

Of all Romney’s policies in Massachusetts, the one that most haunts him as national candidate is his signature health care reform. Conservatives have dubbed it “Romney-Care” and have derided it as the gateway drug to “Obama-Care.” Last week a group of extremely concerned citizens, from a variety of walks of life, filed the necessary paperwork with the Attorney General’s office to give the voters of Massachusetts the chance to repeal the most onerous portion of the state’s universal health care law—the individual mandate.

The ballot question, the creation of Massachusetts Citizens for Life (“MCFL”), is simple and compelling. It says: “Individual Health Coverage, will be stricken in its entirety, so that no individual shall be required to purchase health insurance or be subjected to any penalty or sanction for declining to do so.”

MCFL has launched a website: to keep the public informed about their progress and to give groups the resources they need to help with this very important effort.

“We at Massachusetts Citizens for Life have worked very hard over the past two years to prevent and then defeat Obama-Care,” said MCFL spokeswoman, Anne Fox. She continued, “Once Obama-Care is overturned, the rest of the country will be fine but we in Massachusetts will still have to live under its prototype. Repealing the individual mandate is a start toward better health care in Massachusetts.”

Meanwhile, Mitt Romney is stuck defending an indefensible public policy. He can’t repudiate it without further, and perhaps, for his political life, fatally, cementing his disreputation as a “flip-flopper.” Poor Mitt Romney, many a Republican has faltered because he failed to learn the lesson that “personnel is policy;” Romney may be the first to falter because he failed to understand that policy is policy.