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The current governor of Massachusetts getting ready for his speech tonight. "He did one profoundly important thing," Patrick says of his predecessor, "and he makes no mention of that."

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — They finally got to the the punchline of the entire Republican National Convention in a conference room at the top of the Hearst Tower here outside the Democratic convention. For three days last week, the Republicans manufactured an elaborate set-up and, this afternoon, it was the guy who now holds Willard Romney's old job in government who delivered the snapper.

"The Affordable Care Act is motivated by exactly the same thing that motivated our reforms in the Commonwealth: the recognition that health is a public good," Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick told a crowd that had gathered to hear a panel on the topic, "Romneycare: It Works." Hell, if Romney's not going to talk about it, somebody has to. "And that making health care affordable to everyone," Patrick went on, "is an expression of the kind of community that we want to live in.

"How did it happen? Well, in 2006, Governor Romney, I believe to his great credit, working with a Democratic state legislator and a Democratic United States senator, a broad coalition of business leaders and labor leaders and patient advocates came together to invent health-care reform in Massachusetts and they borrowed from a number of different ideas. The beauty of what happened was not that it was a perfect idea from the outset. It was that this broad coalition decided there was a better option than the usual two — which was a perfect solution, or no solution at all. So we took a step."


Okay, you had to be there.

The people involved in crafting the Massachusetts health-care law quite honestly were gobsmacked by the fact that Romney found himself unwilling or incapable of presenting to his party as their presidential candidate the one concrete achievement of his political career. "The fact that Governor Romney was a part of bringing health-care coverage to better than 98 percent of the people in Massachusetts is his only true public accomplishment," said James Roosevelt, a former health-insurance CEO and onetime chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic party. (And, not for nothing, FDR's grandson.) "And he's not talking about it. So we've decided to do it."

It really is the best answer in our current context to the World's Dumbest Question — "Are you better off etc. etc." — because you can point out that thousands of residents of Massachusetts are better off because of an achievement of which Willard Romney now seems at best ambivalent and, at worst, ashamed. "This law did a lot of good for a lot of people," Patrick said. "There is not a doubt in my mind that, if the Affordable Care Act were polling better nationally, he would wrap his arms right around it. And I can't think of a single thing wrong with it."

(It's no secret that Patrick, one of the president's close friends and most important surrogates, and a speaker — along with Michelle Obama and Rahm and rising stars Joe Kennedy III and Julian Castro — at tonight's festivities, and whose campaign for governor clearly presaged the themes that got the president elected in 2008, thinks that the administration botched the rollout and sale of its own health-care reform to a faretheewell in 2009.)

It is the best answer to the World's Dumbest Question also because it spins the question back on the man who seems to be making the World's Dumbest Question the sole basis for his election. Romney can embrace what Patrick calls "his one achievement as a CEO in a political context," or he can look like a heartless animatronic opportunist. There's no third alternative. "I guess the main observation I would make is that (Romney) was a lot more interested in having the job than in doing the job," Patrick said. "We were forty-seventh in the nation in job-creation. Real wages were declining. Our roads and bridges were crumbling. We had a structural deficit that he left behind. Business taxes went up.

"He did one profoundly important thing — really profoundly important, and I say that sincerely — and that's health-care reform, and he makes no mention of that. I can't understand that as anything but some kind of political calculation. The presentation he's making right now is that he was Mr. Fix-it, and I'm telling you, he didn't fix much.

"People ask me all the time what is the real Mitt Romney? Is he a conservative? Is he a moderate? Is he a pragmatist? I think he's an opportunist. I think he does and says things he needs to do and say to win elections and to appeal to the people in front of him."


COMING LATER TONIGHT: Tom Junod on Michelle Obama, Charles P. Pierce on Julian Castro and Joe Kennedy, and Margaret Doris on Jimmy Carter

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About The Politics Blog

This blog is about politics, which, according to Aristotle, a truly veteran scribe, is the result of humans being the only herd animals capable of speaking to one another. Or shouting at one another, or giving to each other the ol' bazoo, for all of that, although there is no translation for "bazoo" in the ancient Greek. Thus, for our purposes here, this blog will be about politics in its most basic form — to wit, how we speak to each other for the purposes of governing, or choosing not to govern, ourselves as a small-r republican political commonwealth. It will be the policy of this blog not to treat ignorance with respect simply because that ignorance profits important and powerful people. It will be the policy to operate on the principle that, while there may be two sides to every question, rarely are they both right. If this blog sees a man walking down the street with a duck on his head, it will report that it saw a man walking down the street with a duck on his head. It will not need two sources for that. It will not seek out someone to tell it that what it really saw was a duck walking down the street with a guy on its ass. It will be the belief of this blog that, as Christopher Hitchens once said, the only correct answer to the question, "Is nothing sacred?" is "No." And there will be fun.

About The Authors

  • Charles P. Pierce

    Charles P. Pierce

    Charlie has been a working journalist since 1976. He is the author of four books, most recently Idiot America. He lives near Boston with his wife but no longer his three children.

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  • Esquire Contributors

    Esquire Contributors

    Thomas P.M. Barnett, Chris Jones, Tom Junod, Scott Raab, Eric Rauchway, John H. Richardson, Eli Sanders, Mark Warren, John Weaver, and other smart people, occasionally.

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