Right now, Mitt Romney is two people. Romney #1 is the Romney that nearly got the nomination sewed up and wants to start running against Obama. That Romney was the one that came out when he was asked about the Blunt amendment yesterday afternoon:
Unfortunately, the journalist misrepresented the bill. The Blunt Amendment is about a lot more than contraception; it would allow an employer to deny an employee any coverage for any “moral or religious” reason through the health insurance after it’s been relinquished to the employee as compensation. Functionally, it’s no different than an employer denying you the right to spend your salary on beer or condoms, if they disapprove, and it’s closing in on giving the employer the right to require you to tithe to their church as a condition of your employment. Remember, the insurance coverage being debated here is yours. You paid for it, with a combination of labor and often cash. Giving an employer a right to dictate what care is covered is like giving your employer a right to live in your house because you used money they gave you in exchange for work to buy it.
This is part of a long tradition on the American right of demanding the right to control others while characterizing it as “freedom”. It goes right back to slave owners claiming that the federal government was encroaching on their freedom to own others, i.e. their freedom to deprive others of all freedom. Now the argument is that for employers to be “free”, they should have the right to deprive their employees of the freedom to use earned benefits as we see fit. Once the right to continue controlling compensation after it’s been relinquished to the employee is established, I fully expect them to run rampant and start eyeballing control of wages next. After all, they’re claiming that it’s still “their” money, even after they sign the check!
I suspect Romney realized the public at large doesn’t want your boss trying to control your private medical decisions because he has a prurient interest in your sex life—an interest that, if expressed in other ways, would get you hit with a sexual harassment lawsuit—and so he answered this way. In fact, Romney framed his answer in the “keep your boss out of your bedroom” way:
I’m not for the bill. But, look, the idea of presidential candidates getting into questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and a woman, husband and wife, I’m not going there.
An hour later, the other Romney—the one who wants Santorum to quit collecting delegates and threatening his assurance of getting the nomination—came out. And that Romney said, “Well, the base thinks only women will be affected by this, and only women will have their boss in their bedroom and in their doctor’s office, trying to make their decisions for them.” And the base really doesn’t think women should be free, since they use that freedom to have the evil, evil sex. (Of course, the base doesn’t realize that this law would give the boss the right to be in the bedrooms and doctor’s offices of male employees, as well.) So that Romney, the one who wants to put Santorum away permanently, said this:
“Regarding the Blunt bill, the way the question was asked was confusing,” a spokesman told TPM. “Governor Romney supports the Blunt Bill because he believes in a conscience exemption in health care for religious institutions and people of faith.”
I’m usually skeptical of the argument that a long primary hurts the candidate’s general election prospects, but this year is special. In order to win the nomination, Romney has to be on the record supporting the idea that your boss gets a say in your medical decisions and you sex life when you’re off the clock. That’s probably not going to be a popular opinion.