The individual mandate has become closely identified with President Obama as the centerpiece of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Yet Obama is at best a reluctant supporter of the mandate. In fact, during the 2008 presidential campaign, the principal difference between Obama and Clinton was that Clinton favored a mandate for everyone while Obama didn’t.
Here’s a video clip from 2008 highlighting Obama’s opposition to forcing people to buy insurance. It may load a bit slowly, but in the first 60 seconds you’ll see him criticize John Edwards and Hillary Clinton for their support of the mandate.
Meanwhile, Mitt Romney was firmly on the side of the mandate. On April 11, 2006, shortly after passage of health reform in Massachusetts, Romney had an op-ed on the Wall Street Journal’s OpinionJournal, where he explained the mandate this way:
Some of my libertarian friends balk at what looks like an individual mandate. But remember, someone has to pay for the health care that must, by law, be provided: Either the individual pays or the taxpayers pay. A free ride on government is not libertarian.
It will be ironic if the Supreme Court strikes down Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment based on the unconstitutionality of a tenet supported by Republicans and Obama’s Democratic opponents, but not by Obama himself.