In the wake of the Supreme Court Obamacare ruling, it's admittedly hard to keep everyone's argument straight. Who's calling it a tax, who's calling it a penalty? And what exactly is it, anyway?
On Monday, Mitt Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom went on MSNBC to clear some of that up, and to state unequivocally where Romney stands (we covered the original here). To the surprise of many, he was clear that Romney agrees with President Obama that the penalty in the mandate is not a tax:
Some conservatives have blasted Fehrnstrom for saying that Romney agrees with Obama that the penalty is not a tax (considering that characterizing it as one could be bad for Obama). They've even called for his firing. But they should take a step back and think about that. The controversy is not that the penalty is a tax or not. Remember, less than a week ago conservatives were outraged that John Roberts had to do mental gymnastics to justify Obamacare as such. The controversy is this: Obama said it wasn't a tax; when it became politically expedient he had his solicitor general say it was; and now he's saying it isn't.
So it should be no big deal that Fehrnstrom and thus Romney think it's not a tax (they're siding against John Roberts by doing so). Many people think it's not, including Obama and four conservative Supreme Court justices.
But now that the Court has ruled it is, conservatives want to rub it in Obama's face. But don't confuse the technical argument (it's a tax) with the original and likely correct one (that it's not). Romney can still capitalize off the ruling by pointing out Obama's inconsistency and that the only way to get it through was to say it is a tax, but that doesn't mean he has to accept that 2+2=5.
For what it's worth, the Romney camp sent this statement out to the press to try and clear things up:
“The Supreme Court left President Obama with two choices: the federal individual mandate in Obamacare is either a constitutional tax or an unconstitutional penalty. Governor Romney thinks it is an unconstitutional penalty. What is President Obama’s position: is his federal mandate unconstitutional or is it a tax?” –Andrea Saul, Romney Campaign Spokesperson