Last week, conservatives raised alarms over the news that Mitt Romney had tapped former Utah governor and Bush administration HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt to lead his transition team were he to become president. Leavitt has been a leading Republican advocate for implementing Obamacare's health insurance exchanges and his consulting practice has raked in fees helping states set up the exchanges. But in a meeting with the Washington Examiner's editorial board this morning, Sen. Mike Lee, one of the leading conservatives in the Senate, defended his fellow Utah Republican.
“Mike Leavitt is a statesman and he is a statesman of the highest order and he is an outstanding manager. He’s got unparalleled skills in terms of his personal relations, things like that," Lee said. "The fact that he has run a business, run it effectively, and found a way to make a profit in one thing or another shouldn’t be something that causes anyone, especially conservatives, to criticize him for doing. We need to avoid falling into that trap that sometimes the left falls into of saying, ‘Oh, profit seeker. Must be evil.’ He is a very effective administrator and I can understand why Gov. Romney would place confidence in him. I certainly don’t think it ought to be a concern for conservatives.”
Lee dismissed worries about the fact that Leavitt was profiting from the implementation of President Obama's health care law.
“If the rule were, you cannot be considered a conservative, or even palatable to any conservatives under any circumstances if you have operated in or especially made a profit in any area that isn’t 100 percent governed by free market, no one would qualify," Lee said. "The truth is there are so many things, especially in the post-Obamacare world, where the market isn’t really free.”
As for what the choice of Leavitt says about Romney, Lee said, "I think it says that he recognizes in Mike Leavitt an extremely gifted legislator, one who possesses sound judgment in a number of areas and that he can trust Mike Leavitt to get a difficult job done in a compressed period of time, which is what this particular role requires.”
Lee also argued that Romney is likely to govern a lot differently as president than he did as governor, particularly on health care, because states have a different role than the federal government.
“There are things he did as governor of Massachusetts that he would never dream of doing as president,” Lee said.