Editorial: Flip-flops and hypocrites

Editorial: Flip-flops and hypocrites

After all these years, Mitt Romney is still on the make. While that comes as no surprise, the former Massachusetts governor occasionally catches us off guard with another breathlessly unprincipled statement that underscores his willingness to say anything to get elected.

A recent example came on Romney’s appearance on Mike Huckabee’s talk show on Fox News.

Back when he was running for office in Massachusetts, Romney repeatedly assured voters that if elected, he would never seek to change in any way the status quo regarding a woman’s access to a safe, legal abortion.

“I will preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose,” Romney said as a candidate in 2002, echoing similar assurances he had made in his earlier Senate campaign against Edward Kennedy in 1994. (Romney couldn’t have been clearer, for example see http://youtu.be/P_w9pquznG4). And he wrote in the National Abortion Rights Action League’s candidate survey this statement: “I respect and will protect a woman’s right to choose. This choice is a deeply personal one. Women should be free to choose based on their own beliefs, not mine and not the government’s.”

Yet there he was a few weeks ago, telling Huckabee that back in the day he would “absolutely” have supported an amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution that defined life as beginning at conception.

Huckabee: “Would you have supported a constitutional amendment that would have established the definition of life at conception?”

Romney: “Absolutely.”

That, of course, would have been a complete reversal of what Romney had been insisting to Massachusetts voters for many years, and had he said so at the time, he would never have been elected.

It is just one example, but not a small one, and it represents a long history of changing positions, insincerity and shamelessness as Romney charts his course to the Republican presidential nomination.

When he was running for governor, Romney portrayed himself as the cool, collected and super-smart business guy who wanted to focus on economic issues. We bought into the idea of another liberal Republican like Edward Brooke and William Weld, economically conservative but socially moderate. Massachusetts was his home, the place where he went to school (that would be Harvard). Who knew that Massachusetts and Harvard would become punch lines in Romney’s jokes before conservative audiences?

We were sold a bill of goods. As Romney, while still governor, set his sights on national office, he found himself pandering on issues that play to social conservatives, such as stem cell research and gay rights and gun control. And, of course, abortion rights.

Tellingly, Romney’s adviser Mike Murphy told the National Review in 2006, “He’s been a pro-life Mormon faking it as a pro-choice friendly.”

More recently, New York Times conservative columnist David Brooks the other day put forward a twisted defense of Romney: “Would you rather have someone who authentically agrees with Michele Bachmann or someone who is just faking it?”

The answer is: neither. We deserve someone who means what he or she says.

Granted, this is the view from Massachusetts, where Romney is a well-known quantity. Residents in other states can just as likely testify to the hypocrisy of their home state candidates. It’s fairly endemic, and not limited to the Republican Party. President Obama’s legal reasoning regarding assassinating Anwar al-Awlaki, for example, echoes perfectly the Bush legal doctrines that he had so decried.

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