I was not at all surprised that Mitt Romney has again reversed course from a stated position during the primaries. This time he announced that he didn’t mean at all what he had previously said about FEMA, and is all for ensuring an adequate federal role for disaster relief. Of course, he said it in the middle of one of the largest hurricanes on record hitting our east coast, and at a time that his words from the spring saying he would send that responsibility to the states or to the private sector were being plastered across the national media. I guess he thought it was immoral before it wasn’t immoral.
The best sub-headline of the campaign so far, courtesy of the New York Times: “If Mitt wins, who will occupy the White House? It’s not a trick question.”
Throughout the primary and general election seasons this year, every time I think of Mitt Romney an obscure Woody Allen movie comes to mind. “Zelig” (1983) portrays an individual who becomes just like whoever he is around. If he is around Jewish people he becomes Jewish, around overweight people, he rapidly gains weight, and so forth. “Zelig” deserved much more recognition than it ever received. And I’m puzzled that it’s not being over-referenced by pundits covering the GOP presidential nominee.
Everyone (I hope) is aware of Mitt Romney’s flip-flops and contradictions of convenience throughout his political life. The most obvious series of mind-changes comes on the subject of abortion. I was challenged on this subject in a Facebook post that it’s OK for people to change their minds, especially on abortion, just as my questioner had. And it was a fair challenge.
My reply: “The problem with Mitt Romney is that he has held contradictory opinions on the subject at the exact times when it was the most politically expedient to hold them. He was pro-life until he ran for US Senate from Massachusetts, and became pro-choice for that race through his election and service as Governor of (that state). He became strongly pro-life again in time to run for president through grueling Republican primaries with a constituency that would never allow a pro-choice candidate to come close to winning. Then in the last week, in the middle of a general election where the pro-choice position is in the majority, he made a point of saying that he knew of no abortion legislation in the works that he would sign, leaving an implication that he maybe was not all that enthusiastic about his latest stance on the subject. “
Romney’s pattern on abortion is followed on numerous other issues: health care, gun control, climate change (including cap and trade), education, stem cell research…..the list seems endless. And in every case where Romney has “changed his mind” on an issue, the position he has held at a particular time has been the most politically expedient position for him to hold.
Obviously, the GOP candidate’s changing position on health care has been the most visible. Listening to Republicans rant about “Obamacare” has been nothing short of surreal. The Affordable Care Act is built on a Republican model from the 1990’s. A similar plan (which included an individual mandate as its centerpiece) was pushed by the Heritage Foundation as an alternative to the Clinton plan early in that administration, and was endorsed by Newt Gingrich. It was promoted by Bob Dole during the 1996 presidential election. And of course it was passed as a statewide plan in Massachusetts under Governor Mitt Romney in 2006, who proceeded to tout it in 2009 as a model for the nation.
Romney well knew a nationwide Republican primary electorate would never nominate a candidate who would endorse a health care plan passed by a Democratic president, so rather than stand up to his party’s extremes and fight for the plan he seemed to believe in and that is still popular in Massachusetts, he began to denounce it in no uncertain terms. It may be the first time in the history of presidential politics that a major party candidate has disavowed his or her greatest accomplishment.
As egregious as Romney’s constant and convenient changes in positions have been, they are not what bother me the most about Mitt Romney. I normally avoid focusing on anything personal about political figures, but two Romney stories about his younger days bother me a great deal about him and what that say about his character.
The first story has been publicized to some extent. In prep school he, according to friends of his from the time who participated in the ordeal, led a group of fellow students in an assault on another student who was considered “different” during which the victim was held down while his longer hair was cut. While most of the perpetrators remember the incident in its details and feel awful about their participation, Mitt Romney claims no memory of the incident. His denial means one of two things to me. Either he remembers the incident and is choosing to lie about it out of political expedience, or he truly doesn’t remember it, because assaulting a fellow human being failed to produce enough pangs of conscience to trigger his memory. Either way, his bullying behavior is bothersome.
The second story took place years later, in 1983 when he served as a Latter Day Saints ward bishop, with church members assigned to his leadership. A woman under his ward, in her 30’s, had a difficult pregnancy and was advised by her doctor that her condition had not only probably negatively affected the condition of her 8-week old fetus, but threatened her life as well. She met with her assigned bishop (Romney) to gain his permission to have a life-saving abortion. She (with her story corroborated by friends) described Romney as being concerned completely with the unborn fetus, and from then on was cold and distant toward the woman. She chose to have the abortion and eventually left the church, mainly due to the behavior of her bishop. Again, Romney claims no memory of the incident.
Both of these stories portray a character that has no business being in charge of the welfare of 300 million constituents. I don’t normally put stock in incidents from 30 or more years in the past, but Romney’s denials of memory of what were life-changing events for others are too much to ignore.
No presidential candidate in my lifetime has raised more red flags for me than Mitt Romney. Let’s hope the proceedings this coming Tuesday will prevent me from finding out whether or not my trepidation is warranted.