Thursday, February 22, 2007

Mitt Feeling

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has movie star looks, but right at the start of his campaign for the GOP Presidential nomination, he's already flip-flopping his lines.

It's not easy being a politician, successful or otherwise. Just this week we had Hollywood mogul David Geffen asserting the "Everybody in politics lies." Aren't we grown up enough to know it? Or are certain lies worth examining to know more about the character of whichever liar we hope to elect?

Romney has made the first television ad buy of the campaign, and his ad shrewdly opens with his wife's heartfelt endorsement before some sort of crowd. She's got a touch of the movie star about her as well, and he's just as wise to close the ad with images of the two campaigning together. In a sense, the "plot" of the ad is proud wife introduces dynamic husband who goes out into the world alone to make his case, and reunites with her at the end to leave a building, begin the race.

The middle of the ad is actually the least convincing. Whether staged or not, the campaign speech seems like a laundry list of safe, familiar GOP bromides. Taxes are too high. (Estate taxes?) The government spends too much money. (Um, you're talking about your party's government.) The world is a scarier place. (Than during Communism? Nazism?) Then he speaks of taking action, and of his faith in the American people. This last sentiment sounding positively Democratic in its expression. Compared to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) he may seem like fresh air. Next to ex-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, will he seem tough?

Both of his front runner opponents are doing their share of position flopping. There are whole YouTube featurettes about McCain's position flips, and Rudy has already flipped on the assault weapons ban and appears somewhere in mid-flop on abortion rights. GOP Presidential candidates usually don't get tagged for position changes as stickily as the Dems. Kind of a multiple mulligan, country club rule. Just act tough, give us the image of strong daddy whether earned or not, and we'll assume you're no flip-flopper, not like those "Liberal" guys.

So given hypocrisy as a pillar of elected life, is the abortion issue going to be one for which Romney's admitted change of position actually costs him votes?

As a strategy for winning his Party's nomination, it's hard to fault Mitt. Polling must certainly confirm that the number of Anti-Choice Republicans kicks ass on the reproductively moderate constituents. He wouldn't have a shot at all as a believer in abortion rights, so even if he loses votes from those who suspicious of his change, he'll probably net out ahead with those who take him at his word. His latest word.

But in the general election, should Romney secure the nomination, will he be hoisted on the petard of his position in support of a woman's right to control her own body, professed so emphatically in this clip of him appealing to the good people of the overwhelmingly Pro-Choice State of Massachusetts during the 2002 Gubernatorial debate?

Ah, but there's already doubts of authenticity from the right. The notion here is that the Pro-Choice turn was the opportunistic lunge, but that this is the real Mitt. Some rationalize this as a flip but not a flop, that maybe a politician (okay, a Republican politician) has to actually take a third position (or is it fourth?) to get the full moniker.

It's ugly out there.

To my mind, the biggest crimes that flip-flopping engender are sanctimoniousness and sloughing of responsibility. Based on reading the transcript of his interview by ABC's George Stephanopoulis, I'm not seeing sanctimoniousness as a problem. He just gets into the responso-slough when he talks about his lack of power as President to make his newly trumpeted Anti-Choice position a factor in changing American law, not will he consider what punishments he would advocate to punish outlaw gynoecologists. He essentially leaves it a state's rights issue and looks for his mully.

Compare to over on the Dem side, when frontrunner Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) is at pains not to lay claim that her vote in favor of giving El Presidente George Bush carte blanche to invade Iraq was a mistake, even if her party may get ding her for refusing to flop.

I guess the flip-flop is just a job hazard for Presidential candidates. My father always used to say that you had to be a little bit crazy to truly want to be President.

Yes...and supple, too.

Crossposted to The Daily Reel.


erobinson said...

There is a difference between flip-flopping and the simple evolution of taking a different stance. To be clear, Mitt Romney was never pro-abortion. His comments in debates and speeches leading up to his term as governor of Massachusetts were merely to reassure that overwhelmingly pro-choice state that he would not mess with the status quo. The Mormon view of what they call "free agency" granted by God, coupled with a tragedy that happened to a friend of the Romney family during a botched abortion has caused Mitt Romney to be somewhat conflicted on what position the government should have regarding abortion. Romney has decided, and he is firm in his stance that he will seek to give power to the states to decide their own acceptance or rejection of Roe V. Wade.

Mark Netter said...

While there's an argument to be made about evolution of positions, such as John Edwards admitting his mistake in voting to give the Bush/Cheney regime a power they were so obviously poised to abuse, and while this is a rational argument for an evolution of Romney's position, I don't consider tossing the right to a safe abortion to the states as a firm stand on anything other than avoidance of responsibility, starting with taking responsibility for either standing up for fetal rights or for the rights of grown women. To make a patchwork of rules that might cause all kinds of state line crossings and unequal punishments, like the U.S. devolving into medieval duchies, is not a particularly smart or principled way for a cohesive nation to deal with an issue like this that cuts across all boundaries of class, race and geography throughout our great nation.