Friday, April 27, 2007

Oh, well, that makes it okay, then

Mitt Romney, dogged by reports of his well-documented flip-flops on key issues in a transparent effort to appeal to the GOP's conservative base, mounts a stout defense of the practice. His argument? McCain and Guliani did it, too.

"Senator McCain voted against the Bush tax cuts. Now he's for them. He was opposed to ethanol. Now he's for it. He said he was opposed to overturning Roe v. Wade. Now he's for overturning Roe v. Wade," Romney said, adding: "that suggests that he has learned from experience."

"Mayor Giuliani has made a number of changes over his career, and there are places where I've made changes," Romney said. On his clearest flip — on abortion — Romney said: "I'm not going to apologize for saying I was wrong and now I think I'm right."

He's got a point, even though pointing to sleazy behavior by others doesn't really excuse his own opportunistic shifts. For instance, this comes on a day when Giuliani added some conservative nuance to his support for gay civil unions -- as in, he supports them unless they look too much like marriage. Another way to look at it is that Giuliani supports them only in theory, since every single civil union bill passed so far would apparently fail his new test.

It's one thing to change your mind over time, or in the face of compelling evidence. It is neither realistic or desirable to expect people never to change their minds, ever, or to fetishize ideological consistency.

But in the case of all three men, the changes in position didn't take years and didn't coincide with any major events -- except their decisions to run for president. And I'm sure it's just a remarkable coincidence that all of their shifts involve taking positions more appealing to that conservative base.

Romney can never admit that's what he's doing, though. So we'll be treated to the spectacle of suspected moderate Republicans pretending to be conservative Republicans, making both moderates and conservatives suspicious about their true leanings -- not to mention whether they have any core beliefs at all.

Like most things in politics, this is a bipartisan failing that has less to do with the particular party and a lot to do with how far the views of the party base diverge from that of the general electorate. It hit the Democrats hard in the 2004 elections, for example, when the base was mostly antiwar but the general public wasn't. This time around it's going to primarily be a Republican problem, because the base still generally supports both Bush and the war while neither is even remotely popular with the voters at large.

It's still not pretty. It's easy for me to say because I'm not a candidate, but intellectual integrity should be more important than telling people whatever they want to hear.

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Blogger Simon said...

I'm not exactly a McCain fan, but what's the evidence McCain's flip flopped on Roe?

4/27/2007 10:08 PM  
Blogger Sean Aqui said...

I think Romney was referring to this. Source is ThinkProgress, but they link to the underlying documents.

In 1999, he opposed overturning Roe. Now he supports it.

Heck, he shifted his position within days back in 1999 after antiabortion groups complained.

4/30/2007 12:05 PM  

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