No, not that guy. Today’s Wall Street Journal interview of Governor Romney talks a lot about data. The entire thing is a must-read, but this portion stood out to me:
The charge that Mr. Romney lacks “authenticity” emerges from the fact that he has flip-flopped over the years, especially on social issues. He famously tried to run to the left of Ted Kennedy on some of those issues in his unsuccessful 1994 Senate race. At that time, he also expressly disavowed being a “Reagan-Bush” Republican.
These days, of course, Mr. Romney is right with “the base” on abortion, same-sex marriage and the whole panoply of “social” issues, which has led to suspicions that Mr. Romney, the businessman, is simply tailoring the product, himself, to the customer–then, the Massachusetts electorate, and now, the national Republican Party.
The impression he gives in person is not, however, that of a salesman tailoring his message to his audience. It is, instead, precisely the person he described in the opening moments of our meeting: A man who goes first to the data, who refers to what some would call their “core beliefs” as “concepts.”
At any rate, his response to a question about his former disdain for “Reagan-Bush” is consistent with that version of the man. “Reagan gets a lot smarter the older I get,” he allows. He then explains what bothered him then: “I was concerned about what seemed to be looming deficits and inability to rein in spending in those days. And as time has gone on, I’ve recognized that he was brilliant and did the right thing for our economy. And so I may not have been entirely in sync with Reagan-Bush back at the time, but as time has gone on, I think what they proposed was smarter and smarter.”
Framed in that way, what was a flip-flop becomes an openness to reconsider former positions. That may not do much to mollify those who worry about his ideological reliability–he’s changed his views before, so what’s to stop him from changing them again? But it is a kind of Romneyian consistency–belief in what works, belief in praxis over abstract theory or ideology.