Marc Ambinder feels like he’s in a time machine in Florida:
Step into the time machine, and we’re back in 2007, when Mitt Romney and John McCain are sparring over who can unify conservatives and who’s a flip-flopper. Rudy Giuliani? A before-thought to the degree that today, he’s an after-thought.
There was no comity left from which the final day of campaigning could further degenerate, and the charges, prosecuted today by both candidates at Sanford International Airport, were flying as fast and loose as a Lear Jet.
Romney called McCain “desperate” and accused him of making things up. He called him a “liberal” for working on an immigration compromise with a liberal Democrat like Joe Lieberman.
McCain expanded his attack on Romney’s record in Massachusetts. “One thing I think we should really give Governor Romney credit for — he is consistent,” McCain said. “He has consistently taken both sides of any major issue. He has consistently flip-flopped on every issue.”
It’s funny — this race is right back where it started, after we all thought Senator McCain was done for and Mayor Giuliani would be the major liberal-Republican candidate. And Senator McCain is making the same old wrongheaded claims about Governor Romney’s record.
As we’ve pointed out, this “flip flop” meme is drastically overstated. For instance, Governor Romney has always been against “gay marriage,” and he fought it courageously in Massachusetts — as well as writing to every U.S. Senator in favor of the Federal Marriage Amendment.
And don’t forget the pamphlet we posted earlier from his 1994 Senate run. It portrays a tough-on-crime, fiscally-conservative candidate who was — as he has acknowledged — wrong on abortion. But the bulk of his convictions are today just what they were then. I’ll put the flier below the fold, if you want to take a look.
So if you look at the truth, this isn’t a man who’s “consistently taken both sides of any major issue.” This is a man who’s changed his mind on a few things — mainly abortion — and admitted it. He’s said in as many words, “I was wrong.”
But what do we have with Senator McCain? Well, not the model of consistency. We have a man who voted against the Bush tax cuts and says that was the right thing to do, but who also vows to make them permanent. We have a man who pushed an immigration bill that was deeply unacceptable to the conservative base, said he learned his lesson, but also says he’d sign that very bill as president. And that’s just two issues. But what we have there isn’t consistency — I changed my mind and now I will act accordingly — but flipping, flopping, and flipping back on a given issue, all within the course of a year. And he also will not admit that he was wrong.
Senator McCain would have you believe that between him and Governor Romney, you have one consistent conservative and one flip-flopper. Not so. Each man has changed some of his positions; that’s politics. But one admits it and has intellectually-reasonable reasons for doing so. The other does neither — and as much of a hero as he is, Florida has a better choice for president today.