We’re getting a lot of questions about the Democratic National Committee’s new attack site, WhichMitt.com.
The first thing that deserves to be said about this site is that it’s a compliment that the DNC is attacking Gov. Romney so frontally this early. That shows they understand who the real threat is in the Republican field.
The second thing is that this is just the latest example of the tired, and overwrought, flip-flop meme. Yes, Gov. Romney has changed his mind on some issues since his first run for office back in 1994. So has anyone who’s been thinking since 1994. But the DNC’s charges are essentially smears.
The first DNC charge is about abortion. There the reality is crystal clear: When it came time for him to make a life-or-death decision about embryonic stem cell research, Gov. Romney realized that he had been wrong to adopt the “personally pro-life, politically pro-choice” position. He’s admitted this; there’s no question about it. And it’s not a bad thing! The whole purpose of the pro-life movement is to make converts. Gov. Romney is one. So were President Reagan and the famed pro-life congressman Henry Hyde.
The second one is about Detroit. The quotations lead you to believe that Gov. Romney’s position has changed about what to do about the automotive industry’s troubles there, but it hasn’t. During the 2008 campaign, he called for “increased government spending for research on advanced fuels and vehicles, aid to automakers to deal with the costs of health care and pensions for retirees, and tax cuts for most taxpayers to help them buy new cars.” He subsequently opposed President Obama’s bailout and urged the adoption of the very same things he’d talked about before. Remember this, too: Gov. Romney is a businessman. He understands that bankruptcy is not the end of the road, or an example of doing nothing–doing nothing being the response he famously criticized during the campaign. Rather, it’s part of recovery. There’s no contradiction whatsoever between urging intelligent action and welcoming bankruptcy. You can agree or disagree with the merits of Gov. Romney’s position here (I disagree, personally–I don’t like his or President Obama’s) but it isn’t contradictory.
The third one is about stimulating the economy. In the first quote, Gov. Romney says there is a need for some kind of economic stimulus; in the second, he condemns President Obama’s specific approach. Again, no contradiction–and he was exactly right. The way to stimulate the economy is to get government out of the way, not to spend money we don’t have.
The fourth charge is about whether Gov. Romney has said President Obama made the economy worse. This is a silly non-issue. Obviously, Gov. Romney believes President Obama’s economic record is a lousy one, and he’s right. If he’s gotten his words garbled on the campaign trail, that happens when you’re touring the 57 states daily.
The fifth smear is about health care (I’m surprised it took this long!). Again, the two statements are not contradictory if you read them fairly. In the first, Gov. Romney says he’s proud of what he did on health care in Massachusetts and that there are things other states can learn from the experience. In the second, he says he would not impose his or any other approach on the entire country. This has been his consistent message and it’s a reasonable one. (I’d add, as he has, that some of the lessons the nation can learn from the Massachusetts experience are negative ones! That’s life.)
The final DNC attack is about President Reagan. Like the fourth one, it’s silly. Imagine that: When running for office in left-wing Massachusetts, Gov. Romney resisted being cast as a Reagan clone. Now, running for office in a national Republican primary, he’s wrapping his arms around President Reagan. Look, folks: This is what politicians do. You can like it or not, but they all do it, and by longing for someone who doesn’t, you are making yourself a fool. Current conservative heartthrobs Mr. Cain and Sen. Santorum are doing the exact same thing: They loudly endorsed Gov. Romney in 2008 but now say he isn’t good enough. And you know what? That’s fine. That’s what happens in politics–even when guys who say they aren’t politicians (like Gov. Romney and Mr. Cain) get into the game.
Has Gov. Romney changed his mind on some issues? You bet he has. So have the rest of them. But is he the serial chameleon the DNC and others make him out to be? Not if you look at the facts. He’s a conservative businessman who got into politics. That’s a messy thing–and not just for him.