As the New Hampshire Presidential primary approaches, the editorial pundits and talking heads are beginning to take sides. And one of the first ones is the left-of-center Concord Monitor.
And they're saying "ixnay" to Romney.
Mitt Romney and his family look like the Norman Rockwell ideal; a candidate with an athletic build, ramrod posture, Reaganesque hair, a charismatic speaking style and a crisp dark suit. Add in a beautiful wife and family, a highly successful business career and just enough executive government experience. You'd pour in some standard GOP bromides - spending cuts and lower taxes - with a dash of immigration-reform rhetoric and a focus on faith. And add to that someone who genuinely exemplifies his faith - lives up to the health code, has only been married once. And it looks like the Total Package. He's currently leading in the New Hampshire Republican polls.
But New Hampshire is right next to Massachusetts, and the Concord Monitor observed Mitt Romney first hand while he was governor of the Bay State. And even further back - when he first entered politics with an unsuccessful run against Chappaquiddick Ted (yeah, THAT Ted; Ted Kennedy).
The Concord Monitor has noticed that Mitt Romney has changed his positions over the years. Not just a few of them, mind you, but nearly all of them, in their purview. Here are the "turnarounds" they cite:
If you followed only his tenure as governor of Massachusetts, you might imagine Romney as a pragmatic moderate with liberal positions on numerous social issues and an ability to work well with Democrats. If you followed only his campaign for president, you'd swear he was a red-meat conservative, pandering to the religious right, whatever the cost. Pay attention to both, and you're left to wonder if there's anything at all at his core.
As a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1994, he boasted that he would be a stronger advocate of gay rights than his opponent, Ted Kennedy. These days, he makes a point of his opposition to gay marriage and adoption.
There was a time that he said he wanted to make contraception more available - and a time that he vetoed a bill to sell it over-the-counter.
The old Romney assured voters he was pro-choice on abortion. "You will not see me wavering on that," he said in 1994, and he cited the tragedy of a relative's botched illegal abortion as the reason to keep abortions safe and legal. These days, he describes himself as pro-life.
There was a time that he supported stem-cell research and cited his own wife's multiple sclerosis in explaining his thinking; such research, he reasoned, could help families like his. These days, he largely opposes it. As a candidate for governor, Romney dismissed an anti-tax pledge as a gimmick. In this race, he was the first to sign.
People can change, and intransigence is not necessarily a virtue. But Romney has yet to explain this particular set of turnarounds in a way that convinces voters they are based on anything other than his own ambition.
Of course, the Concord Monitor also disagrees with Romney ideologically, and they own up to it. But their greatest concern is his flip-flopping - on so many issues. People can change their mind on various issues over a period of time - that's called "growing". But how can you change nearly your entire perspective over a period of time and justify that as "growing"?
And it's not just the Monitor that asks these questions. A social conservative group called Mass Resistance has been asking those questions for years. Read their Mitt Romney Report where they address his "flip-flopping" on social issues like gay rights.
The Concord Monitor closes by stating that when New Hampshire partisans are asked to defend the state's first-in-the-nation primary, they talk about the ability to see the candidates up close, ask tough questions and see through the baloney. If a candidate is a phony, they're best positioned to spot it. They find Mitt Romney to be a phony, and urge New Hampshire Republicans and independents to vote for someone else.
I personally think the word "phony" is too strong and too vindictive to describe Mitt Romney. But he's never explained all the changes in his worldview to my complete satisfaction. And, rather than sounding like Ronald Reagan, he's talking more and more like George W. Bush. Can we stand four more years of Bush? Can we stand four more years of war? Can we stand four more years of "reconquista"? Can we stand four more years of corporate welfare and abuse? Can we stand four more years of ever-increasing national debt?
If your answer is No, then perhaps you might want to say No to Mitt Romney and Yes to the one candidate who has NOT changed his positions in all his years in Congress and who wants to change the way America works.
And that candidate is Ron Paul.