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In the past few years, political opponents of Mitt Romney have accused him of being a so-called “flip flopper” for changing his stances on certain key issues. Others have classified him a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”—a “demon sheep” before the fad caught on—as one who wears the “habiliments of the priesthood”, as J. Reuben Clark said, and earns the glowing praise of countless Latter-day Saints, yet who violates one principle after another in pursuit of political power.
The label of “flip-flopper” may very well be appropriate, but an analysis of Romney’s positions across the board and over time lend more support to the critique that he is rather like a political chameleon, changing himself to blend in with whatever environment he happens to be in. Indeed, to determine Romney’s political affiliation at any given moment, one need only determine to which audience he is addressing himself in hopes of winning a popular vote. Thus, his foundation-less platform has morphed as he courted voters first in Massachusetts, then later across the nation.
Much can be said about the man himself: he’s a successful businessman who has accumulated a substantial wealth of at least $200 million; he’s an intelligent individual, graduating with honors from prestigious universities; he’s a member of the LDS Church in good standing, having served as a bishop and stake president a couple decades ago; he has a knack for fixing failing businesses, most notably the 2002 Winter Olympics; and, ironically enough, he was a contributing factor in how I met my wife.
Good people are not necessarily good political leaders, however, and the masses who swarm around this man because of his good looks, Obama-esque parlance fine-tuned to appeal to emotions, and business experience, need to understand a bit more about the man, lest they unwittingly mistake the chameleon’s current color for its true colors. Still worse, members of the LDS Church who support Romney because “he is one of us” are like the sheep who welcome the wolf in sheep’s clothing into their flock merely because his outward appearance resembles their own.
In response to this threat of deceit, Jesus Christ told his flock that they would be able to accurately assess another individual by analyzing their fruits—their actions, decisions, and affiliations.
What are Mitt Romney’s political fruits? In an effort to ascertain the chameleon’s true colors, let’s look at a few.
In July of 2004, then-Governor Romney signed into a law a permanent assault weapons ban in Massachusetts. “Deadly assault weapons have no place in Massachusetts,” he declared. His signature continued the 1998 ban that was set to expire, ensuring that so-called “assault weapons” would be entirely banned within the state, regardless of what federal law did or did not ban. Defending his decision during the 2008 presidential race, he justified it by noting that the same bill also relaxed some regulations for gun owners, as if to suggest that adding a little sugar to a rotten egg makes it any more palatable.
This measure was a continuation of a policy he supported as early as his failed 1994 Senate bid, when he backed two gun control bills strongly opposed by the NRA and other related organizations: the Brady Bill and the federal assault weapons ban. “I don’t line up with the NRA,” he said in 1994. Referring to Massachusetts’ gun laws while campaigning for governor in 2002, he stated that “I won’t chip away at them; I believe they protect us and provide for our safety.”
Just a few years later while on the presidential campaign trail, however, Romney said on a radio show that he hoped states would ease regulations on gun owners, and positively referred to guns and hunting. “I have a gun of my own. I go hunting myself. I’m a member of the NRA and believe firmly in the right to bear arms,” Romney said. Not only did he reverse course on his relationship with the NRA (buying a lifetime membership in late 2006, just prior to launching his presidential campaign), but he also stated in one debate that he would not support a federal assault weapons ban.
Pressed further in an attempt to dig below his standard superficial level, reports learned that although Romney said “I have a gun of my own”, he later admitted that he did not own one, and instead was referring to two guns owned by his son, kept at the family’s vacation home in Utah, which he uses “from time to time”. The reference to going hunting turned out to be a reference to only two occasions in his entire life in which he participated in the activity.
Romney also supports federally-mandated background checks for anybody wishing to purchase a gun, almost in the same breath where he said that he “takes seriously” the oath to support and defend the Constitution—a document which gives the federal government no authority to promote his gun control desires.
While governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney heavily promoted and finally signed into a law a bill that required every citizen of the state to purchase health insurance or be penalized with fines. It was “the ultimate conservative plan”, he later said of it. It was, at the time of its implementation, and in fact still is, the nation’s most aggressive government-mandated health care program.
Shortly after signing the bill, Romney told reporters: “Issues which have long been the province of the Democratic Party to claim as their own will increasingly move to the Republican side of the aisle.” Asked on another occasion what the biggest difference was between his health care plan (“Romneycare”) and Hillary Clinton’s (“Hillarycare”), he stated: “mine got passed and hers didn’t.”
While running for President, he advocated a similar plan of universal health care that would, in his predictive opinion, require no more than four years to ultimately make it possible for every American to have health insurance. “My approach is based on the free enterprise system and personal responsibility,” he argued, betraying his alleged understanding of what free enterprise entails; a system of government mandates, licensed service providers, and heavy regulations do not a free enterprise system make. Romneycare, like all the other government-run programs, relies on an individual mandate—the government’s decree that an individual must participate in the organized health care system. Challenged on this issue during a New Hampshire presidential debate, Romney repeatedly asserted that he “like[s] mandates”. Asked recently about whether he considers such a mandate to be un-constitutional, he dodged the question in a way that only Romney can.
Just before signing Romneycare into law, the Governor stated:
And how did [so many individuals and groups collaborate together]? I think it is because of what this bill can lead to: every citizen with affordable, comprehensive health insurance; small businesses able to conveniently buy insurance for their employees at a cost that’s competitive with big businesses; medical transparency, bringing marketplace dynamics to healthcare, really for the first time; and finally beginning to rein in health inflation.
Despite such allegedly lofty goals, and rather quite predictably, the program has proved itself a failure, and despite some advocating that a national health care program be patterned after Massachusetts, Romney’s “conservative plan” is one more statist creation riddled with abuse and problems. It is dependent upon federal money, pushes its bloated budget onto future citizens and generations, and features at its core a central planning authority to administer, regulate, and otherwise manage the entire program. Despite Romney’s claims to the contrary, nothing about Romneycare is based in the free enterprise system. The plans being touted by Utah Senator Bob Bennett (whom Romney has endorsed) and President Obama are not that different from Romney’s own plan. In fact, President Obama’s Senior Advisor David Axelrod recently admitted that Romneycare was the “template” for Obama’s own plan.
Campaigning in 1994, Mitt Romney expressed support for federal anti-discrimination legislation to protect homosexuals in the workplace and pledged that he would “provide more effective leadership” than his opponent, Ted Kennedy, on homosexual rights. He also opined that the Boy Scouts of America—a private organization—should allow homosexuals to participate in their organization, saying “I feel that all people should be allowed to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation.” (When in charge of the Salt Lake City olympics, he allegedly banned the BSA from participating.) Further, in his bid for the Senate he was endorsed by the Massachusetts Log Cabin Republicans, a homosexual advocacy group.
Campaigning in the governor race a few years later, he courted the same group in a gay bar, promising to “keep [his] head low” in the battle for so-called “gay rights”. He was unanimously endorsed by the group’s members.
During Romney’s tenure as Massachusetts Governor, the state’s Supreme Court issued an opinion stating that it was a violation of the state’s constitution to allow only heterosexual couples to marry. This opinion called on the legislature to “take such action as it may deem appropriate in light of this opinion” within 180 days, effectively ordering the legislative branch to create a revised marriage statute. Refusing to let the judiciary infringe upon its power, the legislature did nothing. On day 181, Governor Romney took it upon himself—absent any authority or legal mandate—to order town clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses to homosexual couples, making Massachusetts the first state in the country to allow them.
For all his subsequent grandstanding—criticizing the Court, participating in pro-traditional marriage rallies, and endorsing changes to the U.S. Constitution to require marriage be between a man and a woman—Romney was either ignorant in regards to his duties as governor, or duplicitous in his actions. Being bound in no way (and having no authority) to issue such an executive order prior to legislative action, the first homosexual marriages—and no doubt the impetus for other states to follow suit—occurred due to Mitt Romney’s actions alone.
In the 1994 Senate campaign, Romney repeatedly affirmed that he supported “safe and legal” abortion. He promoted “sustain[ing] and support[ing]” Roe v. Wade since it “[had] been the law for twenty years”. “I will preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose and am devoted and dedicated to honoring my word in that regard,” he said in one debate. Going so far as to attend at least one Planned Parenthood event, Romney was a clear supporter of abortion.
Consistently citing his own personal beliefs that allegedly conflicted with his public policy positions led Ted Kennedy, his opponent in the Senate race, to call him “multiple choice” as opposed to “pro-choice”. In response, Romney re-affirmed his personal belief that abortion should be safe and legal, saying that “you will not see me wavering on that, or be a multiple choice”. (Until a few years goes by, he surely meant to say.)
During the 2002 gubernatorial campaign, Romney said “Now, I want the voters to know exactly where I’m going to stand as governor, and that is I am not going to change our pro-choice laws in Massachussets in any way. I will preserve them, I will protect them, I will enforce them. And therefore I’m not going to make any changes which would make it more difficult for a woman to make that choice herself.” And yet, during the 2008 presidential campaign, Romney claimed that every action he had taken as governor was “pro-life”. Reversing himself in regards to Roe v. Wade as well, he said in 2007 that “Roe v. Wade continues to work its destructive logic throughout our society. This can’t continue.”
During the presidential campaign, Romney was repeatedly challenged on his shifting support for abortion rights, forcing his campaign spokesman to finally admit: “This is an issue that the governor has changed his position on, that the governor was wrong on in the past and believes he is right on now.” During one debate, Romney said: “I’ve always been personally pro-life, but for me, it was a great question about whether or not government should intrude in that decision.” Framing the termination of a life as a simple personal decision and nothing more shows clearly what (little) understanding Romney had (has?) about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Mitt Romney’s take on foreign policy and war is no different than your average post-9/11, fear-mongering neoconservative. His policy statement on international terrorism from his presidential campaign frames the issue as being a direct byproduct of “radical Islam”:
The defeat of this radical and violent faction of Islam must be achieved through a combination of American resolve, international effort, and the rejection of violence by moderate, modern, mainstream Muslims. An effective strategy will involve both military and diplomatic actions to support modern Muslim nations. America must help lead a broad-based international coalition that promotes secular education, modern financial and economic policies, international trade, and human rights.
Devoid of any references to history or fact, this and similarly shallow positions on weighty issues involving the deaths of untold numbers of individuals show how poorly Romney understands the reasons why America is despised in many parts of the world. Instead of seeking to understand and advocating sound foreign policies such as the just war theory and the golden rule, Romney advocates a jingoistic, imperial campaign against something as loose an affiliation as “radical Islam”.
One example of Romney’s misunderstanding of the military, war, and foreign policy occurred while governor in 2003. He said: “Through their service, National Guard and Reservists play an important role in our efforts to advance democracy, peace and freedom across our nation and around the world.” Of course, the National Guard was never intended to “advance democracy, peace and freedom across our nation and around the world”; National Guards were established and are to be properly used only in the legitimate defense and security of the state in which they reside.
In a 2006 interview, Romney explained his overall assessment of the war effort as follows:
Well, I think it shows a complete lack of understanding of the kind of enemy that we’re facing. This is not a small group of wackos in the hills that all we have to do is go find one person and it suddenly goes away. This is, instead, a movement. It’s a jihadist movement. It’s an extreme wing of Islam. It includes people, hundreds of thousands, potentially millions of people throughout the world that are intent on bringing down America, bringing down civilization as we know it. It’s going to be a long-time fight against these people. And that’s why the president has called it a war. Iraq is one front in that war. And there will be other fronts in this war, I’m sure. But the idea that somehow if we just go home and sit back quietly that it’ll all go away is just pollyannish and not realistic. After all, what did we do to deserve 9/11? They attacked us also on the USS Cole, they attacked our embassies and we sat back and negotiated.
Making no apologies for continued warfare, nor showing any understanding of the reasons why America is sometimes attacked and oft-despised, Mitt Romney, in short, favors empire. Undeclared, perpetual warfare against a loosely-organized and poorly supplied rag-tag band of “insurgents” is something to which Romney is eager and willing to commit blood and treasure, with no qualifiers whatsoever. As said earlier, this is a full embrace of the neoconservative promotion of warfare to vanquish whatever enemy may exist. Imperial hubris fuels Romney’s misguided rhetoric on matters of foreign policy, and those who disagree are mocked.
On the issue of Guantanamo, Romney said with excitement during a debate in the presidential campaign that he would favor doubling its size as opposed to shutting it down. On Iran, Romney supports “stopping” the “greatest immediate threat to the world since the fall of the Soviet Union,” ignoring the fact that the country has no current nuclear weapons and an obsolete military. And on the subject of waterboarding, Romney refused to label it as torture, noting that by making such an admission, he would be prevented as President from using it. (Such a principled stance, is it not?) His defense was as follows: “I just don’t think it’s productive for a president of the United States to lay out a list of what is specifically referred to as ‘torture’.”
Romney’s responses — not to some of the questions but to every single one of them — are beyond disturbing. The powers he claims the President possesses are definitively — literally — tyrannical, unrecognizable in the pre-2001 American system of government and, in some meaningful ways, even beyond what the Bush/Cheney cadre of authoritarian legal theorists have claimed.
After reviewing those responses, Marty Lederman concluded: “Romney? Let’s put it this way: If you’ve liked Dick Cheney and David Addington, you’re gonna love Mitt Romney.” Anonymous Liberal similarly observed that his responses reveal that “Romney doesn’t believe the president’s power to be subject to any serious constraints.” To say that the President’s powers are not “subject to any serious constraints” — which is exactly what Romney says — is, of course, to posit the President as tyrant, not metaphorically or with hyperbole, but by definition.
As for the restraints on presidential power, Romney further betrayed any understanding of or adherence to the Constitution when asked during a debate in the presidential race whether he would need authorization from Congress to use a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. He responded:
You sit down with your attorneys and [they] tell you what you have to do. But obviously the president of the United States has to do what’s in the best interest of the United States to protect us against a potential threat. The president did that as he was planning on moving into Iraq and received the authorization of Congress…
Asked whether he thought President Bush needed such authority from Congress, Romney replied: “You know, we’re going to let the lawyers sort out what he needed to do and what he didn’t need to do.” Absent any demonstration of personal opinion, declaration of principle, or any substance whatsoever, these answers support the idea that Romney’s political strategy is to always maintain the ability to adapt to circumstance. Such moral cowardice on issues involving the lives of so many people should rightly be deemed offensive.
And on and on…
Other items of note include (but are certainly not limited to):
- In an attempt to better understand the base of voters to which he was making an appeal (no doubt to help shape his policies, delivery, and strategy), Romney spent around $1 million during the presidential campaign on polling to gauge voters’ views. Like the nearly $50,000 spent on voter research in the fourth quarter of 2009 by Bob Bennett, whom Romney has endorsed in his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, this money shows an unwillingness to simply advocate one’s beliefs and principles and let the voters decide. To such poll-dependent politicians, campaigns are games in which they must shape themselves to appeal to the electorate.
- Though a member of and former leader in the LDS Church, which believes that God communicates with a living prophet (of whom there have now been sixteen), Romney said in an interview during the presidential campaign that “well, I don’t recall God speaking to me. I, I don’t recall God speaking to anyone since, uh, Moses and the [burning] bush, or perhaps some others, but, but I don’t have that frequent of communication.” Perhaps he forgot the apostle Peter’s advice: “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”
- During his presidential campaign, Mitt Romney was repeatedly asked about his position on medicinal marijuana. One of his replies, indicative of other statements on the issue, was: “The concern, of course, is that marijuana has become the entry drug of choice and contributing a lot to the drug culture. That’s the concern. And that’s why, as the federal government, and I as a candidate, support keeping marijuana illegal, because I don’t want to encourage more involvement in or allow more people to get involved in the marijuana and the drug culture.” Nowhere in the U.S. Constitution, of course, does it give the federal government the authority to wage a drug war, much less conduct federal raids against peaceful individuals using medically-prescribed foliage to alleviate pain. “And if you elect me president,” Romney said on another occasion, “you’re not going to see legalized marijuana. I’m going to fight it tooth and nail.” Favoring a pharmaceutical industry whose artificial drugs kill thousands while using the force of government to annihilate the market for a drug that has never killed a single person is not good public policy.
- In an interview late last year with Larry King, Romney was asked if he thought Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke should be appointed to a second term. With only mere seconds connecting the statements, he first said that Bernanke had been doing a “good job”, and then said “Look, we’re printing money like crazy, we’re borrowing, and we’re spending money at a rate that is just unconscionable.” Romney obviously understands nothing about how the Fed was created, why it exists, or how it operates. If he did, he would realize that the ability to print and spend money like crazy are directly and primarily attributable to the existence of the Fed. Indeed, his excoriation of printing money is especially disingenuous (or naive) after having made statements that he approves of “the Federal Reserve [taking] the action necessary to provide more liquidity in the market” and that “the action they already took with regards to providing lower [interest] rates was a good move”.
- While campaigning for governor, Romney repeatedly assured voters that he would not raise taxes, but after elected proposed three taxes of his own, while passing taxes (also called “fees”) during each of the four years he was in office. Claiming to have passed budget cuts, he actually oversaw an expansion of Massachusetts’ budget to the tune of billions of dollars in just four years’ time. In 2002, the Center for Small Government obtained enough signatures to place an initiative on the ballot that would end the state income tax. Despite a general media blackout and being dismissed and ignored by gubernatorial candidate Romney, the initiative received 45% of the vote. For all his rhetoric about fiscal conservatism, Romney failed to support a key opportunity to prove his colors. Rather than striking at the root, he preferred to hack at the branches by supporting a reduction in the state income tax by a small fraction of one percent.
- In his new book, Romney asserts that the recent economic stimulus bill “will accelerate” the nation’s economic recovery, while only months before declaring at a visit in Utah that the stimulus “was a bad miscalculation that’s going to cost the American people a lot.” Romney supported—and still supports—TARP, a horribly un-constitutional bank bailout, declaring “Had we not taken action, you could have seen a real devastation.” However, in September of last year Romney said that when government is trying to bailout banks, “we have every good reason to be alarmed”. Which is it, then?
- And on and on…
Commenting after a 1994 senatorial campaign debate, one Massachusetts reporter wrote the following, which could very well be a sound piece of advice in regards to any Mitt Romney political campaign:
[Romney] demonstrated very clearly in the debate last night that he has more in common with liberal Democrats than he does with conservatives… Conservatives should not let their disgust and anger with Ted Kennedy’s big government liberal record blindly lead them to support Mitt Romney.
Again, Mitt Romney’s private life may very well be worthy of respect, praise, or even emulation. His public record and policy advocacy, however, should lead the astute political observer to completely reject him in consideration as a political candidate, conservative commentator, or individual of influence in regards to any policy making.
As is evidenced by the information here provided, Romney’s so-called conservative record is a long history of flip-flops, hypocrisy, cognitive dissonance, and superficial rhetoric not supported by any historical or factual basis. He is a statist wolf in a small government sheep’s clothing—a color-changing chameleon with the ability and willingness to adapt to whatever environment he is in.