On Thursday, former Massachusetts governor and two-time losing presidential candidate Mitt Romney delivered a speech lambasting Donald Trump. Among his attacks on Trump were that the Republican front-runner is a phony and a flip-flopper:
There’s plenty of evidence that Mr. Trump is a con man, a fake. Mr. Trump has changed his positions not just over the years, but over the course of the campaign…Here’s what I know. Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.
It certainly stands to reason that Mitt Romney can judge when someone is a phony, considering he is one of the phoniest presidential candidates in history. Someone so phony that he once declared in a debate that “Mitt” is his real first name…when it is actually Willard.
Then there was his attempt to boost his pro-gun credentials, saying on the campaign trail in 2007, “I’ve been a hunter pretty much all my life.” Romney even had two anecdotes of his personal hunting experiences.
He later acknowledged that those two anecdotes represented the only two times in his life that he ever hunted. But it was arguably true that he was a hunter his whole life: he hunted one time at age 15, and again at age 59.
And on a slew of issues, Mitt Romney the candidate has freely changed his stances on issues depending on what was expedient during any given election. He has flip-flopped on so many issues that I will have to gloss over some so that this blog post does not become a novel.
The most pronounced reversals are those between the time that Romney ran for senate in Massachusetts in 1994, and when he ran twice for president. Going up against the very liberal Ted Kennedy in a very liberal state, Romney veered to the left on a number of issues.
On abortion, Romney said in a 1994 debate with Kennedy,
I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country. I have since the time that my mom took that position in 1970 as a US senate candidate. I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for twenty years that we should sustain and support it. And I sustain and support that law and the right of a woman to make that choice…And you will not see me wavering on that.
Ted Kennedy, in a moment of exceptional prescience, responded, “I am pro-choice. My opponent is multiple choice.”
Romney the gubernatorial candidate took the same stance, saying in a 2002 debate that “I will preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose, and am devoted and dedicated to honoring my word in that regard.”
So did Romney honor his word? Of course not.
His 1994 claim that people would not see him waver on abortion was true, but only for people who died before July 2005. Because midway through his one term as governor, presumably with an eye on the White House, Mitt wrote an op-ed in 2005 saying of his anti-abortion stance that “these convictions have evolved and deepened during my time as governor.”
And Roe v. Wade, which he said “we should sustain and support” ? Now he said that “those who wrote our Constitution would wonder why the federal courts had peremptorily removed the matter from the authority of the elected branches of government.”
Sure enough, Romney the presidential candidate then emphatically came out against abortion. He declared, “Mine will be a pro-life presidency.”
Advisers to Romney acknowledged that he was taking stances because they were expedient.
“He was always uncomfortable on the issue, but he was penned in by having run as a pro-choice candidate in 1994 and by the political realities of Massachusetts in 2002. It was made clear to him by advisers early on in his gubernatorial race that he had to be pro-choice, and he could not show any hesitation,” said Rob Grey, an adviser to Romney’s gubernatorial campaign, speaking to the New York Times in 2012.
“He’s been a pro-life Mormon faking it as a pro-choice friendly,” said Romney adviser Mike Murphy in 2005.
Okay, that’s one issue. Maybe on other ones he did not say whatever he thought people wanted to hear in order to win their votes. Maybe?
Well there’s also the thorny issue of having taken strong stances in support of gay rights when he ran for senate in 1994. In a letter to the state’s Log Cabin Republican club, Mitt declared he would be a stronger advocate for gay rights than Ted Kennedy; that he believes gays should serve openly in the military; and even promised to sponsor the Employee Non-Discrimination Act:
I am more convinced than ever before that as we seek to establish full equality for gay and lesbian citizens, I will provide more effective leadership than my opponent…If we are to achieve the goals we share, we must make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern. We have discussed a number of important issues such as the Federal Employment Non-Discrimination act ENDA, which I have agreed to Cosponsor, and if possible, broaden to include housing and credit,
He added that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was “the first in a number of steps that will ultimately lead to gays’ and lesbians’ being able to serve openly and honestly in our nation’s military.”
Romney the presidential candidate, naturally, assailed gay marriage (which admittedly he never explicitly mentioned when calling for “equality”); did not support allowing gays to serve openly in the military; and even decried the notion of gays having children.
When Romney’s 1994 letter was circulated during his first presidential campaign, conservatives were shocked.
“This is quite disturbing. This type of information is going to create a lot of problems for Governor Romney. He is going to have a hard time overcoming this,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.
Conservative activist Paul Weyrich said, “Unless he comes out with an abject repudiation of this, I think it makes him out to be a hypocrite. And if he totally repudiates this, you have to ask, on what grounds?”
When pressed by Tim Russert in 2007 regarding his flip-flopping, Romney said, “Oh, Tim, if you’re looking for someone who’s never changed any positions on any policies, then I’m not your guy.”
Well that’s comforting.
But, when you think about it, Romney in a way was telling Russert the truth. Because he wasn’t the “guy” for the voters in three out of the four times he ran for office.