Is the following fictional press release a flashback to actual events that occurred in 1968, or a prediction of events that will yet occur in 2008?
Gov. Romney’s once promising presidential campaign ended badly today. Romney showed tremendous promise early in the race, but lost ground after admitting to a change of heart on one of the most important moral issues of our day. Romney never recovered from the setback and he stumbled across the Republican finish line in sixth place.
If you recognized it as a flashback, you’re right. It’s a press release that could have been written in 1968 when George Romney, a former governor of Michigan, competed for the Republican presidential nomination. Romney was an early favorite, but his campaign crashed and burned when he changed his position on the Vietnam War. The campaign might have survived the fact that the once hawkish Romney turned against the war, but his lame explanation for the reversal was even more troubling than the reversal itself. Romney’s statement that his original support for the war was the result of “brainwashing” by pro-war generals doomed his campaign. Not many voters were comfortable with the possibility that their president might be susceptible to brainwashing.
On the other hand, if you thought the fictional press release was a prediction of what might yet occur in 2008, you might also be right. Mitt Romney, the son of George Romney, is following in his father’s political footsteps. He recently completed a term as governor of Massachusetts and has launched a campaign for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.
There is certainly much in the distinguished father’s life that should be emulated by his son. But it should be clear to anyone – even a son – that the senior Romney’s flip-flop was one step any presidential candidate should avoid, not emulate. Yet Mitt’s recent reversal of position on abortion reminds us once again that sons often seem destined to repeat the mistakes of their fathers.
Mitt Romney’s change of position on abortion has been well-documented and acknowledged by Romney himself. In his two Massachusetts campaigns – a failed 1994 U.S Senate bid and a victorious 2002 gubernatorial effort – Romney unabashedly presented himself as a pro-choice candidate. For example, in response to a 2002 campaign questionnaire, Romney wrote:
“I respect and will protect a woman’s right to choose. … Women should be free to choose based on their own beliefs, not mine and not the government’s.”
But in late 2004, Romney had a change of heart on abortion. It was triggered by a meeting with experts to help him better understand stem cell research. He explained it in a recent National Review Online interview:
“At one point, the experts pointed out that embryonic stem cell research should not be a moral issue because the embryos were destroyed at 14 days. … it just hit us hard just how much the sanctity of life had been cheapened by virtue of the Roe v. Wade mentality.”
It’s a very troubling conversion story. If Mr. Romney was shocked by the fact that a 14-day-old embryo created in a test tube might be destroyed, what in the world had he been thinking while millions of naturally created embryos were destroyed through abortion in the years between 1994 and 2004? In that decade, Romney openly supported the legal destruction of more than 10 million embryos that had advanced well beyond 14 days of life. Most were 45 to 90 days old, but many had advanced to nearly six months, and a rare few even beyond that.
Romney arrived at his pro-life decision in such a backwards manner that it’s difficult to take his explanation seriously.
So, what does this conversion story tell us about Mitt Romney?
Is he a political opportunist willing to take one side of a life and death issue when seeking liberal votes and quite willing to take the other side of the same issue when seeking conservative votes?
Or is he someone who adopted a political position on a moral issue without giving any serious thought of his own to the life and death implications of the position he adopted?
Sound familiar? It should. It’s the same two possibilities voters pondered about George Romney back in 1968. Either way, it’s a pretty damning mistake for a presidential candidate to make.
And a very interesting example of like father, like son.
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Bruce Wilson is the author of “Disarming the Culture War: How the Silent Majority Can Break the Stalemate.” His website is Commentary from Bruce Wilson.