The only thing we’ve learned from the 2008 presidential primary so far is that the Republican Party is in complete disarray.
And no wonder. George W. Bush has left them so far down in the hole, Republicans can’t figure out who’s going to lead them out of it: the aging war hero, the Southern preacher, the TV lawyer, the libertarian, the serial philanderer or the used car salesman. Democrats should get down on their knees and pray they pick the used car salesman.
Mitt Romney may have been born in Michigan, but as a presidential candidate, he was made in Hollywood. Central Casting never came up with a more perfect candidate: tall, handsome, perfectly coifed, beautiful wife, five hunky sons and no core beliefs.
Romney’s flip-flops on the issues are legendary. For example, he used to believe in the rights of women. In Massachusetts, as an unsuccessful candidate for the U.S. Senate and later as a successful candidate for governor, Romney said: “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 that was then and this is now. As candidate for president, Romney insists he’s always been pro-life and now supports a constitutional amendment to make abortion illegal.
Romney also used to believe in gay rights. Again, running for Senate, Romney pledged to be even more supportive of gays and lesbians than long-time gay-rights champion Ted Kennedy. “For some voters, it might be enough to simply match my opponent’s record in this area,” he wrote members of the Log Cabin Club. “But I believe we can and must do better.” To appeal to conservatives as a candidate for president, Romney now opposes gays serving openly in the military and supports a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.
As with gays, so with guns. As Kennedy’s Republican opponent, Romney was pro-gun control and anti-assault weapons. But today he brags about being a “lifelong hunter” (even though he only remembers going hunting twice), a “lifelong member of the NRA” (even though he only joined in 2006), and winning the endorsement of the NRA when he ran for governor (except he didn’t). By his own admission, Romney’s entire hunting career consists of shooting varmints with a semiautomatic rifle.
The candidate even has a hard time agreeing with himself. As governor, Romney worked with Democrats to make Massachusetts the first state in the nation to offer universal health care. Today, afraid of being labeled a proponent of “socialized medicine,” he doesn’t even list the health-care plan as one of his accomplishments.
But it’s on the issue of immigration that Romney has shown the most “creativity.” After doing nothing about illegal immigrants while governor of Massachusetts except hiring a few to mow his lawn, the old Romney began his presidential campaign by declaring President Bush’s comprehensive immigration reform package a “reasonable” solution. The new Romney sounds like the evil twin brother of Tom Tancredo.
Ever since his loss to Mike Huckabee in Iowa, Romney has made illegal immigration the hallmark issue of his campaign: accusing Rudy Giuliani of running a “sanctuary city”; criticizing Huckabee for offering college tuition to top students whose parents came here illegally; and condemning John McCain as the champion of “amnesty” for all illegal immigrants. In a recent debate, Romney heatedly denied using the word “amnesty” in an attack ad on McCain. A couple of days later, when shown his amnesty ad by George Stephanopoulos, Romney insisted he’d never seen it before.
What it all adds up to is that Mitt Romney has a serious credibility problem on any issue. Where he stands today on guns, choice, health care or immigration bears no resemblance to where he stood on the same issues just one year ago. He believes in nothing. Or to be more accurate, he believes in whatever is convenient at any given moment.
Any other year, so transparent a candidate wouldn’t stand a chance of winning the nomination. Primary voters would see through him and reject him as phony. But this is 2008, when the other candidates have their own problems. Huckabee has too narrow a base, Thompson never caught fire, Giuliani waited too long, and McCain’s been around too long.
Given the competition, it looks like Mitt Romney could end up the Republican nominee by default. Democrats should be so lucky.