Romney attacked as a flip-flop-flip-flop-flipper on abortion

Jerry Zandstra, a member of Sam Brownback’s exploratory committee, sent the following letter to a (probably very) large number of Michigan conservative activists.  Some excerpts and the whole letter:

Excerpts:

Mitt Romney, current governor of Massachusetts and likely presidential candidate has had a tough couple of weeks.  It isn’t what others have said about him.  Rather, his own words have caught up with him.  What his words seem to indicate is someone whose positions on social issues important to conservatives either are wrong or have changed direction so many times as to render them meaningless.

And:

      When Gov. Romney was considering a run to be the governor of Utah, he wavered, claiming that he was now pro-life.  His defenders claimed that what he said in Massachusetts was “a carefully crafted position intended to sound more firm than it was” because “he was running against Ted Kennedy in a state that was 80 percent pro-choice and to have any chance at all, he was waffling.”     

      Only a few years later, Romney was back in Massachusetts, running for his current position as their governor.  When prodded by his pro-choice opponent in a debate, Gov. Romney said, “Let me make this very clear.  I will preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose.”  In that same election, he endorsed embryonic stem cell research,  refused to take a position on human cloning, and endorsed Medicaid funding for abortions.  

As promised, the whole letter, after the jump

"In 1994, while running for Senate, Romney had sent a letter to the homosexual Log Cabin Republicans group, stating that he would be a stronger advocate for gay rights than Sen. Kennedy. Conservative leaders viewed his earlier statements as troubling and called for an ‘abject rejection’ of his earlier stance. …The combination of this and his abortion flip-flop could strangle his candidacy in its crib."

 

      Robert Novak, Evans-Novak Political Report, December 13, 2006 
 
 

OUT OF THE OVERFLOW OF THE HEART 

      A wise man—one who was honored by other wise men—once said that “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” What we say communicates to others who we are and, ultimately, what we believe.  Because human beings lack the ability to look into the hearts of others and thus, cannot judge their true motives, we can only do the next best thing:  examine their words as a window into their souls. 

      Mitt Romney, current governor of Massachusetts and likely presidential candidate has had a tough couple of weeks.  It isn’t what others have said about him.  Rather, his own words have caught up with him.  What his words seem to indicate is someone whose positions on social issues important to conservatives either are wrong or have changed direction so many times as to render them meaningless.   

      Consider the December 8, 2006, New York Times article, “Romney’s Gay Rights Stance Draws Ire.”  The article points out that Gov. Romney, who as a current presidential candidate has attempted to position himself as a strong defender of the traditional family, took quite a different position in his US Senate race against Ted Kennedy.  Gov. Romney promised that he would be “a stronger advocate for gay rights than Senator Edward M. Kennedy” in his desire to “make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern.”   

      Gov. Romney’s current campaign staff is quick to point out that, while he has not changed his mind, the governor has “not implemented new or special rights in this area” and is a “champion of traditional marriage.” 

      Words matter and his defenders cannot have it both ways.  One cancels out the other.   Is Gov. Romney a stronger advocate for gay rights than Ted Kennedy or is he a defender of traditional marriage?  The distinction seems obvious to all sides interested in the issue, with the exception of Gov. Romney himself and his staff. What does this reveal about the heart and character of the governor in his run for the US presidency?  

      This is not the only important social issue on which Gov. Romney lacks clarity and consistency.  In the same race against Sen. Kennedy, Gov. Romney declared that he “became committed to legalized abortion after a relative died during and abortion.”  He said that, “regardless of one’s beliefs about choice that you would hope it would be safe and legal.” To counter those who might doubt his pro-abortion stance, he assured voters, “You will not see me wavering on that or be multiple choice.”  Massachusetts voters were assured by his staff that “Mitt has always been consistent in his pro-choice position.” 

      When Gov. Romney was considering a run to be the governor of Utah, he wavered, claiming that he was now pro-life.  His defenders claimed that what he said in Massachusetts was “a carefully crafted position intended to sound more firm than it was” because “he was running against Ted Kennedy in a state that was 80 percent pro-choice and to have any chance at all, he was waffling.”     

      Only a few years later, Romney was back in Massachusetts, running for his current position as their governor.  When prodded by his pro-choice opponent in a debate, Gov. Romney said, “Let me make this very clear.  I will preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose.”  In that same election, he endorsed embryonic stem cell research,  refused to take a position on human cloning, and endorsed Medicaid funding for abortions.   

      Fast forward to the present.  Gov. Romney needs to court social conservatives to have a shot at winning the Republican nomination.  His support and defense of pro-abortion laws and embryonic stem cell research has waned following what he describes as the evolution of his thinking on the issues.   

      Intellectual evolution is to be encouraged and applauded.  Social conservatives certainly need to take seriously the possibility that Gov Romney has indeed matured in his thinking on life.  But they also need to make sure that they understand the difference between intellectual maturation and political expediency.   

      Gov. Romney’s current supporters of his bid for the presidency want us to consider only his most recent statements on issues like gay rights, abortion, and stem cell research. They warn that when Gov. Romney’s words are used to question his social conservative principles, voters should consider the source.  The problem is that the source is the governor himself.  

      History and words are not so easily brushed off.  A political and intellectual record matters.  Each new election does not mean the ability to push alt-control-delete on what was said and done in previous elections.  If Mayor Guiliani, Sen. Rodham-Clinton, or Sen. Obama suddenly become advocates of the pro-life position or if Sen. Brownback, Gov. Huckabee, or Sen. McCain abruptly begin to promote a pro-choice, voters have cause to be skeptical. 

      We cannot judge Gov. Romney’s heart directly.  We can only weigh the totality of his words and these reveal a pattern of political expediency.  A candidate cannot claim to be a strong advocate for gay rights while, at the same time, attempt to shoulder the mantle of a defender of traditional marriage.  Candidates cannot take ‘carefully crafted positions designed to sound more firm than they are’ and expect those with firm convictions to support them.   

      Words reveal heart.  Republican primary voters must consider whether or not Gov. Romney has the heart of a conservative or is only attempting to portray himself as a conservative for his own political gain.   

Jerry Zandstra