Mitt Romney, Political Shape Shifter

There are two main things to remember about Mitt Romney. First, he’s been on multiple sides of most every major issue. Second, he’s currently on whatever side is most politically convenient.

Romney isn’t some garden variety legislative flip-flopper who’s changed his mind a few times or reversed support for a few pieces of legislation; he’s a true political shape shifter whose core political principles and beliefs are almost impossible to determine.

The McCain campaign’s 2007 “book” on Romney—a complete record of the McCain team’s opposition research on their primary rival that Buzzfeed’s Andrew Kaczynski leaked last night—doesn’t contain much in the way of brand new information, but it certainly reinforces the picture of Romney as a person whose governing style goes whichever way the wind blows. In extensive detail, the book documents Romney’s various turns on major issues—how he changed his mind on the Bush tax cuts, gun ownership, abortion, and immigration, just to pick a few issues. Romney’s flip-floppery is so pervasive that it cannot be summed up except to say that it is a fundamental part of his political self.

But what the McCain book also demonstrates is how that translates into governance. Because Romney’s positions aren’t stable, his leadership on key issues isn’t reliable. His boasts and explanations, meanwhile, are frequently slippery and evasive.

Romney repeatedly promised (and still claims) that he wouldn’t raise taxes, but he raised more than $500 million in “fees” in 2003—including a fee on blind people (his proposed fee on the mentally retarded was apparently rejected)—more than any other U.S. state that year. Later he raised business taxes by more than $170 million under the guise of closing “corporate loopholes.” On abortion, Romney ran as defiantly pro-choice in his losing 1994 Senate race, reaffirmed his pro-choice stance while running for governor, then switched to pro-life a few years after he got into office. He triumphantly claims he closed a $3 billion budget deficit after entering office, but that was a projected figure that never actually materialized. The actual deficit was closer to $1.7 billion. And when Romney left office in 2007, he handed the incoming Deval Patrick administration a $1.3 billion deficit.

And then there’s spending. This year, Romney is running on a (not particularly credible) promise of serious federal spending reductions, and pointing to both his business record and his record as Massachusetts governor for evidence that he can make tough cuts. But as McCain’s Romney book points out, state spending increased by 24 percent under Romney—that’s $5 billion—in just three years, well above the rate of inflation. But by 2007, he was criticizing the federal government in Washington for spending far too much. 

Romney's record and rhetoric since his first run for office suggests that the only constant over the years has been his flexibility. You may not know exactly which Romney is going to show up once in office, but it's a safe bet that it won't be the one people voted for. 

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Joe M||

    I never understood why the Skrulls, with all their shape-shifting powers, didn't fix up those nasty chins.

  • ||

    That's their genitals.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Corrugated chins are a sign of potency in Skrull society. Just like wealth and evasiveness on every issue other than abortion and buttsecks are a sign of potency in Republican society.

    Unfortunately, there is very little chance of Mitt Romney being turned into a cow by Reed Richards.

  • MNG||

    I was going to give +1 to Reason's use of a Skrull image, but that must now go to you for the cow reference. This man knows his Marvel continuity!

  • Hugh Akston||

    Grant Morrison totally ripped the idea off to conclude the first storyline of the relaunched JLA series. Except he turned the White Martians into civil servants. I'll let you decide which is worse.

  • ||

  • MNG||

    That was the storyline where Batman saved the day by figuring out what the baddies were and using that great weak sauce weakness FIRE to put the hurt on them, right?

  • Hugh Akston||

    The very same. Though it was pretty cool how he pinned that note saying "I know your weakness" to the bodies of the two martians he had kicked the shit out of.

    Episiarch once found the same note on an unconscious midget tied to a great dane in front of his house.

  • MNG||

    That was cool. I like Morrison, he's doing good work in Action comics currently.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I ordered the three trades of his run on New X-Men, which was supposed to be pretty good. Volume three was destroyed by the mail carrier, and the first two have yet to appear. I smell a conspiracy.

  • ||

    So ultimately Romney is a craven know nothing who can occasionally be bullied into doing the right thing. I would say McCain had him about pegged.

  • ||

    serious federal spending reductions

    "I know some irresponsible people want a thirty per cent increase in the Education budget, but I say NO! It's going to be tough, and it will require some hard choices, but by golly, I'm going to hold the rate of growth to twenty eight per cent, because it's just the right thing to do."

  • Spoonman.||

    A fee on the blind? WTF? This guy thinks he can win the Presidency?

  • Gojira||

    It's easy to raise fees on them, because they can't see the ballot to vote against it.

    Seriously, fuck the blind.

  • HJA||

    Yeah, Mr. Suderman, can you explain a little what this fee on the blind and proposed fee on the retarded is or was? It may well be a thing that totally sucks, I wouldn't doubt it, but it could use some explanation. As it stands it looks like a baby-eating type of charge.

  • ||

    It was a $15 fee for an ID card, which was required to access govt handouts like tax abatements and free public transit.

    You're welcome for digging through the 200 page document looking for specifics, which apparently the pro journalists can't be bothered with.

  • ||

    He has solemnly promised (and I believe him, on this promise) not to cut one red cent from SocSec, MA, or defense.

    Which means that no, he isn't the least bit serious about even slowing the rate of growth.

    His Top. Men. must have figured that the global bond markets will absorb at least another $9TT* in US debt before they finally have had enough. That might be enough to get him out of office before the end comes.

    *Note: very optimistic projection on our deficits through the next 9 years if deep and real cuts aren't made.

  • ||

    I don't see why we shouldn't expect to be able to borrow half or more of every dollar we spend in perpetuity.

    We're EXCEPTIONAL, dammit.

  • Gojira||

    At this point the rest of the world is being as irresponsible as we are. What the FUCK are bond investors thinking? That we're ever going to actually pay them back without inflation?

  • ||

    At the CNN debate, I hope he gets asked: "Mr. Romney*, you have said you won't cut Social Security, Medicare, or Defense. Given that we have a $1.2TT deficit, and the rest of the budget adds up to just over $500BB, how will you balance the budget?

    *Note: He's not a fucking governor any more. Don't call him "Governor Romney."

  • ||

    The follow-up question, after he evades and slithers for his alloted time:

    "Mr. Romney, perhaps I wasn't clear. If you completely shut down the government except for Medicare (and Medicaid), Social Security, and Defense, we would still have a deficit of around $700BB. How will you balance the budget? I will permit you to consult with Representative Paul if that would help."

  • MNG||

    He'll say "I'm a successful, job-creating businessman. I know how to go in and cut fraud and waste from an organization, and I'll go in and cut all the fraud and waste in DC, and everyone will still get their goodies and we can have a war with Iran too boot!"

    The GOP crowd will go wild.

  • ||

    South-eastern, neo-conservative-territory North Carolina Republicans don't even do that. I don't think you realize just how many Republicans despise Romney, MNG.

  • MNG||

    But he's the only thing standing in the way of your children and Obama, and Hussein has that hungry, Christian, white-child eating look in his eyes!

  • ||

    That's about what I figured. Hence, the followup question, with numbers and math and all.

  • MNG||

    "he’s a true political shape shifter whose core political principles and beliefs are almost impossible to determine"

    This is why I have argued that while Obama has his share of flip flopping, noone can match Mitt. He's done it to an incredible level, on nearly ever fundamental issue.

    Whats incredible and disheartening to me is how it is actually helping him. Moderates and independents are saying "that guy talks conservative, but we know we can trust him to be moderate" while far too many conservatives are saying "well, he's changed his views to ours in most areas, we'll go with him despite his actual record"

    Terrible.

  • poetry||

    I have nothing to add. You're right, it's infuriating and sad, if a little bit funny.

  • ||

    I hope you're happy, Suderman. You're giving talking points to Obama supporters now.

    The problem with Obama isn't his flipflops; it's the fact that he kept his horrid positions and flipflopped on the ones where he was decent.

  • ||

    Obama's indomitably irredeemable. The entire body of actions comprising his political career are tantamount to treasonous horseshit, and I can count all the politicians in the District that are worse than him on my hands. Obama is in a class of his own. He's among the lowest of the low.

  • MNG||

    Here's exactly how I predicted the GOP shills would start the Romney GOTV efforts.

    But I said March, Tony said Feb.

  • ||

    Right, anyone who says Obama is horrid is a GOP shill.

  • MNG||

    In your case Tulpa, there's a bit more evidence than that...

  • ||

    [citation needed]

    (in honor of the dark wiki)

  • ||

    Except I despise Romney, you disingenuous fuck.

  • Robert||

    Don't blame me, I voted McC!

  • Robert||

    MNG, it bothers you that voters are as cagey as the politicians they elect?

    Anyway, the trouble is that Obama always flops to something I dislike. Half the time Romney would flop to something I like.

  • Maxxx||

    Moderates and independents are saying "that guy talks conservative, but we know we can trust him to be moderate" while far too many conservatives are saying "well, he's changed his views to ours in most areas, we'll go with him despite his actual record"

  • MNG||

    "his proposed fee on the mentally retarded was apparently rejected"

    Wouldn't it violate the First Amenmdment to put a fee on being a GOPer?

  • Spoonman.||

    It's like you made too many non-shitheaded comments in a row or something. Regression to the mean.

  • MNG||

    I have to wonder why you, ostensibly a "pox on both their houses" libertarian, would be upset over a slight to the GOP?

    Yes, I have to wonder...

  • Spoonman.||

    Next step: disingenuous douchiness.

    Why would calling millions of people "mentally retarded" upset me? I don't know dude, seems like a perfectly inoffensive comment.

  • ||

    Because fuckheaded, mainstream Republicanism is about seven-hundred septillion times better than fuckheaded, mainstream Democrat-ship/ism/whatever-the-fuck. And they're both bad. That should give you an idea of just how much Democrats suck.

  • MNG||

    "mainstream Republicanism is about seven-hundred septillion times better than fuckheaded, mainstream Democrat-ship/ism"

    Well, we know YOU think that. But what do LIBERTARIANS think?

  • Robert||

    Poll Dems & Reps and you'll see he's right.

    Or poll the Congressmen they nominate, as Don Ernsberger did. He was expecting Democrats & Republicans to come out about equal overall, but was surprised to find out they were only roughly equal as to "social" issues, while on "economic" issues the Republicans were way better, with hardly any overlap -- like, the worst Republicans were better than the best Democrats.

  • Spoonman.||

    Note that I don't believe this.

  • ||

    Note that the extreme hyperbole was to highlight my point as much as possible, because MNG doesn't seem to understand otherwise.

  • ||

    Cause Mitt Romney is the great libertarian hope now. You should know that by now minge. He's gonna cut NPR, or something, so if you don't love him you don't love america!

  • MNG||

    Unlike the freaks, the shills don't just come out at night capitol ;)

  • Bam!||

    Mitt Romney doesn't flip-flop: He twirls.

  • ||

    +1

  • Bam!||

    For someone without a backbone, Mitt sure has good posture.

  • ||

    Actually, he doesn't have bones, He's supported by a system of fluid-filled bladders.

  • ||

    HYDROMNIAC?

  • Maxxx||

    Sharks have cartilaginous skeletons.

  • ||

    Surprise headline: Ron Paul overtakes Mitt Romney in South Carolina pre-primary polls, Barack Obama shits pants.

  • ||

    Suderman, you've got a pretty glaring error (I'll assume it's an error at least) during your attempted takedown of Romney's deficit cutting:

    The actual deficit reduction was closer to $1.7 billion.

  • ||

    That's not what I get. From what I can tell, Romney claimed he inherited a deficit of $3BB, but the actual deficit was closer to $1.7BB, and his successor got stuck with a deficit of $1.3BB.

  • DK||

    A vote for Romney is the equivalent of asking someone if they're a glass half empty or a glass half full person. A pessimist could always disagree with all of Romney's positions. An optimist could always agree with all of them.

    I'm a Romney half empty person (not to be confused with a Santorum half empty/full person).

  • ||

    I don't have time to dig through the 200 page document, so I won't, even though I'm sure a lot of these issues are being taken out of context, etc, as the New Reason is wont to do in regard to persons they take and irrational dislike toward.

    On page 57 the "blind fee" is mentioned. It's a $15 fee for an ID card which enables blind people to get special tax abatements, free public transit, and other government handouts. Not really a "tax on being blind" since they get something back for it.

    I'm sure a lot of these other accusations have similar amounts of resemblance to reality.

  • ||

    The specifics of the claim about the budget deficit not being $3 billion is a Boston Globe article that is now behind a paywall. Apparently it is based on the contention that there was a windfall revenue at the end of 2003.

    Did you read this article, Mr Suderman? Or did you take obviously partisan claims of the McCain 2008 campaign at face value?

  • ||

    I think its pretty clear from the article that Suderman is reporting what's in the McCain oppo file. Which is legit, as far as it goes, as long as you're clear about it, which he is.

  • ||

    Nuh-uh. He mentions that it comes from the McCain report and then adopts it as his own.

    In extensive detail, the book documents Romney’s various turns on major issues—how he changed his mind on the Bush tax cuts, gun ownership, abortion, and immigration, just to pick a few issues. Romney’s flip-floppery is so pervasive that it cannot be summed up except to say that it is a fundamental part of his political self.

    ...and several more examples like this. I'm noting a severe lack of "according to McCain's report" disclaimers there, or anywhere else. Suderman treats it like it's gospel.

    But what the McCain book also demonstrates is how that translates into governance.

  • ||

    For better or worse, I don't think anyone will have to worry about which Romney shows up for White House gig next year.

  • Guest1776||

    I'm trying to explain why Romney is the perfect candidate Obama wants to run against. My post over at RCP keeps getting deleted. RCP or Homeland security don't want me letting the cat out of the bag because the following ad will politically destroy the GOP and Romney in the general election.

    My goodness man fees on the mentally challenged, Romney proposed fees on the mentally challenged for Pete's sake. Picture the campaign ad with that info and Romney saying "I like to fire people" cut off out of context with pictures of him and his pals at Bane stuffing money into their mouths. Game over! People in the general will never get over that fees on the mentally challenged one and the GOP may walk the wilderness and lose on down the line as Obama paints the GOP as cruel heartless b******ds. Wake up GOP!

  • ||

    Did you bother to look into what the "fee on the mentally challenged" was or did you just accept the word of an OPPONENT'S CAMPAIGN and believe it like it was gospel? I know the answer and it's not good.

  • Guest1776||

    I put it into political context. Perception is reality in politics. You know that.

  • ||

    he’s a true political shape shifter whose core political principles and beliefs are almost impossible to determine.

    BS. I can tell you with certainty that Mitt Romney's core political beliefs are 1) get Mitt Romney elected, and 2) see 1.

  • Maxxx||

    You forgot

    #3 Bailout buddies.

  • Robert||

    Then, pretty much by definition, isn't he the type every democrat should want, i.e. reflecting the will of the governed? Averaged out, of course.

  • Robert||

    I ran for representative on the Community Council (what Horace Mann School called their student council0 on exactly that basis. I said I had no position on any issue, and that if it came up in a C.C. meeting, I would ask for an adjournment and poll my home room -- i.e. my constituency. (We were elected by home room, which met every 2 weeks.)

  • Robert||

    Anyway, I'd much rather have someone totally unreliable than someone reliably bad like we got now.

  • ||

    Hello,my friends!Here's the most popular dating site for now__SeekCasual*com, a place for people who wanna start a short-term relationship.And also for finding soul mate.Over 160000 happy members are waiting their lovers.Join free and have a try,nothing to lose!!!

  • Triumph||

    Mitt only wants the shortest of short-term relationships with voters: just long enough for you to pull his lever.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement