Mitt Romney's Position on Abortion, In Just 13,000 Words


William Saletan's exhaustive Slate overview of Mitt Romney's evolving position on abortion offers a number of noteworthy tidbits, including the revealing detail that the first time Romney had to take a public stance on the issue, during a failed 1994 Senate race against Ted Kennedy, he justified his decision to take a pro-choice position to fellow Mormon leaders using poll data. But the single most telling thing about the piece is probably that it takes more than 13,000 words to fully explain what Romney's position was and is. And by the end, the position itself turns out to be beside the point: Saletan concludes that neither Romney's early pro-choice persona nor his more recent development into a pro-lifer is "real." Romney's "soul," Saletan writes, is "in the flux, the transition between the two roles. It's in the editing of his record, the application of his makeup, the shuffling of his rationales. Romney will always be what he needs to be. Count on it." 

Elsewhere, Romney enthusiast Jennifer Rubin admits that Romney is "not the ideal conservative candidate," but hails him as "in many ways the epitome of the center-right consensus," which she argues is ultimately a good thing. I think there's some truth to her description, but I'm not sure it's a qualification. The problem is that Romney is almost purely a creature of consensus. Another way to put it might be that Romney is no ordinary political flip-flopper, content with obvious reversals of surface positions; instead, he's a uniquely talented panderer, in part because he insists on hedging his reversals in such a way that he convinces himself he's never changed. As Saletan writes:

Romney believes in telling the truth and keeping his promises. But sometimes he wishes the truth or his promise had happened in a different way. He wishes he could change it. And in his mind, he does change it. He reinterprets his statements, positions, and pledges. He edits his motives and reasons. He compresses intervals. He inflates moments. He tightens the narrative. He rewrites his lines. Yet he always finds a thread of truth on which to hang his revised history. He's a master of the technicality.

He's also a gifted salesman. He learns your language and puts you at ease. He gives you the version of his record, position, or motive that will please you most. When he comes down on your side, it's intentional. When he doesn't, it's inadvertent. He focuses not on communicating his beliefs but on formulating, framing, or withholding them for political effect. He tells moving stories of personal experience to show you his sincerity. Then, if necessary, he erases those stories from his playbook and his memory.

As I realized while writing and researching my recent feature on Romney, most any attempt to sift through Romney's record inevitably reveals the same sort of maddeningly slippery positioning: Romney promised not to raise taxes as governor of Massachusetts, so he raised a variety of business "fees" instead. He happily agreed that his Massachusetts health care overhaul should serve as a "model for the nation," but bashes the national reform modeled after his own plan. Studying the varying intricacies of his positions in hopes of learning what policies he truly believes in eventually reveals that there is not much to learn. Or at least not about Romney. Instead, his campaign is better viewed as a reflection on the contemporary GOP, a talented salesman and analyst's attempt to capture and organize its inconsistencies and internal debates into a single candidate. Studying Romney doesn't tell us a whole lot about Romney. But it does tell us something about the fractured state of the party he's trying to win over. 

NEXT: Nick Gillespie on Jerry Doyle Radio Show at 3.30pm ET, Talking Contraception, GOP Debate, & More

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  1. Instead, his campaign is better viewed as a reflection on the contemporary GOP, a talented salesman and analyst’s attempt to capture and organize its inconsistencies and internal debates into a single candidate. Studying Romney doesn’t tell us a whole lot about Romney. But it does tell us something about the fractured state of the party he’s trying to win over.

    Yes. That it’s exactly the same as any other major political party that has to win a majority. This “fractured state” is entirely typical in American history.

    Look at self-contradictory Obama, whom Romney resembles.

    Look at the Democratic Party of the first half of the 20th century.

    1. It used to be that being on every side of every issue was the way to go (Bill Clinton was a master of this), but I’m not so sure it’s still the winning formula it once was.

      1. Really? Hasn’t it worked consistently the last few elections?

        1. Obama was not on every side of the issue during elections*…he took very clear and firm stances [and by and large the same safe, traditional blue-team ones he had as a Senator] on a bunch of things, then the second he got elected, he reversed those promises and became a war-mongering totalitarian.

          If I had to go back and vote for one of these two assholes back in 2008, I’d almost prefer Romney because at least then I’d have known we were electing a liar, or a guy who has no real positions, it’s all about the polls or the money.

          * His opponent John McCain radically changed most of his policies several times, often depending on who he was talking to. The only difference between him and Romney to date is that Mccain’s campaign revolved around “truth” slogans.

          1. Your “war-mongering totalitarian” is some people’s

            USA! USA! USA! USA! USA!

            Not mine. But some people’s.

      2. Yeah, I was just going to say so basically he’s the Bill Clinton of the Northeast but without the rape.

        1. Women don’t lie about rape. Unless it involves Bill Clinton.

          1. When did Clinton rape anybody?

            I like to think I would remember the POTUS doing something like that.

            I thought he just murdered Vince Foster…?

            Or maybe you just hate feminists and think they should be raped. I’m really confused.

            This is probably why everyone here is male. Well done.

            1. He was accused of it, along with a rather greater number of accusations of sexual harassment that many feminists do call rape or sexual assault (e.g., when a boss has sex with an underling.) Several of those claims were dismissed because the women in question were lower class and obviously out for money, in Carville’s notorious phrase about waving a $20 bill in a trailer park.

              1. Juanita Broaddrick accused him of raping her when he was still in Arkansas. Not the “I didn’t get paid” kind of rape but the “better put some ice on that lip” kind of rape. What Whoopie Goldberg would call “rape, rape”.

                1. Here’s whats dishonest about Gill and Thacker’s comments: THEY don’t buy into the goofy feminist line that all alleged rape victim’s claims are supposed to be believed. So why bring up their claims as if they ar evidence of something?

                  1. No, they were answering jc’s question with two instances of times he was ACCUSED. That is not them saying he did it. But you already knew that.

                  2. I’m not bringing them up as though they’re evidence of anything. But they are the obvious context that jcalton pretended not to understand for the spoof comment.

            2. Please help JC understand the reality of “everyone here is male”.

              I’m talkin’ to you Dagny, Lucy, Kristen, etc. Even rectal. EVEN rectal.

    2. My neighbor just met a bisexual man on —datebi*cOMit’s where for men and women looking
      for bisexual and bi-curious individuals to meet in a friendly and comfortable environment.
      It’s a nice place for the people who have the same sexual orientation.

  2. McCain was despised by the far right but I view him as far more principled than Romney is. And McCain certainly is more principled on the raw-meat conservative stuff like abortion.

    Yes, I understand why the whackjobs hate Romney. But what can they do?

    When the crazies on the left (see Michael Moore) complain about Obama it gives me just as much satisfaction though.

    1. What I don’t understand is why you would hate GWB but like the very similar Obama and Romney.

      1. McCain should have won in 2000.

        Instead we got a weak GWB who got lassoed into the Iraq War, Medicare Part D, the PATRIOT Act, and a fiscal wrecking crew.

        I doubt McCain would have been that weak. He was really damaged by the Bush gang and became a shadow of his old self.

        1. Instead we got a weak GWB who got lassoed into the Iraq War, Medicare Part D, the PATRIOT Act, and a fiscal wrecking crew.

          But all of these policies President Obama continued (Obama did follow Bush’s timetable for Iraq withdrawal, while stepping up forces in Afghanistan), and so would Romney. So why do you like him?

          1. Let me help – “Because SHUT UP CHRISTFAG!”

            Welcome, shriek.

          2. No. The comparison is apt only if:

            We start a new trillion $ war in Iran
            We start a new UNPAID entitlement
            We start a new PATRIOT Act
            We ADD $1.5 trillion to the deficit

            You know damn well no one ever rolls back programs like the Bush programs.

            1. We start a new trillion $ war in Iran Afghanistan/Libya/Syria/et al
              We start a new UNPAID entitlement Obamacare
              We start a new PATRIOT Act extension of TSA power, scanners, train/bus stations
              We ADD $1.5 trillion to the deficit DONE!
              Close the fuck enough. Jesus.

              1. I wasn’t aware we initiated new wars in Syria and Afghanistan while Obama was President.

                1. I wasn’t aware we initiated new wars in Syria and Afghanistan while Obama was President.

                  Surely you must admit that the surge in forces in Afghanistan under Obama has been significant. We’ve had more casualties in Afghanistan since Obama has taken office than we did under all of Bush, as you can see here.

                  You can question whether or not that’s a “new war,” but it’s pretty significant. I mean, go too far down that road and Bush could claim that he was merely enforcing and escalating the existing American forces and operations in Iraq.

                  As far as Syria goes, I wouldn’t be surprised if we do end up with a war there, and I don’t think that the Obama Administration response will be much different from what GWB or Romney would do, for all the bluster of partisans on either side.

              2. Libya is not a TRILLION Dollar war – nor is it a war.

                Obamacare is not an entitlement – its a mandate.

                DHS/TSA all on Bush.

                The DEFICIT has declined.

                You went 0-4.

                1. Shrike

                  I would call Libya a war, but yeah, it’s hilarious for people here to equate it to Iraq.

                2. So basically it’s cause you constantly have Obama’s dick in your mouth.

                  STFU Demfag.

                3. Libya is not a war?

                  Obamacare does create an entitlement. It claims to pay for the new program with unspecified cuts to other programs in the future, but just as we all do know damn well no ever rolls back programs (I’ll certainly grant that), we also all do know damn well that unspecified cuts in the future don’t happen either.

                  The Obamacare cuts are as likely to happen as the “doc fix”ed Sustainable Growth Rate cuts. Which makes it an unpaid for entitlement.

                  The deficit has not declined in a business cycle sense. If you look at Obama’s proposed budget, the budget deficit will be much higher in the out years, at projected full economic recovery, than under any of Bush’s years.

            2. I have to say, as someone who would have liked to see Obama live up to his promises to wind these wars down sooner, winding down major occupations is certainly better than initiating them…

              1. winding down major occupations is certainly better than initiating them…

                That has something to do with Iraq (though again merely following GWB’s timetable), but in Afghanistan, it’s the opposite of winding down— unless you grant the argument that the surge in Iraq was necessary to allow the winding down that took place later.

                Two-thirds of US fatalities in Afghanistan have taken place under Obama and his escalation there.

    2. MCain…principled? He’s a fucking politician.

      We learned with Obama that it doesn’t matter what your Senate record is and how consistent you are…and I’m assuming you’ve suppressed McCain’s Romneyesque shifts in 2008.

      Any time you hear people marginalizing the opposition as crazies, you know they are a red or blue zombie.

      People with different viewpoints should be the foundation of a democracy (which I wish we had).

      Generally speaking, the political discourse in this country is really naive, obsequious, or founded on terrible logical premises, but it’s not crazy.

      To me, crazy is thinking any of these guys are meaningfully different from any of these other guys. There are a few exceptions, but out of 540, there aren’t many.

      1. Yeah, compared to Romney or Bush the Nation Builder.

        I grade on a scale.

        and I mentioned his deterioration.

    3. McCain was despised by the far right but I view him as far more principled than Romney is.

      McCain is a slightly less well-oiled weathervane of a politician than Romney. McCain has few if any discernable principles he won’t abandon for political gain.

    4. McCain is “principled”? Wow. You’ve either got a real warped perception of what holding principles really is, or your standards are way too low. Or is it just that for so long the republican candidates have showed no true principles and that blatant flip-flopping is just as expected as the sun rising each morning. Yep, standards are way to low if not completely non-existent. Sad really. BTW – after Santorum I don’t think anyone else has the corner on craziness.

  3. I wonder if we will ever reach that point where the majority of GOPers realize that the only candidate that doesn’t have pathological issues with consistency is Ron Paul. Obama is a bullshit artist, but he has more fanatical followers than Mittens ever will, which is why he has no shot at beating him. Ditto for Santorum and Newt.

    1. Paul’s problem is he’s telling the truth, not blowing smoke up our asses in order to get elected. He’s treating us like adults, not like how I treated the girls I dated before getting married.

      1. Paul’s problem is he doesn’t drink the red kool-aid. If he did, he’d be the nominee.

        I really wish he’d pull an Obama, and say everything he needed to say to get elected by our dumb-ass sheep populace, then just go back on everything the minute he set foot in the oval office.

        It would be painful watching him do it, but the ends justifies the means.

        1. Interesting idea. But what you’re talking about is kind of a reverse Obama. Instead of a guy who, while running, acts like a peace candidate who will scale back the WOD and then doing the opposite when he gets in Paul could, while running, promise war and WOD and then when he gets in do the opposite.

          It’s pretty neat.

        2. You’re a fucking moron. If Ron Paul got close to being the nominee, his racist baggage would fall on his head so hard it would knock the fake eyebrows off. Stick your head back up your ass and go to sleep.

          1. What about Obama’s racism?

            Maxxy, Obama supports racism, Paul does not. After all, RP has never been the beneficiaary of racist affirmative action policies nor does he support affirmative action, quotas and minority set asides like Obama.

  4. In re the alt-text, even-numbered Mitt Romneys are better.

    1. “Climb the steps of Mount Meadows.”

  5. The policies and practices of the Romneybot can be quickly and easily modified by downloading updates to the pandroidOS from the party app store.

    1. I spent all that time downloading Romneybot 10.7.3, and not long after, Romneybot 10.8 was released to developers.

      1. Planned obsolescence worked for the automakers for decades – software/hardware are the latest to capitalize…the bastards!

        I say this as an owner of Romneybot 9.4..way Old Skool

  6. I wouldn’t let Romneybot near a fetus. He looked straight at the camera a couple of times last night and my skin is still crawling.

    1. I guess you did not get a Kick out of that.

  7. Romney really is a Stepford Wife. Spooky.

  8. Mitt Romney: “My seemingly flip-flopping positions can easily be explained…Hey, look over there, it’s Barak Obama giving two gay immigrants a gay secret Muslim wedding!”

    1. You’re mixing up your Santorum-bot with your Romney-bot…

      1. In his 2007+ rhetoric Romney is every bit the anti-gay, immigrant and Muslim candidate.

        1. Yes, that’s pretty fair. In policy, he’ll be no different from Obama, not that Obama is actually liberal on any of those issues.

  9. “Romney will always be what he needs to be. Count on it.”

    The trouble will be when what he needs to be is someone who is the same regardless of what he needs to be. That time might come this election season.

  10. Mitt Romney has a core principle: Mitt Romney should be elected to office. He has steadfastly held that principle since at least 1994.

  11. Dont you just love these bought and paid for pompous windbags!


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