Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney appears to be proving himself to be the classic political opportunist. He rose to fame, after amassing a considerable personal fortune, when he came close to defeating perennial incumbent Senator Ted Kennedy in an unexpectedly close race in 1994. He then enhanced his national stature by rescuing the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics from financial disaster, salvaging their tainted reputation as he did so. Capitalizing on this accomplishment, and his near miss in 1994, he honed his liberal credentials, espoused his support for abortion rights, gun control and equal protection for gays, and was elected governor of Massachusetts in 2002.
Following an uneventful tenure, Mr. Romney set his sites on a more impressive residence several hundred miles south of Boston; he announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination. He seems to believe that this goal necessitates a new Mitt Romney, one that any but the most ardent right wing zealots will find most unappealing.
Let us explore Mr. Romney’s vision for America.
America on the World Stage: Senator Barrack Obama, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, has said the he would meet with the leaders of Syria, Iran and North Korea. Said Mr. Romney: “The president of the United States does not bestow our dignity and the power of our reputation around the world around those people.”
The U.S. can claim little dignity today, as it ferociously attempts the annihilation of a nation whose only crime is the possession of vast amounts of oil. America’s reputation, in shreds for the same reason, has little power today. Perhaps like Mr. Bush, Mr. Romney would prefer to simply rattle his saber at those nations, call them clever names like the ‘axis of evil,’ and pretend that their millions of citizens can be ignored. Or perhaps, more dangerously, he would embark on nation-building military adventurism and invade them, with the same degree of success as Mr. Bush has had in Iraq.
Iraq: Regarding this beleaguered nation, it appears that Mr. Romney, for reasons only his handlers know, has decided to hitch his wagon to Mr. Bush’s falling star. As Iraqis continue to suffer in their bloody, U.S.-spawned civil war, and as the American public increasingly wants U.S. soldiers withdrawn, Mr. Romney has stated that he is ‘absolutely committed’ to winning in Iraq. He, again like Mr. Bush, has yet to define what that means. Regarding the troop surge, he said this: “[A]t this stage the right course is the troop surge. No one has put forward a Plan B that is superior to that one.” He is apparently unfamiliar with the bill sent to and vetoed by Mr. Bush that provided a timetable for ending U.S. involvement in Iraq in an orderly manner.
Perhaps it is Mr. Romney’s confusion about the start of the war that leads him to believe so strongly in escalation.
During the June 6 Republican debate, the former Massachusetts governor made an amazing statement. When asked if, knowing what we all know now (no weapons of mass destruction, no nuclear designs, etc.), it was a mistake for the U.S. to invade Iraq, Mr. Romney said the following: if “…Saddam Hussein had opened up his country to IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) inspectors and they’d come in and they’d found that there were no weapons of mass destruction — had Saddam Hussein therefore not violated United Nations resolutions — we wouldn’t be in the conflict we’re in. But he didn’t do those things, and we knew what we knew at the point we made the decision to get in.”
In analyzing the debate, CNN’s Paul Begala pointed out the following: “On September 17 of 2002, the Iraqi government, under Saddam Hussein, allowed IAEA weapons inspectors into their country. Over 250 of them went, led by Hans Blix. They searched the whole countryside and found nothing. While they were still searching, on March 17 of 2003, George W. Bush told them to get out ‘cause he was starting a war. And, on March 20th, we started the war.”
One wonders why Mr. Romney has any credibility left at all, when he either does not know these facts or chooses to ignore them. It is hard to determine which is less excusable.
Guantanamo: Much of the world was horrified when conditions at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center were exposed. Here prisoners are denied the basic rights that most Americans take for granted. They can be held indefinitely without being charged, and are not provided access to legal representatives. They are subjected to ‘interrogation techniques’ that by any reasonable definition constitute torture. Up until the end of June 2006, the Bush administration went so far as to say they were not even entitled to the protections mandated by the Geneva Conventions; the Supreme Court on that day ruled against Mr. Bush.
What are Mr. Romney’s thoughts on this cruel, inhumane center of torture? Said he: “I am glad [detainees] are at Guantanamo. I don’t want them on our soil. I want them on Guantanamo, where they don’t get the access to lawyers they get when they’re on our soil. I don’t want them in our prisons, I want them there. Some people have said we ought to close Guantanamo. My view is we ought to double Guantanamo.” Mr. Romney seems to dismiss the concept of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ as easily as he apparently dismisses the notion of human rights.
Social Issues: Mr. Romney once said that his views on gun control would not endear him to the National Rifle Association (NRA). Candidate Romney has stated he’s been a hunter all his life, although he had to amend ‘all his life’ to two hunting experiences.
Gubernatorial candidate Romney supported a woman’s right to choose; presidential candidate Romney opposes abortion.
In 1994, senatorial candidate Romney promised to be a more effective leader on establishing “full equality for America’s gay and lesbian citizens” than incumbent Senator Ted Kennedy. Presidential candidate Romney supports a constitutional amendment on marriage, and opposes allowing same-sex households to adopt through religious organizations.
Much has been said about Mr. Romney’s membership in and devotion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons). There appears to be a general feeling among some of the media that should the American voter be unfortunate enough to actually elect him president (or perhaps he will lose and be appointed by the Supreme Court), he will change the nation’s capital to Salt Lake City, and govern as directed by that religion’s leaders. Those with this concern forget that Nevada Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate Majority Leader and the bane and nemesis of any Republican president, worships at the same church. The subject of Mr. Romney’s religion is irrelevant, and is only a distraction from his extremist and perilous views.
Even allowing for the possibility that Mr. Romney has learned more about the issues on which he has flipped from one view to flop to another, and has legitimately changed his opinion, his view of America and the world is frightening.
A Romney presidency would see an even greater erosion of civil rights for Americans, endless and spreading war, and an increasingly polarized society. Americans who want more of the same, more of what the last six years have wrought, will support Mr. Romney. It is hoped that the vast majority of voters will quickly reject him once the primary season begins, at which point he can return to harmless obscurity.
ROBERT FANTINA is the author of Desertion and the American Soldier.