Thursday, February 22, 2007

# Posted 12:00 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

WILL OXBLOG BE FAIR TO MITT? I'm a strong supporter of John McCain, so I have plenty of reasons to take shots at every other contender for the GOP nomination. But there's no angry edge to my partisanship (at the moment), so I figure I'll try my best to judge the other candidates on the merits.

After all, a McCain victory in the primaries isn't a sure thing, my preferences aside. So I'm going to look at the other contenders and ask "How would I feel about him if he were the party's nominee?"

This past Sunday, I had my first chance to listen to Mitt Romney talk at length during his interview with George Stephanopoulos. Stephanopoulos asked the questions that I wanted to hear. How does Romney explain his sharp about face on so many social issues in such a short span of time? Isn't more than a little convenient that he has embraced the party line at precisely the moment when there seemed to be an opening for a more traditionally conservative candidate?

I can't say that Romney laid any of these questions to rest. He provided numerous assurances of his sincerity but little evidence. He described himself as a strong supporter of the right to bear arms but then had to admit he only joined the NRA in 2006. He spoke of his concern for protecting the lives of the unborn, but never explained why he was pro-choice until so recently. He advertised his long-standing opposition to formal marriage for gays and lesbians, but was fortunate not to have Stephanopoulos ask him about how he once presented himself as a friend of the gay community.

Now given that my positions on gay rights, abortion and gun control are not popular with the GOP base, perhaps I ought to be glad that Romney's positions on those fronts are so tepid. But that's not how I think about it. I find it very hard to trust those who change their core convictions so rapidly. I am for learning, but very suspicious of convenience.

There is constant pressure on every occupant of the White House to take the position that seems most popular at the moment on a whole range of issues. The result is usually incoherent policymaking. Although steadfast conviction is unpopular at the moment as a result of the President's unflinching stand on Iraq, I think it would be a terrible mistake to start treating opportunism as a virtue.

Open-mindedness and learning should be valued, not inconsistency. What is the difference? Learning tends to involve a rationale, a decision based on evidence of changing conditions. Inconsistency is changing for the sake of convenience.

Aside from the principle of the matter, I think Romney will be punished heavily in a general election for his evolving stance on social issues. To a certain extent, his lack of fire-and-brimstone conviction will reassure certain moderates. And if he were nominated, he would almost certainly begin to play down his tactical shift to the right once the general election campaign began.

But I think he would still be vulnerable. And even those like myself who prefer some of Romney's original positions on social issues may find it hard to respect a politician who evolves so rapidly. Unquestionably, the media will focus on this issue, not haivng forgotten that flip-flops were at the heart of the campaign in 2004.

For the moment, I will suspend judgment to a certain extent because I have only heard Romney once. But my sense about politicians is that they don't take long to reveal their true colors.

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(3) opinions -- Add your opinion

McCain is 72 now. He's had melanoma in 1993, 2000, and 2002. He's manic. This has nothing to do with his politics and everything to do with his health and age.

I think you probably liked the McCain of 2000. But in 2008, McCain will be an old 74, and it just isn't going to happen. Reagan was 69 when he ran and he was at least funny. By comparison, McCain is terrible at the impromptu public speech.
The last thing America needs is another young, wannabe Kennedy. Perhaps we could use some of McCain's sagely and timeless advice.
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