The Mitt Split – Conservatives Disagree on Romney
© 2007 J. Matt Barber
Wearing his 2008 presidential aspirations on his sleeve and appearing the ever humble, yet iron-jawed and selflessly devoted, champion of the GOP’s must-have conservative, pro-family base, outgoing Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney finds himself struggling to salvage his conservative credentials.
As first light of the 2008 presidential campaign casts its warm and gentle glow on those of us awake early enough to watch the sunrise, serious concerns are beginning to mount relative to the sincerity of Romney’s commitment to traditional values.
On the central issues of abortion and so-called “same-sex marriage,” he’s cast himself as defender to the defenseless and guardian of the sacred. His handlers have portrayed him as the storybook knight, with wavy locks and sturdy armor unblemished – redeemed by a heartfelt conservative conversion.
But some leaders in pro-family circles have begun to test Sir Mitt’s traditional values breastplate, and are questioning whether it may represent little more than a sheer conservative veneer, shielding an extensive and troubling liberal record. Many wonder whether his presidential aspirations may have sparked this eyebrow-raising political metamorphosis.
“I believe that abortion should be safe and legal. …” — Mitt Romney, 1994
Romney’s camp argues that since his run for the U.S. Senate against Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) back in 1994, Romney has experienced a conservative “road to Damascus” experience on the issue of protecting the unborn. They claim that he now wholeheartedly embraces the pro-life cause.
He’s even earned the support of some well respected conservative leaders such as nationally recognized pro-family attorney James Bopp, Jr. who has just signed on as pro-life advisor to the Romney for President Exploratory Committee. With the announcement, Bopp declared, “As Governor, Mitt Romney has stood side-by-side with those seeking to protect the weakest and most innocent of our society. In one of our country's most liberal states, he has acted to protect the sanctity of life...”
There is no reason to doubt the sincerity of Bopp’s belief that Romney has changed. Romney has explained that, while governor, he experienced a moral awakening of sorts after meeting with scientists who were promoting embryonic stem cell research (ESCR). In fact, Romney later vetoed a 2005 bill that would have funded both ESCR and human cloning.
However, to other pro-family leaders, Romney’s purported pro-life conversion is hard to reconcile with the fact that as recently as 2002, he was still giving voice to pro-abortion rhetoric. For example: According to The Boston Globe, Romney, while responding to a 2002 “National Abortion Rights Action League” candidate survey, pledged, “I respect and will protect a woman’s right to choose. This choice is a deeply personal one. Women should be free to choose based on their own beliefs, not mine and not the government’s.”
On his 2002 gubernatorial campaign Web site, Romney emphasized abortion in his campaign platform: “As Governor, Mitt Romney would protect the current pro-choice status quo in Massachusetts. No law would change. The choice to have an abortion is a deeply personal one. Women should be free to choose based on their own beliefs, not the government's.”
Likewise, in 2002 Planned Parenthood posed the following question to candidate Romney in its campaign questionnaire: “Do you support the substance of the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade?” Romney very simply and unequivocally replied, “Yes.”
O.K. – you might say – that’s fine. Romney was “pro-choice.” This is America – people can change their opinion, right? Well, that may be true. Only one question – on the issues most important to conservative voters, why do Romney’s opinions appear malleable, shifting in the wind as political expediency would seem to dictate?
In 2006, just four short years after he ran for governor and as his presidential ambitions were reaching a boiling point, Romney seemed to pull a 180.
Sounding as though he’d lost a bet to Rush Limbaugh on a Patriots/Steelers game, Romney completely changed his tune on abortion and Roe v. Wade saying, “Roe v. Wade does not serve the country well and is another example of judges making the law instead of interpreting the Constitution.”
Was Governor Romney the “Father of ‘gay’ marriage?”
There’s disagreement even within the pro-family legal community; however, there is a strong argument to be made that Romney, contrary to his pro-traditional marriage rhetoric, was chiefly responsible for unconstitutionally imposing “same-sex” marriage on Massachusetts and the rest of the country.
Let’s lay out the roadmap.
In both his 1994 and 2002 political campaigns, Romney solicited and received the endorsement of the homosexual activist group “Log Cabin Republicans.” In a 1994 letter to the Log Cabins, Romney promised that, “as we seek to establish full equality for America’s gay and lesbian citizens, I will provide more effective leadership than my opponent.” Of course, Romney’s opponent at the time was again, Ted Kennedy, one of the most liberal, pro-homosexual senators in U.S. history.
A February 23, 2005, article in the American Spectator summarized the magazine’s take on Romney’s commitment to abortion and the homosexual agenda concisely: “He is pro-choice, and aside from the marriage debate, generally in agreement with gay-rights advocates.”
But perhaps most disturbing – and as many conservatives note – is that despite his verbal opposition to “gay marriage,” Romney has nonetheless openly supported Vermont-style “domestic partnerships,” which are simply “gay marriages” by another name.
In a 2002 interview with the Bay Window (a homosexual activist publication) Romney compared himself to his Democrat opponent: “I see Tom Finneran and the Democratic leadership as having opposed the application of domestic partnership benefits to gay and lesbian couples and I will support and endorse efforts to provide those domestic partnership benefits to gay and lesbian couples.”
Still, when it comes to “gay marriage,” and although he remains in verbal opposition to the concept, Romney may have single-handedly done more to ensure its existence than any other individual.
After the Massachusetts Supreme Court, through judicial fiat, miraculously divined that the framers of the Massachusetts Constitution really intended that Patrick Henry could marry Henry Patrick, Romney was quick to oblige.
Although he had no legal obligation, and many legal scholars informed him that it was both illegal and unconstitutional to do so, Romney began handing out marriage licenses to “same-sex couples.” In fact, he ordered Justices of the Peace in the state to comply or be fired.
Many believe that Romney gave his tacit blessing to “gay marriages” through his own choices and actions, even though the legislature had not yet voted to change the law to reflect the court’s opinion, and even though if they had, Romney had every right as the chief executive to veto the legislation.
In a later decision, the court admitted that it had no power or authority to force either the legislature or the executive to do anything. Yet Romney appeared to act in blind obedience. He acted either because he furtively supported the concept of “gay marriage,” he was frightened by the paper tiger’s big pointy teeth, or because he erroneously, but honestly believed he was compelled to do so.
Whatever the case – at least to some – Romney is beginning to look more and more like that other Massachusetts politician with a “botched” sense of humor. Many in the pro-family community have questions for him: Is he sincere, or just nimble? Has he executed a Mary Lou Retton-esque flip-flop, or have we witnessed a genuine conversion?
Romney’s answers to these questions and more may determine whether he escapes the annals of flip-floppery lore – or whether by comparison he makes John Kerry seem a pillar of political resolve.
Matt Barber is one of the “like-minded men” with Concerned Women for America and serves as CWA’s Policy Director for Cultural Issues.