August, 6th 2007

Another flip-flop on abortion? Or just a move towards a policy I don't like?

– Liz Mair

Some day, I hope to be able to stop writing things criticizing Mitt Romney, and discussing his latest flip-flop, dumb comment, or indeed bizarre behavior on the part of his campaign team.

But that day is not today.

As we all know, until about 18 months ago, Mitt Romney was, in terms at least of his public policy position, pro-choice. Now, he's pro-life. I'm not going to spend time and space here analyzing the change of position, its timing, or anything else (we all know what I think-- it involves the letters "B" and "S"). But I am going to drill down a bit into just how pro-life Mitt was, and how pro-life he has become.

When Mitt first became pro-life, he was the kind of pro-lifer who is opposed to Roe v. Wade, and wants states to be able to make their own decisions about abortion law-- such that California can have a different set-up from Alabama. Sure, the presumption was, he would want abortion illegal in his state, which if he really truly did, would make him pro-life and anti-Roe, as opposed to what I am-- pro-choice, but anti-Roe. It would also make him something else: a federalist.

Readers know that I am pretty much a federalist myself. I oppose the Federal Marriage Amendment on federalist grounds. I oppose Roe on various grounds, but some of the main ones are to do with federalism.

Now, though, it turns out that Mitt is not only no longer pro-choice. He's also no longer a federalist. He's a federal-government-must-decide-everything kind of conservative. And that stinks.

Here is some YouTube video of Mitt talking about being a pro-life federalist, i.e., the kind that just wants Roe overturned:

And here's some video of him this morning saying he's actually not a federalist. Like pro-Roe Democrats, he wants abortion policy set at the federal level. Unlike pro-Roe Democrats, he apparently wants the Constitution to be amended to reflect his own pro-life views:

Or I presume he does, since he supports part of the party platform that calls for exactly that. Or does he support that language in spirit, but not in practice? It's so hard to tell, with the waters in which Mitt's personal views and his public policy perspectives being so terribly muddy...

Romney has moved dramatically on the abortion issue. He's now exited the realm of even a mainstream conservative by putting himself on record as having exactly the same view on abortion as do hardcore social cons like Sam Brownback and Rick Santorum. It's been a long road from being a typical, socially liberal, fiscally (somewhat) conservative Rockefeller Republican to becoming a strident socon in favor of all kinds of big government, from the FMA to constitutional amendments to deal with abortion to No Child Left Behind to HillaryCare-lite, but Romney has made it.

What I want to know is, when people question his abortion credentials next time, what will he do to move yet further to the right to prove just how pro-life he really is? Call for doctors who administer abortions to be given the death penalty? Call for women who seek abortions to be charged as accessories to murder and imprisoned? Normally, these are the kind of BS rhetorical questions that pro-choicers throw out to scare social moderates into voting against those who are pro-life. But in Mitt's case, with him tacking further to the right on the issue with each day that passes, they start looking pertinent and a little less hysterical.

Mitt could-- and I believe-- would say anything to win that social con vote in the primaries, especially now that Fred Thompson, who appears from past statements and actions to be anti-Roe, but very, very moderately pro-choice, is about to enter and start stealing Romney's very weak support from conservatives in places like Iowa (to see how soft Mitt's support is among Iowa Republicans, take a look here). To beat Fred, Mitt needs to look as conservative as can be, and hope that he'll be able to beat up on Fred for statements that underline federalism, an approach that (I expect Mitt will say) is insufficient to save all the unborn babies (which actually it is-- and it's why I as a moderately pro-choice Republican can deal with it, unlike a human life amendment, for example, which would pretty much make all abortions, everywhere, for any reason, illegal-- something I totally don't support and neither, incidentally, do most Americans).

I think we can safely assume at this stage that Mitt was not being serious the other day when he said that what should matter is not record, but rather what a candidate is saying. At least I hope that is the case, because should Romney make it to the general election, literally the only thing he'll have to win moderates and independents back where this issue is concerned is, in fact, his pro-choice record.

Of course, if Romney thinks he can pull this tack-to-the-extreme-right move now, and move back to something vaguely approximating the center (i.e., being pro-life as regards his state, but not California or Washington or wherever else he doesn't live) move later, he's a lot less clever than I thought.


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