This is the second in a three-part series of blog entries directed at swing-voters and rational conservatives who intend to vote for Mitt Romney as a protest vote against Barack Obama. I’m arguing that as bad as you might think Obama is, Romney is far worse in every way. My first piece tore apart the idea that Romney has any good ideas whatsoever about handling the economy. This piece will deal with his stances on foreign policy and social issues, and in tomorrow’s post I will focus exclusively on his character (or complete lack thereof).
When it comes to politicians, I’m not sure there are any in the history of the United States for whom the term “flip-flopper” is more appropriate. When it comes to foreign policy and social issues, you can find a Mitt Romney quote supporting just about every position one can take. His self-contradictions come so frequently that it’s hard to keep up with what he believes on any given issue at any given time.
There’s even a web page exclusively dedicated to Romney’s flip-flops, and while I don’t like how they don’t include links allowing people to check the context from which the quotes are taken, it does give you a good sense of just how spineless and shifty Mitt Romney is. He’ll say whatever he believes the people in the room want to hear (unless he’s specifically decided not to as a political stunt, as he did with the NAACP).
Let’s take a look at the two major areas where Romney’s actual positions are nearly impossible to pin down: foreign policy and social issues.
For the past four years, it’s never been easier to figure out what the leaders of the Republican Party believe about any given foreign policy issue. Whatever Obama is for, they’re against—even if they used to be for it. First, Obama wasn’t quick enough to support the Egyptian protesters. A few months later, he was too quick to throw Mubarak under the bus. They were calling on him to intervene in Libya right up until he intervened, at which point the whole idea was a mistake. Now they’re saying he should do more to help the rebels in Syria. You can safely assume that as soon as he helps the rebels in Syria they’ll say he should never have gotten involved. The only things they never criticize the president for are his continuation of Bush policies like drone strikes and indefinite detention.
Mitt Romney has somehow managed to take flip-flopping to a whole new dimension, as he’s not only taken the whatever-Obama-is-for-I’m-against approach throughout his campaign, but in the final presidential debate on foreign policy, right-wingers were baffled to find him agreeing with just about every foreign policy move the current administration has made. Whether he’s an aggressive war-hawk or a peace-loving pacifist depends entirely on the audience he’s speaking to.
Four years ago, Mitt Romney was a fervent supporter of the Iraq war even though there were no weapons of mass destruction. Now, he says he wouldn’t have invaded Iraq if we’d known there were no weapons of mass destruction. On Afghanistan, he used to be against a timeline for withdrawal. In the last debate, he agreed with the president’s timetable. On the Egyptian revolution, Romney once refused to call Mubarak a dictator, but now he says we couldn’t possibly have supported him against the uprising. And when it comes to Israel and Palestine, Romney says in public that he wants to do everything possible to bring about peace, but he tells his supporters behind closed doors that there won’t be peace and he won’t even bother trying to work towards it.
To be fair to Romney, foreign policy just isn’t his thing. His only real international experience is from his time as a Mormon missionary in France during the Vietnam War. Barack Obama never served in the military either, and just because he spent more time living in foreign countries doesn’t necessarily mean he had more foreign policy credentials when he took office. But at least candidate Obama had strong and informed opinions which he famously expressed before his presidential run, starting with his speech against the Iraq war back when many Democrats were still supporting it. Mitt Romney, by contrast, just doesn’t seem interested at all. His own foreign policy team openly wonders whether he’s even reading their briefings. And if you’re going to talk about Iran being the biggest threat to America in the third debate, you might want to check a map first and see where Iran is—especially when you’ve already gotten it wrong five times!
If Mitt Romney actually knew anything about the world outside the United States, he might have some solid opinions about our role on the international stage. But because he doesn’t know and doesn’t seem to care to know, it’s a safe bet he’ll rely exclusively on his foreign policy advisors to set the course for America. So it’s worth looking at who his advisors are.
It turns out, most of them are veterans of the Bush administration. And if you think Dick Cheney’s approach to the rest of the world was great for America, then you’re in a bubble so thick absolutely nothing will penetrate it. Mitt Romney has done fund-raisers with Dick Cheney, praising him as “a person of wisdom and judgment”. Seriously? The kind of wisdom that got us into the Iraq war? The kind of judgment that destroyed America’s international reputation by authorizing torture? Not to mention the wisdom and judgment that urged President Bush to start a war with Iran before leaving office—advice which Bush to his great credit ignored. Even W eventually came to see Cheney’s judgment for what it was—abysmally stupid and reckless—but I guess he never bothered to tell Mitt.
Mitt Romney can say he’s only interested in peace all he wants, but the people who would have his ear as president when it comes to foreign policy are the same war hawks who so enthusiastically pushed us into two wars under Bush, and who would like to see the war on terror continue indefinitely, perhaps by turning Iran into its latest front-line.
Of course this is all speculation, but one thing we do know is that Mitt Romney would increase the defense budget by as much as $2.3 trillion over the next 10 years, money which the Pentagon hasn’t even asked for. And he’s the guy who’s supposed to care about deficits.
I have plenty of issues with Obama’s foreign policy, but one thing I know for certain as a person who’s lived abroad for the entirety of his presidency is that he has unquestionably helped to restore America’s damaged international reputation. If Romney takes power and brings back the same people who demolished it under Bush, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to win back the admiration and respect we enjoyed for most of the 20th century. Those days are probably permanently behind us already, but every vote for a Romney/Cheney foreign policy is another nail in that coffin.
The president has very little effect on social policies, but it’s worth taking a glance at the myriad of positions Mitt Romney has taken on a few key issues.
Health care is a major economic issue, but I’m including it here because I see it as a moral issue. I personally believe that there are certain institutions in society that should be run exclusively by the government, as introducing a profit-motive leads to terrible results. Health care is the biggest one (others include education, police, and prisons) as what could be more fundamental to the health of a society than how a society deals with the health of its members?
Everybody knows that the Affordable Care Act which President Obama pushed through Congress is almost identical to Mitt Romney’s health care plan for Massachusetts, right down to the individual mandate. Most people don’t seem to realize that the mandate—which is what they invariably hate most about the law—is actually a Republican idea, cooked up by the Heritage Foundation in 1989 and pushed by Republican senators including Orrin Hatch and Chuck Grassley. (And you can be sure that’s true because the source I’m citing is Fox News.com)
Way back when the mandate was a Republican idea (which it was until about three seconds after Barack Obama adopted it), Mitt Romney enthusiastically supported it. Naturally, as soon as the poll numbers on the mandate came in and the party completely disavowed the policy and everything to do with it, Romney had to twist himself into a pretzel by explaining that it’s a perfectly wonderful idea at the state level, but utterly unconstitutional and horrible at the national level. That is, until the Supreme Court declared it a tax, at which point he eventually decided it’s a tax and therefore constitutional (but not before agreeing with Obama that it’s not a tax).
At least Mitt Romney has remained consistent that when he’s president, he’ll repeal Obamacare except for the popular parts about covering pre-existing conditions and letting children stay on their parents’ plans until age 26…except when he’s saying the health care law must be “repealed entirely”.
Never mind how tricky it would be to repeal the health care law while maintaining its most popular aspects. (Chalk this one up as another one of Romney’s secret plans.) But if he somehow gets elected and gets massive Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, you can finally kiss Obamacare goodbye.
But let’s turn now to something that might actually happen if Romney gets elected, which is the elimination of a woman’s right to have an abortion. Of course, Mitt Romney was all for a woman’s right to choose when running against Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts, but when trying to please the Tea Party crowd that dog just doesn’t hunt. Now he’s staunchly pro-life and in favor of outlawing abortion except in cases of rape or the life of the mother—unless you believe him when he says he’d absolutely support a personhood amendment which would leave no room for these exceptions.
Of course the Holy Grail of the pro-life movement is the overturn of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court, and there’s no doubt that a Romney-appointed justice would be far more likely to join the right-wingers on the bench in overturning this law than an Obama-appointed justice. So if you’re one of those who only votes based on social issues and abortion is what you care about most, by all means vote for Romney. Just don’t expect him to fight too hard for your cause, because he’s not a true believer.
When it comes to LGBT issues, here we finally arrive at a place where Romney has shown some degree of consistency—by remaining as far right as you can go. He’s opposed to same-sex marriage of course, but he’s also opposed to civil unions. As for his justification for not letting gay couples enjoy the same rights as straight couples even when it’s not considered “marriage”—well, on that he’s not so clear. But rest assured, he says, it has nothing to do with his Mormon faith. It’s about 3,000 years of history. Obviously it would be wrong to change any institution that’s existed for thousands of years…just ask 19th-century plantation owners.
But even if you agree with Mitt Romney on things like abortion and gay rights, it makes very little sense to vote for him based on that. As I said, the president has very little to do with social policy. What you really want is a man with firm convictions, and all you have to do is listen to Mitt Romney speak for five minutes to realize that he has none.
That Mitt Romney has no character is the argument I’ll be concluding my series with, and I expect it to be the most forceful.
To be continued…