Please read Part 1 of my Election '08 article on Mitt Romney to get the full analysis
While Mitt Romney's change from moderate Republican to full-blown conservative left a sour taste in the mouth of Massachusetts citizens, only time will tell if the Republican base in early primary states will ultimately accept this "new" right-wing Romney as one of their own. If this recent Rasmussen survey means anything, the upside for Romney going forward is not good, as he is tied with Hillary Clinton at 47% for having the highest level of "core opposition" among voters, meaning they won't vote for him no matter how bad the other choices are.
Perhaps some of those absolutely negative feelings towards him contributed to his somewhat disappointing "Silver Medal" finish in Iowa Thursday night. After leading Iowa for much of the primary season, voters only gave him 25% of their votes, as opposed to the 34% they gave to the other former governor in the race, Hope, Arkansas's Mike Huckabee. New Hampshire though, whose primary is next week, has Romney and John McCain in a dead heat atop the latest polls, so maybe those potential voters are loyal to Romney or fail to understand how unprincipled and untrustworthy a candidate he really is.
For example, on Meet The Press a couple of weeks ago, one minute Romney said the 12 million illegals in this country should not have to go home and should be able to sign up for citizenship. The next minute, he said a "great majority" of them should go home. Furthermore, the Boston Globe pointed out that in 2005, he said McCain, President Bush and other proponents of immigration reform bills didn't have his full endorsement but were "reasonable proposals" that were "quite different from amnesty." By 2007, as the paper pointed out, he called the McCain-Kennedy bill "amnesty" and rejected it outright.
Romney has also taken both sides of the embryonic stem cell debate and become a hypocrite on pardons. The candidate brags that he didn't pardon one criminal as governor out of respect for jury verdicts, not even for a decorated Iraqi veteran who was charged with shooting (but not really injuring) a kid with a BB gun in his youth.
As bad as that is, he now thinks former White House aide "Scooter" Libby deserves a full pardon by President Bush based on a false belief that prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald abused his power and nailed the wrong guy during his investigation of who was criminally responsible for leaking the identity of former CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson to the media in 2003. Libby was convicted early in 2007 on 4 of 5 counts for obstructing justice, committing perjury and providing false statements to federal officials. Bush however, thought the prison sentence was too harsh a punishment so he used his executive power to commute (or kill) it, but did not fully pardon him. Gotta love Romney's priorities: pardon the White House war hawk but not an actual veteran of the Iraq war.
Mitt can relate to so-called "chickenhawks" though, as he told the New York Times recently that back when he was a Mormon missionary in the late 1960s, he accomplished little in converting the French to his cause and "longed" for a chance to join his comrades in Vietnam. When he returned from France though, while his fellow missionaries enlisted in the armed forces, he got a student deferment so he could go to college instead.
As far as foreign policy matters are concerned, Romney supports the Iraq War like many Republicans. However, his views on the War on Terror are almost as misguided and scary as Huckabee's, whose campaign has said that his "former pastor" background helps him understand our Islamic extremist enemies and that the War On Terror is a "theological" war. [Echoes of President' Bush's gaffe that we're on a "crusade" against terrorists, doesn't it?] For instance, Romney said early in a Fox News-sponsored GOP debate in May of last year that he's glad our enemies are locked up in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and don't have access to lawyers, and that the facility needs to be doubled, as opposed to closed, which everyone from Colin Powell and the British to the Bush administration and Democrats want.
Of course, what Romney fails to understand is that the problem with Gitmo isn't size, it’s about putting the prisoners on trial and doing so with rights and legal procedures that are older than this country, including the writ of habeus corpus, which is not a right in and of itself but a safeguard against peremptory state behavior.
He also apparently doesn't understand that closing Gitmo is a laudable goal, but that returning uncharged prisoners to their home countries is the main stumbling block, as well as the legal and political arguments over whether to try the remaining prisoners in military tribunals or federal courts. The fear is that letting these prisoners go back to their home countries (like Russia and China) could subject them to torture and harassment by local authorities, or that they may come back to fight the U.S. and their allies some day. But fear not Romney fans, he'll probably seek "counsel" from his trusty advisers to handle this and other issues like Iran, I'm sure.
Let's not forget his embarrassing argument with former tortured Vietnam POW John McCain over "waterboarding" at the Republican CNN/YouTube debate. He refused to admit that "waterboarding" is torture, said he needed to consult with advisers – even McCain, who condemned it! – about the procedure, and wouldn't tell the public anyway because it would help our enemies. This procedure, which the CIA is now in trouble for allegedly using on a few al Qaeda prisoners, has been condemned by Democrats and Republicans alike since at least World War II, when it "convicted several Japanese soldiers for waterboarding American and Allied POWs."
The U.S. military has banned waterboarding as well, and no politician, including Romney should be seen waffling or seeming willing to approve illegal interrogation procedures while our soldiers are still trying to fight the Iraq War and War on Terror, within the rule of law.
Romney also does not fully understand the ethnic nature and different objectives of the enemies the U.S. and allies like Israel face every day. No, he wrongly believes that "radical jihadists" have "come together as Shi'a and Sunni and Hezbollah and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda" to bring down Western and moderate Islamic nations. If only it were that simple, Mitt.
In all, if you're a Republican voter looking for someone who is an authentic leader who is strong on national security and can appeal to the religious right without sounding like a zealot (like Huckabee) and win the general election against the Democratic nominee, John McCain, not Mitt Romney, is your man. No, he's not the ideal conservative Republican candidate, but as his recent rise in the polls suggests, he's the best you're going to get this election cycle. Besides, in the current political climate, there is no electable Republican with a solid, non-fraudulent platform of supporting low taxes, being tough on immigration and crime, has solid conservative values, is pro-life, pro-gun rights, pro-free trade and strong on national security.
The old Mitt Romney was unelectable in a Republican primary. By voting for the new Mitt Romney though, you're taking the chance that his numerous flaws will be exposed in a general election or that he'll become a fraud again and turn his back on you the same way he turned his back on Massachusetts. Either way, it's not a chance worth taking.