Here’s my take: Put aside how rambling and unfocused it was. Maybe that can be chalked up to a bad night or fatigue. But to speak for 50 minutes or so and not to talk about the Iraq war before a conservative audience at a crucial moment in that war is bizarre and just wrong and almost offensive [bold mine-DL] in my view. This doesn’t seem like an oversight. He went out of his way to check off every conservative box—except the one that is politically risky at the moment. The rest of his foreign policy stuff—when he talked about Iran and the broader war—felt very shaky and about an inch deep. His account of how he came to change his view on abortion—through the issue of stem-cell research—isn’t very compelling and he would probably be better off not talking about it at all. Fairly or not, people aren’t going to believe it. ~Rich Lowry
I think it’s plenty fair, but then I am one of those people who don’t believe it. Of course, he can’t not talk about it. He has made it a central part of his makeover from Massachusetts squish moderate to Romney, Conservative Iron Man. To avoid talking about it now would be to admit that all of his critics’ charges of insincerity and opportunism were correct, which would prove that the man will say anything for votes. No, he has concocted his implausible “conversion” story, and now he must live with it. Watch the video of his NRI speech and note his wandering, aimless delivery, his tiresome rattling off of his accomplishments, as if it were just some boilerplate stump speech, and the laundry-list, conservatism 101 nature of the speech (liberals want, uh, they want to increase the size of government and that’s, like, bad!). Be warned–he drones on for around fifty minutes, so feel free to skip ahead. Look at the video at 32:16, where he informs his audience that “bloated social spending” is called “the welfare state,” in order to get a sense of the thin gruel he was dishing out. The applause from the audience was suitably weak and scattered.
The whiff on Iraq is particularly amusing to me. Here is Mitt Romney, Hugh Hewitt’s hero, at a friendly conservative gathering that is going on at the same time as Hugh Hewitt’s ridiculous pledge drive, and he says nothing about Iraq at all. Imagine how many lackey points he could have scored if he took that opportunity to come out against the Senate resolutions. I think Hewitt would have declared him fit for exaltation. This is even funnier when you consider that his pro forma pro-surge position has been one of the things the Romneyites online have been using to bash Brownback and show that Romney is a better candidate. Yet, when it came time for him to speak at some length about Iraq before a receptive audience, he had nothing.