And the “larger” question I’ve been pondering of late is this: Why have some elements of the right attacked Governor Romney so viciously? Especially since many of these same people (like the guiding force behind MassResistance) not only don’t support an alternative candidate, they even voted for the Governor in past campaigns when he advanced more liberal views. Why the malice?

These attacks are interesting considering I spend all day every day working for a pro-life and pro-family legal organization and actually wear the uniform of my country as a member of the U.S. Army Reserves. I would take the attacks personally (and sometimes, I admit, it is hard not to), but I also realize an essential truth. This malice is not about me — and it’s not even about Governor Romney.

Yes, that’s right. The malice really has little or nothing to do with Governor Romney. Instead — and this is vitally important to understand — Governor Romney merely represents the vehicle (a highly public vehicle) for grinding axes within the conservative movement itself. ~David French, Evangelicals for Mitt

I can’t speak for anyone else (and I dispute the idea that anyone is being particularly malicious or vicious towards Gov. Romney), but it seems to me that the criticism really is all about Gov. Romney and about little else.  I don’t target him as a representative of a larger group in the conservative movement because he doesn’t represent any larger group–the group he would like to represent is precisely the group whose views he does not, in fact, possess (or has only possessed them for a very short time while he has been making his run).  My criticism of him is not really directed at someone else–it is really all aimed at Candidate Romney. 

He is being vetted as the social conservative he claims to be.  His claims are being challenged based on substantial evidence that gives conservatives pause and makes them wonder if the new Mitt Romney on display is anything other than a fraud being perpetrated on them.  Given the relative novelty of his position as a pro-lifer, in particular, it is shocking that any social conservatives of any kind are still considering him as a serious contender at all to serve as their standard-bearer.  This is, however, the cycle in which Giuliani is also being taken seriously as a contender for the nomination, so clearly standards are slipping all over the place.

But just ask yourself whether anyone who had recently joined a movement or a group would be encouraged to become one of the most prominent members of that group after having been a serious opponent of everything your group represents.  Of course, this wouldn’t happen, and we all know this.  It is virtually unheard of that the novice is allowed to become the abbot after a year or two, and it is almost never the case that the heretic gets to become bishop after a couple years of penance.  Likewise in any secular organisation: the newest club member who has just signed up to pad his resume does not usually get elected president; the freshman House member does not get to be Speaker in the space of a couple years; the branch manager of a bank does not get promoted to be CEO and Chairman of the corporation.  Even if there were no concerns about Romney’s opportunistic “discovery” of the sanctity of life–and there are many concerns–he is playing the role of the greenhorn upstart who wants to run the whole ranch.  Nobody likes that kind of guy (well, unless his name is Obama, in which case all kinds of people pretend to like him), and I mean nobody. 

The criticism against Romney has everything to do with Gov. Romney’s choices and record and the very convenient timing of his profound conversion to supporting the cause of life.  The first President Bush received similarly justified criticism when he suddenly discovered his abiding concern about the sanctity of life–this was around the same time he discovered how profound his problems would be in trying to get re-elected.  If Romney and his supporters want less scrutiny and less harsh criticism, he shouldn’t have egregiously flip-flopped in such a blatantly cynical way or he shouldn’t have decided to run for President in ‘08.  In another four or eight years, concern about his “conversion” would have become less acute as he built up more of a record of prolonged commitment to the cause that was not so obviously tied to his ambitions for higher office (assuming, of course, that he changed his mind without having an election on the horizon).  That he chose to become pro-life and run for President at almost the exact same time cries out, “I am pandering for votes in the Republican primaries!”  If there has been any viciousness directed against Gov. Romney, it has only been the disdain smart voters and observers show for particularly clumsy politicians who try to dupe them with claims about their beliefs that do not pass the sniff test.  We don’t like frauds, and we’re not going to put up with their attempts to scam us.