You get the sense he’d say babies come from storks if he [Romney] thought that was the way to advance his political career. ~Matt Yglesias

He may yet be too much his father’s son to close the sale, but that’s not to say he isn’t trying–the semiotics behind tying Romney to Ford may even have been intentional. Again, Madden denies it: “This was about innovation and transformation.” But that museum–a cavernous and strange facility where one can find everything from cars of the future to a test tube filled with what is purported to be Thomas Edison’s last breath–is not simply a paean to American innovation and transformation. It is also the opposite: Half of the facility (the half not populated by futuristic kitsch and automotive souvenirs) is “Greenfield Village,” a Colonial Williamsburg-style living museum of glassblowers, blacksmiths, and one-room schoolhouses. And it is simply not credible that a son of the Motor State like Romney is unaware that, for millions of Midwestern tourists, a trip to Dearborn is as much about celebrating “innovation and transformation” as it is conjuring up the wistful nostalgia for the pre-automotive–and, by plain implication, pre-immigrant–America that Ford worshiped. ~Rick Perlstein

But it was also hard to see how a man with deeply held convictions on abortion rights — either for or against — could take a position so calibrated and inconclusive. Listening to Romney that day was like watching a chameleon in the fleeting moment that its color changes to suit its environment. ~Ruth Marcus

I have been following the zigs and zags of Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and now Republican presidential candidate, watching him grow progressively less progressive, sort of making himself up as he goes along. As a result, I surf the Web with trepidation, bracing myself for the story that I fear might be coming: “Romney Says He Is Not Really a Mormon.'’ ~Richard Cohen

Plus, the video of Romney’s 2002 gubernatorial race pro-choice statements is making the rounds.  His 2002 statements are pretty old news to Romney critics such as myself by now, but it’s fun to watch.  Quoth the Mitt: “I do take exception to Shannon [O’Brien] characterizing my view as being any different than hers in this regard.  The Boston Globe recently reported that there’s not a paper’s width worth of difference between our two positions in this regard…”  This followed a statement in which he seemed to say that it was acceptable to him if teenage girls younger than the current age of consent of 18 wanted to seek court permission for an abortion against their parents’ wishes.  Russert threw him a softball question about whether he would institute a 24-hour waiting period for a woman to be counseled when seeking an abortion, but Romney was ironclad: no changes to the state abortion laws, period.  He was offended at the implication that he might, at some level, be considered secretly pro-life, whereupon he invokes the memory of his mother’s 1970 Senate campaign and even manages to sneak the “separation of church and state” into the discussion.  He then explains a letter to the editor he wrote in which he claims he was rejecting both pro-life and pro-choice labels: “Instead, I make it clear that I will preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose.  I will not use a single hyphenated word…”  Even as he is trying to prove that he will protect Massachusetts’ “pro-choice laws,” as he called them, he refuses to be labeled pro-choice, even though he insists, quite vehemently, that he will protect a “woman’s right to choose.”  These aren’t the words of someone who just cynically changes to whatever is most politically expedient–these are the words of someone who has no respect for the basic meaning of words and will try to manipulate language in every way possible to make himself come out smelling like a rose in every case.  It depends on what the meaning of “choice” is, right, Mitt?

Of course, per Perlstein’s article, all of these observations from people on the left quoted above will possibly be taken by many as solid proof that Romney must really be conservative.  (Such is the pitiful level at which some people actually do define conservatism: as whatever the “liberal media” doesn’t like.)  Why, look at all the people who keep saying that he’s a massive fraud–there must be a huge conspiracy out to get him!  Well, maybe, or maybe he’s a pandering pol who will say whatever he thinks you want to hear and lots and lots and lots of people across the spectrum are noticing.   

Conservatives would probably make more noise about John Edwards as a fraud, but I think everyone already recognises that the man is a two-faced liar (he was a trial lawyer, after all, so what else needs to be said?).  He has done our work for us by being so egregiously tacky in his complete change from centrist DLC hawk to left-wing populist antiwar champion.   Edwards in 2003-2004: “You want another Bill Clinton?  I can be Bill Clinton.”  Edwards in 2007-2008: “You want another Howard Dean?  I can be Howard Dean, but without the yelling.”  In 2012, he will probably try to channel Obama. 

Personally, I don’t buy Perlstein’s supposition that anyone heard that Romney was at the Henry Ford Museum and thought, “Oh, good, Romney is paying homage to my deepest desires to return to an age of glorious Anglo-Saxonism free of unruly Italians and Greeks!”  (Or whatever it is that Perlstein thinks people opposed to mass immigration believe.)  I can’t imagine someone like Romney even understanding nostalgia for the Old America–he is a venture capitalist by background who is more excited about technology and efficiency than Newt Gingrich.  Even if his positions on tax policy have morphed and changed over the years, he is socially and culturally a perfect fit for Wall Street Journal Republicanism. 

Never having been to Michigan (strange, but true), my reaction was: “There’s a Henry Ford Museum?  I suppose there would be.  Oh, okay.”  Likewise, my reaction to his line about border security was more along the lines of, “That’s all he had to say about immigration?  That’s not very interesting.  Even Bush mouths platitudes about securing the border–not that he means any of it.”  If Romney were trying to appeal to restrictionists, he would have done it by, oh, maybe mentioning something about being against amnesty or indeed by saying anything that gave a hint that he understood that the question wasn’t just over what to do about the current state of the border. 

The one thing I do believe is that Romney really is a big believer in “innovation and transformation”: on this point, he literally practices what he preaches.  He believes in trying out new things, such as core beliefs and deeply personal reasons for believing these core beliefs, and adapting to changing circumstances (such as preparing to run for President) and transforming himself to be more competitive.  It’s not dishonesty–it’s more like improving fuel economy, just like his old dad did back when.  In his own way, he probably doesn’t think of his flip-flopping as an attempt trick or deceive the public.  He probably thinks that he is just responding to market demand and maximising vote-gathering efficiency.  This is a man who likes to cut out unnecessary waste, after all, and nothing would be more wasteful than to deprive his ambition and big hair from a shot at the White House.  In a sense, it is the ultimate challenge for the “turnaround” artist that Romney genuinely is.  He wants to show that he can not only bring faltering enterprises out of the red and save the Olympics from embarrassing failure, but that he can do blatant turnarounds on every issue in the book and somehow make a successful campaign out of it. 

If he did somehow pull it off, even Bubba himself would have to bow down before the new master of spin and the new king of the comeback.  To triangulate, it is necessary to first have some sort of credible position against which to triangulate.  Romney gives the impression of someone who would attempt to ricochet around at every possible angle until he found the one that would work.