I was for the war, before I was against it
-- Sen. John Kerry Remember this quote from the presidential campaign of 2004 when Sen. John Kerry ran against then Gov. George W. Bush? Sen. John Kerry will, no doubt, never forget it. This line, parsed and taken out of context, served as a club that the so-called "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" used as a club to pummel Kerry and define him as a flip-flopper. The last thing Americans would tolerate was a flip-flopper president. We want our president to have strong core values and to speak his/her mind, even when it may be unpopular to do so.
That was then; this is now. Like Col. John S. Mosby, the Confederate soldier known as the Gray Ghost, who was renowned for his quick raids and disappearing acts, the Swift Boat crowd has vanished into the night. They served their purpose and appear to have disappeared, because today the roles are reversed.
Today, the incumbent president exhibits strong, core values and sticks to them. Against advice from his top counsel, President Obama decided in the first weeks of his presidency to take on reforming health care in America, in spite of the fact that he had been left an economy in shambles. He was told to do "little things." He opted for big things.
At the worst time to take a position on marriage equality, President Obama spoke up and said that he personally supports it. That took as much courage as the decision to take out Osama bin Laden (which was a decision not for the faint of heart).
His opponent, Mitt Romney, could easily be described as the John Kerry of 2012, with one obvious exception. Instead of having one major flip-flop on an important issue, Mr. Romney has repeatedly changed his positions on major issues facing our country. Here are just a few contrasting positions that Mr. Romney has taken in the past:
"Illegal immigrants should have a chance to obtain citizenship."
In 2006 -- "We should secure the borders and no special pathway to citizenship."
Romney refused to take a position on President Bush’s 10-year tax cut plan.
In 2007 -- Romney, "I supported them."
Romney supported a ban on assault rifles. "That’s not going to make me the hero of the NRA, but I don’t line up with a lot of special interests groups."
In 2007 -- "I’m after the NRA endorsement. I joined because I’m going after their endorsement." "I have a gun of my own."
Asked by a reporter a few days later if he owned a gun, he replied, "I do not."
In 2003 -- "I concur that climate change is beginning to have an effect on our natural resources and that now is the time to take action."
In 2007 -- "With regards to global warming that’s something which the scientists haven’t entirely resolved."
In 2002 -- Re: Constitutional Amendment to ban same sex marriage. "I do not support it, a Constitutional Amendment to ban same sex marriage."
In 2006 -- Two weeks before the vote: "I will join petition backers in the State House today and urge the legislature to pass the Protection of Marriage Amendment."
"It was not my desire to go off and serve in Vietnam."
2012 -- "I longed in many respects to actually be in Vietnam and be representing our country there."
Last but by no means least, we have Mr. Romney’s tortured position on healthcare. The day the U.S.. Supreme Court ruled in support of President Obama’s healthcare law there was Mitt Romney, standing on the rooftop of the Heritage Foundation, the group that ironically originally called for the individual mandate, declaring that he’d repeal this new law.
Today Romney’s senior advisor, Eric Fehrnstrom, was on MSNBC with Chuck Todd saying that Romney did not agree that the fee/penalty/tax was a tax even though it was ruled so by the Supreme Court.
"Then Mr. Romney agrees with the president?" asked Todd.
Mitt Romney now stands before the nation fighting a law that’s been ruled constitutional by arguably the most conservative, activist court in the past one hundred years. He is now officially at odds with the Republican Party, which desperately wants the penalty/fee to be a tax so that they can bash the president for raising taxes.
You may recall that it was Rick Santorum, who said that Mitt Romney is the worst Republican in America to put up against President Obama, because of Romney’s history with passing healthcare in Massachusetts right along with a fee/tax/penalty to pay for it.
You may also recall that many pundits were saying during the primary that Mitt Romney’s greatest opponent may very likely be Mitt Romney. Those folks may be right. When you walk away from core beliefs and your past legislative record for the sake of political expediency you run the risk of losing the entire electorate.
However, there’re some very rich people who want to see Obama gone and have the money to buy this election. Currently, the majority opposes healthcare, because they’ve been told it’s bad; even by the man who once supported it.
Bob Stannard lives in Manchester.