New Charge Against Romney

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Mitt Romney is now being accused not of flip-flopping but of actually holding contradictory positions at the same time. Apparently he has spoken in favor of a constitutional amendment recognizing fetuses as protected by the 14th Amendment, all the while continuing his statements that he would favor overturning Roe v. Wade and returning the abortion question to states.

I see no necessary contradiction here. He sees a problem with the status quo and would be relatively happy with either solution. The Supreme Court could overturn Roe and give it back to the states, or we could pursue an amendment to the Constitution to protect the unborn. He obviously would prefer the latter, but giving it back to the states would be preferable to leaving things as they are.

That's in fact my position, and I'd pursue either goal over what we have now, even if I'd prefer making it explicit that the 14th Amendment makes it unconstitutional to allow abortion (which I think it does do). I am not a federalist on abortion. I think the 14th Amendment is clear. Citizenship isn't conferred until birth or naturalization, but the last clause of section 1 gives equal protection of the laws to all persons, and I know of no attempt prior to 1971 to limit personhood to post-birth stages of development. I don't think there should need to be a constitutional amendment to make that clear, but given current Supreme Court doctrine there does need to be such an amendment for it to be treated as constitutionally guaranteed. Nevertheless, I'd be happy to see the Supreme Court overturn Roe and give it back to states.

It is true that Romney could have stated this more clearly, acknowledging both items on any occasion when he mentions one or the other or simply being more careful in his language, not overstating his points. But he's not a philosopher. He's a politician. It's rare that even those with the more nuanced views in politics will not occasionally have problems like this. It may be right to complain about how he put things, but I don't think his views are necessarily inconsistent, and I don't think this is a sign of any continuing problem with Romney. He's had a couple changes in positions, and he's several times been accused of a change or an inconsistency that isn't a real change or inconsistency, but usually that's due to his having a nuanced position that his critics don't understand or to immoral manipulation of his statements out of context to get a result that looks inconsistent. It's not due to uncareful statements, as here. So I'm unwilling to call this a pattern.


I think if you look at where and when he says what he says, a pattern emerges. He speaks what people want to hear, hence his seemingly contradictory position. Before the Iowa straw poll, he came out in firm support of a constitutional amendment. Speaking in Nevada, he opts for states' rights. Now it could be his position really is a step 1, step 2, carefully thought out position. Or, more probably, he is just doing what's politically helpful: bending his position to be most helpful to his campaign.

See my thoughts here on this.

There's nothing whatsoever wrong with emphasizing the parts of your views that you think people in a certain audience are going to like, as long as you're honest about the other ones when they come up. It's ok to market yourself as favoring federalist tendencies out west while marketing your moderate health care plan in the east in order to win supporters who will support you for different reasons. But this is best if you do have a more consistent, carefully thought-out position on how the two are compatible.

I suspect Romney does, and I'm sure that there's one available even if he hasn't put it together. That's all that's really important, even if it's best if he takes it to the next step. (After all, most pro-choicers who favor animal rights and most pro-lifers who favor capital punishment haven't worked out how their views are consistent, even though they are. But I don't think Romney is just speaking out of both sides of his mouth here. He's too smart for that. He's played things pretty well in explaining his change of heart on certain issues (even if the masses haven't bothered to pay attention to the important details) that it would be out of character for him to be doing something like that now.

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