Mitt Romney’s campaign is based on the wholesale deception of voters. ~John McCain
This has been, and remains, the crux of the problem with Romney. Of course, McCain can be charged with deception every time he denies that “comprehensive immigration reform” is amnesty, and the same criticism can be leveled at the other candidates who have suddenly discovered the importance of border security, but with Romney it has always been on an entirely different scale. It is conceivable that Romney could have legitimately changed his mind on one or two questions, but there have been so many changes (or evolutions, if you prefer) in such a short span of time that depart so radically from the core assumptions of what the man publicly claimed to believe earlier that he simply cannot be trusted. Where he once would not dare “impose” his values on others in matters of life and sexuality (his dear, departed relative had once been pivotal in his views on abortion, but her fate ceased to bother him when the White House beckoned), he suddenly discerned that it was essential that he do so. The awakening of his moral conscience occurred in direct relationship to the approach of the 2008 campaign season. That in itself might not be so bad, were it the only instance of Romney’s re-invention. Where he once derided the idea of deportation and accepted McCain’s immigration legislation as an acceptable alternative, he has since adopted the pose of a restrictionist true believer. The man who brought you government-mandated health insurance enforced by the assessment of penalties is the one who now casts himself as more Reaganite than Reagan…all the while promising subsidies to weakened industries. The proponent of federal gun control laws discovered his inner varmint-slayer. You assume there will be a certain degree of opportunism and shifting in an election. To some extent, that is how elections hold politicians more accountable to what voters want to see in government. But for someone who has gone through a complete political metamorphosis to then adopt the pose of the righteous enforcer of True Conservatism and to accuse his opponents of being willing to say anything to get elected simply amazes me. What amazes me still more is the willingness of so many people, who can see perfectly clearly the dishonesty of the entire thing, to go along with it.
On an ascending scale of willful arrogance, there is gall, then there is chutzpah, and then there is whatever Romney is doing. In fairness, no politician should ever receive very much trust, and what trust is bestowed should always be provisional and easily revoked, but even by the extremely low standards of a cynic who assumes all politicians are out to mislead and abuse the citizenry Romney is unacceptably deceptive. Any past or present Bush supporter who now wants to complain about the rise of McCain should look first to the absolute fraud many of them were willing to rally behind as the alternative to understand why their anti-McCain candidate did not succeed. As wrong as McCain is on so many things, for which we anti-Bush conservatives were criticising him all along, the idea that you ought to hold McCain accountable for his deviations from the movement and party lines while embracing a man who had been, as of three years ago, far to McCain’s left on almost everything was and still is preposterous. This is not about the relative purity of their conservatisms as such, but the ridiculous application of a purist standard for one and an absolutely accommodating, flexible standard for another, especially when the latter only rates as “more conservative” on account of this incredible metamorphosis. This is one of the reasons why the concerted effort to rally anti-McCain forces has fallen short for the second straight week: the bulk of this effort has no intellectual or moral credibility when the rallying point is Romney’s campaign and the opponents of McCain are simultaneously some of the strongest supporters of George Bush. Those who wish to label McCain a liar for his past and recent false statements, but who will pretend that Romney’s many new positions are proof of his true convictions, are the same kinds of people (in some cases, literally the same people) who embraced, legitimised and shilled for George Bush, the greatest liar of them all, for seven years. They are right about McCain, but what they would offer in his place and what they have defended in the past throw into doubt their ability to discern conservative principle and their willingness to confront deception when it is politically disadvantageous for them.