As Andy Warhol once said, “That’s not fake. It’s real plastic.” Warhol’s immortal words came to mind as I learned about Willard Mitt Romney’s latest flip flop. The 2011 paperback version of his book No Apology is at war with last year’s hardback edition. The fairly accommodating Romney who said nice things about President Obama has been hauled off and replaced with an angrier, more combative Romney — perfect for the GOP presidential primary season, which will heat up as Romney addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington this morning at 10:30.
As the Boston Phoenix’s David S. Bernstein wrote yesterday, “Times change, and so does Mitt.”
Bernstein cited two key passages in Romney’s text. The earlier version of No Apology included a dispassionate analysis of President Obama’s 2009 stimulus package. Seemingly more in sorrow than in anger, Hardback Romney predicted that the $814 billion measure “will accelerate the timing of the start of the recovery, but not as much as it could have.”
Paperback Romney is far less charitable. He calls the stimulus “a failure,” and denounces Obama’s “economic missteps.” He adds: “This is the first time government has declared war on free enterprise.”
In an inverse relationship with the cover of his book, Romney also morphs from soft to tough on health care. According to Bernstein, Hardback Romney offered cautious comparisons between the president’s health-care reform plan and RomneyCare, the former Massachusetts governor’s own big-government legislation that the Wall Street Journal called “the dress rehearsal for ObamaCare.”
Once again, Paperback Romney is far more fiery and partisan, now that the February 6, 2012, Iowa Caucuses are less than a year away. “ObamaCare will not work and should be repealed,” Paperback Romney roars. “ObamaCare is an unconstitutional federal incursion into the rights of states.”
In addition to the fresh and disturbing evidence that Romney remains a constant work in progress, one wonders how dumb he thinks Americans are. In an age when a casually shared shirtless photograph can trigger a media brushfire and an instant resignation from Congress, did Romney really think he could get away with this auto-revisionism without observers noticing it, and the commentariat sharing the news with GOP primary voters from coast to coast?
This little episode proves that Romney is less tethered than a soccer ball at the World Cup. He bounces around, not thanks to his own compass, but in reaction to forces that encircle him — first and foremost what he thinks the next election’s voters want to hear.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D., Calif.) is 10,000 percent more deserving of respect than is Romney. Waxman is wrong on everything except, maybe, today’s temperature. Given his cap-and-tax bill, on second thought, maybe he is wrong on that, too. But at least Waxman sticks to his guns — I mean slingshots — and fights — er, labors— to make America conform to his political philosophy, as destructive as it is.
In contrast — from abortion to spending to taxes to guns — Romney keeps shifting, just like the political pressures that toss him this way and that.
Compared to Willard Mitt Romney, I have seen mannequins in less empty suits.
— Deroy Murdock is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.