Caught on Web
The fact that former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney was caught saying decidedly different things about abortion this month highlights the trap that this year's presidential candidates are falling into: the modern ability to tailor a message is running into the even more modern ability of people to see what you're doing.
It's internet video that's making the difference. Romney's interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos is more striking when it's played on a computer screen right next to the television interview with local Nevada columnist Jon Ralston. Seeing them together, it's hard not to raise an eyebrow.
The YouTube phenomenon took off last year, when former Virginia Sen. George Allen got caught on tape uttering "macaca" to a young Indian man. So far, none of the presidential candidates have been caught on video saying anything that damaging to their campaigns.
But everything IS being taped, it seems.
A search for "Romney" and "Abortion" on YouTube's turns up 91 videos, including footage from his debate against Sen. Edward Kennedy in 1994, Romney outlining his views on abortion in 2002, a press conference on abortion from 2005, and commentsto the press about his stem cell veto.
Those are compared to more recent comments Romney has made while campaigning as president. Some of the videos are clearly attacks on Romney, created by supporters of his rivals. But others are merely straight clips of his comments, without any obvious commentary.
Romney is clearly not alone. The same search with "Giuliani" instead of Romney produces 99 videos. And "Abortion" and "Thompson" gets 38 videos. The lesson: very little inconsistency is going to go unnoticed this time around, especially when every statement can be viewed, side by side, by just about anyone.
--Michael D. Shear
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