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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 10/15/2007

The Mitt and Rudy Show, Part II

By Michael Dobbs

Pinocchio time! Two weeks ago, we posted an item that looked at the political reinvention of Mitt Romney. We focused on his shifting positions on abortion: from "a pro-choice" stance while he was running for senator, and later governor, of the blue state of Massachusetts to a "pro-life" platform now that he is attempting to win the Republican presidential nomination. The question was not whether he had flip-flopped, but whether he has been honest about the flip-flops.

Predictably, commenters were divided. Some felt that Romney deserved four Pinocchios, or even five, if such a category existed. Others said he had been "up-front" about his change of position. One commenter gave the Fact Checker "four jellyfish" for declining to issue an snap judgment on Romney, while assigning three Pinocchios to for its broadside against General Petraeus.

The reason why we hesitated on the Romney/abortion question is that it is difficult to divine people's inner motivations or their core convictions. Given Romney's religious beliefs, it is quite conceivable that he was anti-abortion all along, but felt he had to soften his conservative views in order to appeal to Massachusetts voters. It is also possible that he rethought his views on abortion and stem cell research as he studied the matter more closely.

All that said, Romney's convictions correlate closely to the electoral calendar. Even before the big shift from "pro-choice" to "pro-life," his positions on abortion varied subtly over the years, depending on whether it was primary season or general election season and the state he happened to be in at the time (Utah or Massachusetts).

We concede that Romney has been reasonably "up front" about the big flip-flop. We think he is making a virtue out of necessity here, as the scale of the change in position makes it difficult to deny. On the other hand, he has failed to provide a convincing explanation for his numerous twists and turns along the way. We therefore award him three Pinocchios.


Photo of Rudy Giuliani

Last week, we addressed Rudy Giuliani's curious habit of taking cell phone calls from his wife in the middle of political speeches. The question at issue was whether these calls were "spontaneous"--as the Giuliani campaign maintains--or a public relations "stunt" designed to show that the candidate is a regular guy. For a cartoonist's take on the controversy, click here.

Most commenters thought the calls were staged. Many termed them rude, to boot, showing little consideration for the audience. One commenter felt that one of the NRA members present should have used his gun to shoot the cell phone out of Rudy's hand.

Again, it is difficult to establish inner motivation. Some readers thought we should investigate further by examining Rudy's cell phone records or questioning his wife. (Somehow we doubt that the Giuliani campaign will make either available.)

In the absence of the phone records or a heart-to-heart with Judy Nathan, we have to make an intelligent guess based on the evidence available. We think the answer is probably a bit of both. Giuliani is a spontaneous fellow--it is one of his more attractive features--but he is also a calculating politician who draws on spontaneity as a device to separate himself from the other candidates. In this case, he took the cell phone gag a few rings too far. We award him two Pinocchios.

By Michael Dobbs  | October 15, 2007; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  2 Pinocchios, 3 Pinocchios, Candidate Record, Candidate Watch, Social Issues  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: An Inconvenient Truth for Al Gore
Next: An Inconvenient Truth, Part II


Rudys cell calls are staged. There is a dated video on Youtube where this stunt was also done in the past.

Posted by: CR | October 15, 2007 9:30 AM | Report abuse

I don't see any facts in your commentary but merely attacks on the republican candidate. After all Hilary changed here position on the war.

Posted by: Bryant Ford | October 15, 2007 9:43 AM | Report abuse

I think you need to specifically address the points raised in your Al Gore post. Is quoting a legal opinion proper fact checking of scientific arguments. Why didn't you talk to some scientific experts? If I find websites stating the world is flat, does that prove that there is some actual argument in whether the world is round or not?

You last post was very weak and it made you look like an anti-Gore hack. When you don't defend yourself with a proper explanation, it makes it look like your critics are right - you're a weak writer and the Post is still out to get Gore.

Posted by: You Can Do Better | October 15, 2007 11:45 AM | Report abuse

You should read Paul Krugman today:

"which brings us to the biggest reason the right hates Mr. Gore: in his case the smear campaign has failed. He's taken everything they could throw at him, and emerged more respected, and more credible, than ever. And it drives them crazy. "

Yep - you're previous point only makes you look like a sour grapes right wing hack. "Al Gore won the nobel prize," you must of told yourself, "but look, he exaggerated in his movie! Polar bears drown because of storms not melting ice! I'll get him now!"

And yet, it was you who looks pathetic.

Posted by: Bob Dobvino | October 15, 2007 11:56 AM | Report abuse

This is the worst thing in the Washington Post. There are no facts in the entire article to check.

These are attacks against all candidates, not just republicans. This is unbelievably useless.

Posted by: George | October 15, 2007 3:01 PM | Report abuse

Fact checker: You are never going to make these crazies (read above entries) happy. Their minds are made up - they only need to sift through the articles and pick which things agree with their pre-conceived notions, and cling to those.

I would like to see what facts the various candidates' health care plans are based upon. Is it true, for instance, that the one thing driving costs up above all else is medical malpractice premiums? A discussion of this whether here or somewhere else in the paper would be helpful.

As for Gore, whatever your personal beliefs, there are MANY in my community who dismiss him and anything he has to say about global warming just based on what they see as his hypocritical lifestyle. So no matter what others say or think,you were right to bring it up for discussion.

Posted by: good heavens | October 15, 2007 4:03 PM | Report abuse

I suspect that Rudy took the call from his wife at an NRA convention because he wanted to stick his tongue out at the NRA and the pro-gun lobby.

What better way to diminish the importance of the NRA than to effectively say "I'd rather talk to my wife about personal matters than attend to the concerns of your wrong-headed organization."

Posted by: kolp999 | October 15, 2007 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Here's a fact to check: Rudy's just plain nuts. Why don't you report on that, it's so obvious a screw's loose.

Posted by: Jim J | October 15, 2007 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: | October 15, 2007 5:52 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Dobbs, I'm no fan of either the smarmy, chameleon-like Romney or the clever but amoral Giuliani. But there are literally no objective facts here to check. Only opinions. Likewise, the British judge's assertions that Gore was being "too alarmist" or "political" were also not "facts", but impressions of his. That's before we get into the bald journalistic fraud of cutting and pasting the rulings of a judge as a stand-in for abritrating a scientific matter - a move that had just about every scientist in the DC area spitting up their coffee onto your article yesterday.

The term "fact checker" has apparently gone the way of "terrorism" in recent years. The term is used for things that fit the definition as loosely as a rapper's baggy pants. The words have been effectively rendered obsolete through misuse.

It's too bad, because the concept was and still is badly needed.

Posted by: Mark | October 15, 2007 6:00 PM | Report abuse

I don't understand how anyone can doubt whether Romney's changes have been sincere. And he definitely HAS given a VERY convincing explanation about his change.

Posted by: | October 15, 2007 8:39 PM | Report abuse

"I don't understand how anyone can doubt whether Romney's changes have been sincere."

Oh sure, in fact most politicians go through a violent moodswing from trying to out-liberal Ted Kennedy to nuzzling up to the Taliban wing of the GOP in just five years. Why should a little thing like that give a voter pause about his credibility?

Posted by: Mark | October 15, 2007 8:57 PM | Report abuse

Washington (AP) - President and First Lady Romney are taking the customary presidential two-week late summer break to escape the Wasington heat. However, they announced that instead of retiring to Camp David or their Massachusetts home, they will be sojourning to the planet Kolob, in order to be closer to the Heavenly Father. Romney says it will be a "working vacation" as he plans to put the finishing touches on an ambitious proposal committing NASA to setting up a colony in God's home star system by 2020.

"America is a country of faith, and I have faith that if we put our minds to it we can accomplish great things", the president told reporters as he and Ann climbed aboard their gleaming white rocket ship garnished with golden angels on the South lawn. The president, facing repeated good-natured jabs from reporters to divulge whether he wore "boxers or briefs", just flashed his winning smile and stepped onto the lauchpad ladder.

Posted by: B2O2 | October 15, 2007 9:36 PM | Report abuse

The reason why we hesitated on the Romney/abortion question is that it is difficult to divine people's inner motivations or their core convictions.

Is something wrong with this sentence? I know Romney is Mormon, but are his inner motivations divine?

Posted by: Gabe | October 16, 2007 2:14 PM | Report abuse

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