The Mitt and Rudy Show, Part II
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 MoveOn.org 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.
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.
| October 15, 2007; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: 2 Pinocchios, 3 Pinocchios, Candidate Record, Candidate Watch, Social Issues
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