Written by bob Siegel and originally published by The Washington Times Communities, 5-12-11. Used by permission
SAN DIEGO, May 12, 2011 —During a much anticipated speech today in Ann Arbor, Michigan, potential presidential candidate Mitt Romney talked frankly about the state wide Massachusetts health care plan, which came into being under his watch as governor, and bears an uncanny resemblance to Obama Care. Romney, of course, argues that there are notable differences. Still, many were wondering if he might make himself more electable by admitting his health care has proven itself a big turkey in the home of America’s first Thanksgiving. Those who nurtured such hopes were disappointed.
Said Romney, “A lot of pundits around the nation are saying that I should just stand up and say this whole thing was a mistake, that it was a boneheaded idea and I should just admit it, it was a mistake, and walk away from it…And I presume that a lot of folks would conclude that if I did that, that would be good for me politically. But there’s only one problem with that: It wouldn’t be honest. I, in fact, did what I believed was right for the people of my state.” (Political Intelligence, May 12, 2011)
Romney did attempt to qualify his remarks by promising that, as president, he would support more power to the states for health care decisions, allow tax breaks for people who purchase their own health care, and push the right to purchase health insurance across state lines. These are all repudiations of Obama Care and obvious bones thrown to conservatives who are unhappy with his Massachusetts track record.
How Romney was able to deliver this speech with a straight face and how he hopes to use his anti résumé to win any Republican nomination, aside from the alternative Republican reality of D.C. comic’s Bizarro World, may be a mystery long pondered by historians. True, John McCain got the nomination in 2008 despite his support for “comprehensive immigration reform,” but McCain at least expressed a shade of remorse.
The truth is, people tend to respect politicians when they admit mistakes, although admitting one can also look suspicious, such as when (ironically) this same man, Mitt Romney, changed his position on abortion before running for president in 2008, claiming that the decision had actually taken place a few years earlier during our nation’s stem cell research discussion. He made his new declaration in 2005, causing many to wonder if his conversion was a result of 2008 ambition. In any event, Romney’s new found view of abortion was quite a departure from those emphatic words shared with Senator Ten Kennedy in a 1994 debate:
“One of the great things about our nation… is that we’re each entitled to have strong personal beliefs, and we encourage other people to do the same. But as a nation, we recognize the right of all people to believe, as they want and not to impose our beliefs on other people. I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country. I have since the time that my mom took that position when she ran in 1970 as a US Senate candidate. I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years, that we should sustain and support it, and I sustain and support that law, and the right of a woman to make that choice, and my personal beliefs, like the personal beliefs of other people, should not be brought into a political campaign.” (Harvard University sponsored senatorial debate, 1994)
To be fair, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush also switched from pro-choice to pro-life positions amidst their political careers, just as Dick Gephardt and Al Gore “saw the light” from another direction.
Such observations can be frustrating. At the expense of making a whale of an understatement, whether they admit their mistakes or own up to their mistakes, the motives of politicians tend to look suspicious. True, clear confession of an error after gaining office may sound a little more sincere, but even then, such “soul searching” is often an explanation for why some campaign promise needs to be broken or postponed.
Where does this leave us poor voters? Should we throw up our hands in despair? Should we just give up and stop voting altogether? Actually some simpler, but no less cynical wisdom may be in order: Come to grips with the fact that we are electing people, not gods. Even if a candidate changes his position merely to get votes, the only relevant question is whether or not he will deliver.
If for example, the pro-life community is seeking a champion for their cause, Mitt Romney’s motive for reaching out his hands doesn’t really matter at the end of the day. No, there may not be a guarantee that he’ll come through, but the chance is zero if a pro-choice candidate wins instead. Likewise, Romney’s current view of health care is more important than a policy of the past.
There is also an unavoidable question of how much one man can accomplish, even with pure intentions. Sincerity and ability can be equally limited. When Dorothy and her friends discovered that Oz’s great and powerful wizard was really “the man behind the curtain,” Dorothy rebuked him out of her pain. Not only did Professor Marvel show himself to be void of powers, he had also lied out of fear.
“Oh, you’re a very bad man,” Dorothy said.
“Oh no, my dear, “ he replied. “I’m a very good man. I’m just a very poor wizard.”
Bob Siegel is a weekend radio talk show host on KCBQ and columnist. Details of his show can be found at www.bobsiegel.net. Comments to posts are discussed by Bob over the air where anyone is free to call in and respond/debate. Call in toll free number: 1-888-344-1170.