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The Mitt of Gibraltar gets a little snippy

Mitt Romney sat down for a long interview with Fox’s Brett Baier, which aired yesterday on Fox’s “Special Report.” It’s embedded below and I recommend watching the whole 16 minutes. Romney has been avoiding this kind of long-form, Sunday-morning-show-type interview for several months and this one is generally getting panned by the politically-obsessed media.

Much of the commentary so far has been about Romney’s tone. Blogging for the New York Times, Ashley Parker used the word “snippy.” The candidate seemed annoyed by the questions, many of which attempted to give Romney an opportunity to tackle one of his biggest vulnerabilities — the perception (and it’s more than a perception) that he has changed his position on many key issues over the years and in every case changed it so that it aligns with the current politically-acceptable stance of the Republican base.

If Romney has been looking for a way to make that problem go away, he needs to keep looking. When Baier rattled off a list of issues on which Romney has allegedly flip-flopped, Romney simply told him that his list was wrong, but didn’t bother to sort out the items on the list on which his views have changed over the years and on which he claims to be the Mitt of Gibraltar.

He came across as evasive and peevish. He criticized, rejected and avoided the questions themselves and repeatedly suggested that those who want to understand his views should read his book, “No Apology,” where he claims to have laid out his views in full. Of course, even if we did that, Romney has to understand that a book, written as he prepared to launch his second presidential candidacy, is rightfully viewed as a very long campaign press release. And — sorry sir — this is unfortunately the age of Twitter and he will have to accept more cheerfully the task of persuading persuadable voters who aren’t going to read the book no matter how many times he recommends it.

Romney did acknowledge that on the abortion issue he made a fundamental change in his position. But that was the only change he acknowledged.

Baier tried to go deep with Romney on the recent flare-up between him and his current chief rival, Newt Gingrich, over the issue of what to do with illegal immigrants who have been in the U.S. for many years, have family members who are citizens and have generally behaved well since their original illegal border crossing. Romney accused Gingrich of the crime of advocating “amnesty” for such aliens.

Romney apparently has virtually the same position, but he won’t cop to it. He says these criminals should not be allowed to go to the “front of the line” to apply for citizenship, ahead of those who have obeyed the law and applied for permission before crossing the border. On the other hand, under Baier’s probing, Romney said he didn’t mind if superannuated illegals stay in the country while waiting to get from the back to the front of the line. At that point, I see no major difference between Romney’s and Gingrich’s positions, other than that, according to Romney, it is “amnesty” when Gingrich advocates it and not “amnesty” when Romney advocates it.

Romney is a very smart guy. He’ll figure out a way to do this better before he agrees to another long-form interview. For now, he won’t even take questions from the reporters who follow him around.

What he needs to do, in my humble opinion, is seriously address the question of “core convictions” vs. flip flops, and on each of the major issues square his current positions with his past statements and actions and, where there has been a change, explain it as best he can.

One problem — and this is the really tough one — is that in pretty much every case on which his position or at least his rhetoric has changed, it has changed from a leftier or more moderate position to a position that suits the political needs of the moment.

Even the politically-obsessed among us have mostly seen Romney over the past few months in the context of the 60-second-answer, 30-second-rebuttal formats of the various televised debates — formats in which he has generally done very well.

A 16-minute one-on-one interview by a solid, civil inquisitor to be aired on a Repub-friendly network could have been an opportunity to at least start the task of publicly reconciling the old Mitt with the new Mitt. But he missed it. Here’s the video of the interview:

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Comments (4)

  1. Submitted by James Hamilton on 11/30/2011 - 02:15 pm.

    Mr. Romney’s claim that his changes in position stem from careful reflection would play better if each change didn’t poll better with his targeted audience.

  2. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 11/30/2011 - 03:01 pm.

    I strongly suspect that neither “Mitt” (whose nickname really ought to be changed to “Flip”),…

    nor Newt, whose lizard name says all you need to know about what part of his brain is in charge,

    has a ghost of a chance of beating Obama, especially with the Republicans in Congress creating such a strong drag on any and every candidate locally or nationally with the misfortune of having an “R” next to their name in the fall of 2012.

    But I suspect that’s exactly what the Republicans are desperately hoping for (probably at a subconscious level).

    At some deep internal level, they can’t help but know that if they gained control of Congress and the Presidency, and enacted the demands of their most dysfonic followers (which they would have NO choice but to do) they would destroy the country and themselves.

    So even though it may be subconscious, they’re clearly trying, wishing, hoping, and desperately trying to lose.

    After that, they can go on ranting and raving until the end of time that their ideas would have solved every problem in the universe if they’d only been allowed to carry them out.

  3. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 11/30/2011 - 04:00 pm.

    Actually a newt is an amphibian (seems appropriate) not a lizard (reptile).
    Otherwise, I agree with your points.

  4. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 11/30/2011 - 04:36 pm.

    In truth, I don’t mind if a candidate has changed her/his mind on an issue, especially if that’s happened over some period of time, and for reasons that the candidate can articulate. Changing one’s mind in the face of new circumstances or evidence is one of the key indicators of intelligence on the part of humans, and someone who hasn’t changed her/his mind about a single serious issue over the course of a lifetime is someone who’s basically brain-dead.

    The glitch, of course, arrives when the candidate changes her/his mind on a particular issue – or a series of issues – relatively quickly, and then seems unable, or unwilling, or perhaps both, to articulate the reasons for the change(s). That’s the way Romney is coming across, whether that’s his intent or not, and down that road lies political oblivion. Mr. Romney is on his second presidential bid as it is. I don’t believe there’s any rule that entitles anyone to multiple tries for the office, though there have been several who’ve gone ahead and made the attempt. They’re generally historical footnotes, and I’d guess that’s not a category Mr. Romney wants to be in.

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