Mitt Romney: Best Performance by an Actor in a Political Role

As former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney declared his presidential candidacy Tuesday, he could not have been more telegenic. With his angular jaw and slicked-back, dark hair, Romney is the GOP’s George Clooney. Who needs the White House? Romney should become a movie star. He already is a highly skilled actor.

Romney is either a rock-ribbed conservative who played a Rockefeller Republican to get elected in Massachusetts, or a limousine liberal portraying a conservative to win the 2008 GOP nomination. This fine thespian has lost himself so thoroughly in both these roles that no one really knows where the performer ends and the characters begin.

Studying Romney’s lines only muddles things. His present and past statements on abortion, gays, guns, taxes, and Ronald Reagan each conflict diametrically.

Just listen to today’s Romney on abortion:

“I am pro-life,” Romney wrote in a July 2005 Boston Globe op-ed. “I believe that abortion is the wrong choice except in cases of incest, rape, and to save the life of the mother.”

He declared last year: “Roe v. Wade does not serve the country well and is another example of judges making the law instead of interpreting the Constitution.”

But yesteryear’s Romney could not have disagreed more.

“Let me make this very clear,” Romney said in October 2002. “I will preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose.”

“Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years,” he said in 1994. “We should sustain and support it.”

Today’s Romney may be America’s most outspoken voice against gay marriage.

“In order to protect the institution of marriage, we must prevent it from being redefined by judges like those here in Massachusetts,” Romney wrote last June, endorsing a federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. “From Day One, I have opposed the move for same-sex marriage,” Romney said in February 2005.

But yesteryear’s Romney aimed to please gay voters, perhaps even more than could his Democratic opponents.

As the Boston Globe reported in October 1994, Romney wrote the gay Log Cabin Republicans, “As we seek to establish full equality” for gays, “I will provide more effective leadership than my opponent,” Democrat Ted Kennedy, whose Senate seat he sought.

Romney also told Boston’s gay newspaper, Bay Windows: “The authorization of marriage on a same-sex basis falls under state jurisdiction.”

“I have a gun of my own,” today’s Romney said last month. “I’m a member of the [National Rifle Association] and believe firmly in the right to bear arms.”

Yesteryear’s Romney, however, was quite gun-shy.

“We do have tough gun laws in Massachusetts,” Romney said in 2002. “I support them. I won’t chip away at them.” In fact, Romney signed America’s first state-level assault-weapons ban.

Yesteryear’s Romney backed the federal assault-weapons ban and the Brady Bill. “That’s not going to make me the hero of the NRA,” Romney said in 1994. However, he added: “I don’t line up with the NRA.”

Today’s Romney signed Americans for Tax Reform’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge and said February 7 that it was “absolutely critical” to “make the tax cuts permanent,” referring to President Bush’s 2001 and 2003 tax reductions.

But yesteryear’s Romney smiled more on taxes.

In an April 2003 meeting with the Massachusetts congressional delegation in Washington, Romney failed to endorse President Bush’s $726 billion tax-cut proposal.

As Rep. Barney Frank (D.-Mass.) told the Boston Globe after the pow-wow: “Here you have a freshman governor refusing to endorse a tax cut presented by a Republican president at the height of his wartime popularity.” As for the anti-tax pledge, a Romney spokesman dismissed it as “government by gimmickry.”

Today’s Romney speaks glowingly of America’s 40th President.

“Ronald Reagan is…my hero,” Romney said in 2005, as the Boston Globe’s Scot Lehigh recalled January 19. “I believe that our party’s ascendancy began with Ronald Reagan’s brand of visionary and courageous leadership.”

But yesteryear’s Romney said in his 1994 debate with Kennedy: “I was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush. I’m not trying to return to Reagan-Bush.”

Romney should warm up to Reagan. After all, Ronald Reagan made it big by moving from acting into politics. Mitt Romney’s best bet for fame and fortune may be to make that same journey — in reverse.