Now this is a thorough piece of journalism by William Saletan on Slate. It is a very detailed account of Romney’s standpoint on abortion throughout his political career. Abortion is the ultimate issue in the so-called “culture wars”, which, although some claim we live in a post-”culture war” era, still play a big role in American politics (for example shown in Andrew Sullivan’s coverpiece in last week’s Newsweek). Rick Santorum’s clear position on this issue has already won him a couple of Southern primaries and Romney’s ambivalent position can possibly do him (or is already doing) a lot of harm among social conservatives.
The main point of the article is summarized here:
When you see the story in its full context, three things become clear. First, this was no flip-flop. Romney is a man with many facets, groping his way through a series of fluid positions on an array of difficult issues. His journey isn’t complete. It never will be. Second, for Romney, abortion was never really a policy question. He didn’t want to change the law. What he wanted to change was his identity. And third, the malleability at Romney’s core is as much about his past as about his future. Again and again, he has struggled to make sense not just of what he should do, but of who he has been. The problem with Romney isn’t that he keeps changing his mind. The problem is that he keeps changing his story.
But I strongly recommend to read it in its entirety. It is not only gives a clear history of Romney’s position on abortion, but also shines light on his character. As the author puts it:
Romney believes in telling the truth and keeping his promises. But sometimes he wishes the truth or his promise had happened in a different way. He wishes he could change it. And in his mind, he does change it. He reinterprets his statements, positions, and pledges. He edits his motives and reasons. He compresses intervals. He inflates moments. He tightens the narrative. He rewrites his lines. Yet he always finds a thread of truth on which to hang his revised history. He’s a master of the technicality.
He’s also a gifted salesman. He learns your language and puts you at ease. He gives you the version of his record, position, or motive that will please you most. When he comes down on your side, it’s intentional. When he doesn’t, it’s inadvertent. He focuses not on communicating his beliefs but on formulating, framing, or withholding them for political effect. He tells moving stories of personal experience to show you his sincerity. Then, if necessary, he erases those stories from his playbook and his memory.
Here’s the accompanying video: