Who was that sweating man in the presidential debate last night? It certainly wasn't Mitt Romney, at least not the Mitt Romney we've come to know over the last eighteen months or so. No, this was a much milder version, a candidate who thinks we "can't kill our way out of this." That'll be a big surprise to the neocons with whom he surrounds himself and who he trusts as foreign policy advisers and who would likely serve in a Romney administration. Secretary of State John Bolton, anybody?
Last night Romney shook that Etch-A-Sketch for all it was worth. No longer is he panting to get into another war in the Middle East. Belligerence toward China is all but gone. It's right that we should get out of Afghanistan by 2014. And, of course, President Romney would have taken out Osama bin Laden! What president wouldn't? He essentially reversed every foreign policy position he has taken in his entire campaign. He hopes that the stupid voters, especially the stupid women voters that he scared with his war-like earlier positions, will accept this new moderate Mitt, no questions asked, and forget about the old tea party Mitt. In this effort he will no doubt be aided by the lazy mainstream media that never questions anything.
I was particularly struck by something he said about the new Islamic governments in the Middle East. He wants to help them achieve democracy. Most notably, he wants to help them achieve "gender equality" in their societies. Yes, women workers and voters of America - he believes in gender equality in the Middle East, just not in the United States.
But what exactly does Mitt Romney believe? The truth is, we don't have a clue. Personally, I don't think he believes anything except that he is entitled to become president of this country and that anything that he has to say or do to achieve that goal is perfectly acceptable. In her column today, Joan Walsh refers to him as the "man without a soul," an apt description.
We don't know what he believes because he changes his message to be whatever he thinks his audience on that particular day wants to hear. And so he's been on all sides of the auto bailout, the economic stimulus, the Affordable Care Act, contraception, a woman's right to have an abortion if she believes that is the right choice for her, raising taxes on the super-rich, just to name a few issues.
Furthermore, speaking of taxes, we'll never know whether Romney paid any over the last ten years, because he is so ashamed of those tax returns that he will not reveal them. He knows if he released them, his candidacy would be completely doomed. (My personal belief is that he paid no taxes and that, in fact, he probably received refunds in some years because of all the deductions and write-offs that he took.)
A couple of days ago, I wrote about George McGovern, a man of honor and integrity who always stood up for what he believed in, even when it wasn't the popular stance or wasn't what his audience wanted to hear. McGovern had the courage of his convictions. Willard Mitt Romney - not so much.