Political Animal


March 01, 2012 10:15 AM Can Mitt Romney Out-Mitt-Romney Mitt Romney?

By Jesse Singal

Slightly late to this, but still, all signs point to yes:

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney said Wednesday he opposed Senate Republicans’ effort that critics say would limit insurance coverage of birth control, then reversed himself quickly in a second interview saying he misunderstood the question.
Romney told Ohio News Network during an interview that he opposed a measure by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., that was scheduled for a vote Thursday. “I’m not for the bill,” Romney said before urging the interviewer to move on.
Romney later said he didn’t understand the question.
“Of course I support the Blunt amendment. I thought he was talking about some state law that prevented people from getting contraception so I was simply — misunderstood the question and of course I support the Blunt amendment,” Romney later told Howie Carr’s radio program in Boston, noting that Blunt is his campaign’s point man in the Senate.
Just hours earlier, ONN reporter Jim Heath asked Romney about rival Rick Santorum and the cultural debate happening in the campaign and the legislation proposed by Blunt and co-sponsored by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
“He’s brought contraception into this campaign. The issue of birth control — contraception, Blunt-Rubio — is being debated, I believe, later this week. It deals with banning or allowing employers to ban providing female contraception. Have you taken a position on it?” Heath said. “He (Santorum) said he was for that. We’ll talk about personhood in a second, but he’s for that. Have you taken a position?”
Romney replied: “I’m not for the bill, but look, the idea of presidential candidates getting into questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and a woman, husband and wife, I’m not going there.”


Sorry, blacked out there for a minute. I can barely follow this.

I guess Romney is claiming that when asked about a rather major issue that everyone has been talking about for a couple weeks, he thought the reporter was actually referring to a non-existent proposed state law banning contraception? I agree with Mitt Romney that contraception should be legal!

But Romney is all too easy to beat up on sometimes, so here’s an attempt at a very generous interpretation: Heath’s phrasing was slightly confusing, since he said that the bill in question “deals with banning or allowing employers to ban providing female contraception.” That isn’t fantastic English, and I guess it could be parsed as referring to some unspecified law banning contraception. Maybe. But Heath also referred to Blunt by name, and, again, debates over banning contraception haven’t been part of the campaign (though at this point, would it be all that shocking?), so I’m skeptical.

Still, I’d chalk this up more to sloppiness or exhaustion than to flip-flopping. The problem from Romney’s point of view is that this image of him is so ingrained (and rightfully so) that it is the prism through which everyone views almost everything he does.

It’s almost as though he is a candidate with rather glaring weaknesses. Almost.

Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.


  • Anonymous on March 01, 2012 10:23 AM:

    Sorry Jesse but BS. He was against it (because any sane thinking person is against it) until his handlers got to him and told him to support ANYTHING STUPID THING a Republican proposes.

    Grover Norquist: “We just need a president to sign this stuff. We don’t need someone to think it up or design it.”

    Tired, my ass.

  • Danp on March 01, 2012 10:27 AM:

    You're way to generous, Jesse. If Romney doesn't know what's in the Blunt bill, he's not prepared for this job. If he needs to BS around the fact that he doesn't know the details, he could give a clear statement of his position. To simply say he doesn't support the bill (I'm surprised he didn't add "as currently written") means he doesn't want to get in the middle of a losing argument. He's hoping to come up with a reason later on for not supporting it.

  • Diane Rodriguez on March 01, 2012 10:29 AM:

    Mr. Romney your pubic hair is on fire. "I'm sorry you said there's pubic hair on my tire? I'm out of handy wipes, could you brush that off."

  • stormskies on March 01, 2012 10:32 AM:

    I am sure David "I am not a used corporate condom" Gregory will fix it for him as he does everything else.

  • r_m on March 01, 2012 10:35 AM:

    Anyone notice -- "ONN reporter Jim Heath"

    Unless AP made a mistake, or I'm mistaken, ONN = Onion News Network.

  • Ron Byers on March 01, 2012 10:36 AM:

    You all realize the Blunt bill is simply a way to repeal the ACA by other means. It creates a loophole you could drive Pattons Army through.

    Romney doesn't know how to respond. Why should he, I am sure he is waiting for orders from Fox and Rush.

  • Josef K on March 01, 2012 10:38 AM:

    Romney later said he didn’t understand the question.

    Why do I suddenly have an image of Romney in front of a large red button and asking "What does this do?"

    I'd previously thought it impossible for anyone to surpass Dan Quayle in public expressions of genuine stupidity. Guess I was wrong.

  • r_m on March 01, 2012 10:38 AM:

    I stand corrected...Romney IS beyond satire!


  • MattF on March 01, 2012 10:40 AM:

    Repeat after me-- Mitt will say anything. No, really, anything. The notion that this is some sort of flip-flop is just a category error. We have here an emission of verbal noise intended to soothe the troubled wingers, and that's all.

  • Robert Waldmann on March 01, 2012 10:46 AM:

    Yes the Romneytron 2012 has out done even the Romneytron 2008. Your problem is that you just noticed that the external appearance is the same but, due to Moore's law and all that, the dual core 500 megaflop cpu has been upgraded to a no core gigaflip cpu.

    Also they are still some bugs in the Win12 (at all costs) operating system. If you think Vista was slow and Windows200 was unstable, wait till he tries to debate Obama.

  • biggerbox on March 01, 2012 10:57 AM:

    So then, if I understand correctly, his position as of this nano-second is that he's actually OK with a presidential candidate "getting into questions about contraception within a relationship between a man and a woman, husband and wife", as long as it's on the FEDERAL level, not the state level?

  • Rugosa on March 01, 2012 11:14 AM:

    Danp - that was my reaction this morning - if he's President, he has to make decisions about things like this. If he can't make a decision, he's not qualified. (But we knew that anyway.)

    biggerbox - as opposed to health care, which is OK at the state level but not at the federal level.

    That's our boy Mittens, Olympic gymnast quality flip-flopper.

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on March 01, 2012 11:28 AM:

    Robert Waldmann FTW

    Cracked me up

  • Robert Paehlke on March 01, 2012 11:29 AM:

    He must have been so tired that he was accidentally honest. He forgot that he was trying to get the Republican nomination for President and that requires either that he be insane or to pretend that he is.

  • TCinLA on March 01, 2012 2:22 PM:

    it's another example of Willard demonstrating my father's view that the way you understand Mormons is to remove the second "m". Huntsman was doing a good job of this, too.

  • IDTT on March 01, 2012 3:23 PM:

    It's a bigger flip than is being reported so far:


    In retrospect, maybe Mr. Stephanopoulos didn't ask such a silly question afterall.

  • Ken on March 01, 2012 4:10 PM:

    I agree with MattF, and would also note that the main determinant of what comes out of his mouth is what he thinks his current audience wants to hear. The flip-flops are when you compare what he says to two different groups; the incoherencies and evasions are when he's speaking to a mixed group and can't decide what will make everyone happy.