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September 23, 2011 10:00 AM Missing a hanging curve

By Steve Benen

By any objective measure, Mitt Romney has flip-flopped more often, on more issues, than any American politician in a generation. It’s quite embarrassing — the guy reinvents himself periodically, shedding one version with one set of positions, and becoming an entirely new person with new positions. Mitt Romney is like a box of chocolates — you never know what you’re going to get.

So, when the subject of consistency came up in last night’s debate, it was a rare opportunity for Rick Perry to hammer Romney on one of his biggest vulnerabilities. But the Texas governor, who’s just genuinely awful in these debates, somehow managed to screw it up.

PERRY: I think Americans just don’t know sometimes which Mitt Romney they’re dealing with. Is it the Mitt Romney that was on the side of against the Second Amendment before he was for the Second Amendment? Was it — was before he was before the social programs, from the standpoint of he was for standing up for Roe v. Wade before he was against Roe v. Wade? He was for Race to the Top, he’s for Obamacare, and now he’s against it. I mean, we’ll wait until tomorrow and — and — and see which Mitt Romney we’re really talking to tonight.

WALLACE: Governor Romney?

ROMNEY: I’ll use the same term again: Nice try. Governor, I’m — I wrote a book two years ago, and I laid out in that book what my views are on a wide range of issues. I’m a conservative businessman. I haven’t spent my life in politics. I spent my life in business. I know how jobs come, how jobs go. My positions are laid out in that book. I stand by them. Governor Perry, you wrote a book six months ago. You’re already retreating from the positions that were in that book.

PERRY: Not an — not an — not an inch, sir.

ROMNEY: Yeah, well, in that book, it says that Social Security was forced upon the American people. It says that, by any measure, Social Security is a failure. Not to 75 million people. And you also said that - - that Social Security should be returned to the states. Now, those are the positions in your book. And simply, in my view, I stand by my positions. I’m proud of them.

Let me get this straight. The issue of flip-flops came up, and Perry let Romney get the better of him? Seriously? The most shamelessly inconsistent politician in recent memory simply ran circles around Perry on the subject of policy reversals?

Let me make this really easy for Perry. It’s a list that’s so obvious, even he should be able to memorize it: Romney is a former one-term governor who supported abortion rights, gay rights, gun control, immigration reform, and combating climate change, who distanced himself from Reagan, attended Planned Parenthood fundraisers, and helped create the blueprint for the Affordable Care Act. Romney was for the bank bailout before he was against it; he was against the auto industry rescue before he was for it; and he was for the stimulus before he was against it. Republican primary voters haven’t heard much about any of this, but it’s likely they’d find this history interesting.

Hearing Romney proclaim, “I stand by my positions,” may be the single most amusing thing said by a Republican this year.

How did Perry manage to flub this opportunity?

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

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  • c u n d gulag on September 23, 2011 10:12 AM:

    "Hearing Romney proclaim, I stand by my positions,...

    Rommey was honest about standing by his positions.

    He just didn't mention ALL of them.

    CATCHA - Russian letters?
    Really?
    I speak, read, and write Russian, but I'll be damned if I'm going to do that with you.

    This is America, CAPTCHA - CONFUSE US IN AMERICANISH!!!

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on September 23, 2011 10:14 AM:

    How did Perry manage to flub this opportunity?
    Oh off the top of my head, He's too fucking stupid to be in a national debate even with the likes of intellectual powerhouse Meagan Kelly lobbing softballs.

  • Bobsled on September 23, 2011 10:16 AM:

    How did Perry manage to flub this opportunity?

    Quite simply - Mr. Perry isn't all that bright. Must be something in the Texas water.

  • T2 on September 23, 2011 10:24 AM:

    how did he flub it? See the previous 3 AM post.

    I noticed that Bachmann seemed marginalized last night (not that that is unwarranted or bad). But she's obviously out of the hunt. But I'm starting to get a strange vibe about Sarah Palin and Rick Perry. I always thought they were kind of "in league". But now I'm not so sure. I'm sure she realizes that Perry is set to become the King of the TeaParty if he keeps going. I don't know if that's good with her or not. If she decides he's not a real TP guy (which he isn't) and starts making noise, he could have problems quickly. Figuring out what's in Sarah's mind is not easy, save for the fact she always looks out for Sarah first and foremost. She may not take well to being second-fiddled with.

  • gelfling545 on September 23, 2011 10:30 AM:

    If it didn't involve him being an actual nominee, I would love to see Perry try to debate the President I feel sure he would be throwing things & stomping his feet by the half way point at the most, possibly drooling & gibbering by the end.

  • DAY on September 23, 2011 10:30 AM:

    I don't watch these "debates". I also don't watch high school football or signing contests on the TeeVee.

  • DAY on September 23, 2011 10:32 AM:

    singing contests, SINGing contests. . .

  • Daryl McCullough on September 23, 2011 10:38 AM:

    I always lose signing contests. I can't make an "X" for the life of me.

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on September 23, 2011 10:38 AM:

    CATCHA - Russian letters?
    Really?
    I speak, read, and write Russian, but I'll be damned if I'm going to do that with you.

    Have you discovered that you can type pretty much anything for the "real" word of the pair?

  • Mark-NC on September 23, 2011 10:39 AM:

    Fortunately for Romney, The Repugnant Ones only care that he is nasty TODAY. What he said, did, or stood for yesterday is never a problem for the "Right?".

  • biggerbox on September 23, 2011 10:39 AM:

    "There's an old saying in Tennessee, I know it's in Texas, it's probably in Tennessee that says 'Fool me once ... shame on...shame on you...fool me, you can't get fooled again.'"

    Let's just say that the Texas GOP does not select for high intelligence.

  • Daryl McCullough on September 23, 2011 10:40 AM:

    I'm just trying out Equal Opportunity Cynic's claim about CAPTCHA. Don't pay any attention to me.

  • Peter G on September 23, 2011 10:48 AM:

    One of the reasons that Mitt always looks so spiffy is that he regularly moults. His convictions and opinions, being only skin deep, go with it.

  • Michael on September 23, 2011 10:54 AM:

    "By any objective measure, Mitt Romney has flip-flopped more often, on more issues, than any American politician in a generation."

    Even more than "Jukebox" John McCain? I mean, I know Mittens is no slouch when it comes to flip-flopping, but...Or maybe you're just doing it like baseball and only counting stats from the pre-convention regular primaries season and not the post-season after the nominee is selected? It's all very complicated with numbers this large...

  • FriscoSF on September 23, 2011 11:00 AM:

    One of Romney's FIRST flip flops is his first name
    It'r really WILLARD

    I don't know why he changed it to Mitt
    Why didn't he change it to Thor or Eric or Jesus ??

    Mitt ???

  • RT on September 23, 2011 11:03 AM:

    What with the short memories of American voters today, this might be the best time ever to be a flip-flopper.

  • John on September 23, 2011 11:03 AM:

    I guess this arises out of the fact that Romney is much, much smarter than Perry, and in particular that he is much smarter in ways that lend themselves to kicking ass in a debate.

  • FRP on September 23, 2011 11:14 AM:

    I saw or heard (.5 asleep ?) a line of dialogue that may be amusingly apt . Alas any other details are unknown , only recalling the so called "Romney" principle .
    However , the courage of Brave Sir Robin to one side the speakers in this exchange have my vote for a revealing snapshot of human complexity , or in rock ribbed Tee Pee semaphore , laughable principles .
    "They have set themselves up as easy targets for being killed at ease"
    "Yes ! Like shooting fish in a barrel !"
    "What if the the killing was for us ?"
    "Why I would take refuge in that barrel with the wise fish"

    I recall the amiable volte faced voice with fondness for the well balanced reasonableness of the ease of that one defining arch moment being so reasonably , honestly , then hilariously forgotten without the least hitch , qualm , or delay . Romney has missed many working concerns that manage to provide a product without his tender husbandry , and he has missed his muse which is pinpoint accuracy of mirroring the* fool .

    * May be substituted with "a" . No kidding .

  • N.Wells on September 23, 2011 11:18 AM:

    Romney "stands by" his positions because that provides a good viewpoint for watching them whiz by in both directions. If he stood on them, he'd get whiplash.

  • Okie on September 23, 2011 11:21 AM:

    "These are my principles. And if you don't like them - well, I have others."

    - Groucho Marx

  • T2 on September 23, 2011 11:38 AM:

    the reviews are coming in and it appears that Perry is a big loser, and that's based on CONSERVATIVE pundits opinions.... Some pretty harsh words from a lot of them. Is Rick on his way back to Austin soon? Thing is, he is exactly what he appears to be. He is not, repeat not, going to rehearse, brush-up, get better, get smarter, become articulate or any of those type things. He has nice hair, but other than that, he is an empty vessel.
    I think the GOP Big Wigs have just realized they might have a problem. Enter Sarah Palin?

  • Bob M on September 23, 2011 11:50 AM:

    I think Steve wants Perry to run given the advice he is giving him. I agree he would be a more fun(ny) candidate.

  • Texas Aggie on September 23, 2011 11:58 AM:

    How did Perry manage to flub this opportunity?

    You may have missed it, but Goodhair has never, ever in his life shown any trace of being able to think. His mind does NOT run on normal pathways of cause and effect, action/reaction, etc. His mind is a set of talking points and bumper stickers that are picked out of storage by association with something, sort of like these psychological tests where you're supposed to give a word in response to another word. The main reason he's gotten as far as he has is his physical looks and his manager, who happens to be one of the best in the business.

    When it comes to the nuts and bolts of actually governing, he makes a total hash of it. The court told him to fix the school budget problem years ago without raising property taxes because that was against the state constitution. They were already at legal maximums. Finally he got around to taxing businesses but at a rate that his treasurer told him was totally inadequate. And in fact, he's $5 billion short each year.

    Then he wanted to privatize registering people for Medicaid, fired the public workers who were doing it, and the private company promptly told applicants to fax their paperwork to an abandoned warehouse in Seattle. They are no longer in business and the state lost millions of dollars cleaning up the mess.

    He privatized the electrical generation industry and utility prices are now more than three times what they were in constant dollars, and the different companies have been going out of business like flies in a trap.

    And everyone knows what a mess he's made of the employment situation here. He's actually proud of leading the nation in minimum wage jobs.

  • tamiasmin on September 23, 2011 1:30 PM:

    Who needs smarts when you've got swagger?

  • John in TX on September 23, 2011 1:39 PM:

    Shorter Texas Aggie (who is absolutely correct): Perry is a sleazy, low-down cheap crook, a con man, a hypocrite and a thug. The man has no business being anywhere near the Oval Office; a Perry presidency would make Shrub's seedy, disastrous and corrupt reign seem like a masterclass in ethical and effective government. Those lizard-brain barbarians cheering on the death penalty and letting uninsured people die and booing at serving soldiers? That's Perry's base. Those are the people he speaks directly to. I hope the rest of the American people quickly wake up to that fact.

  • Zorro on September 23, 2011 4:02 PM:

    How did Perry manage to flub this opportunity?

    Because he's dumber than a box of rocks with a childproof cap. In shrinkwrap.

    Makes him the perfect GOP Presidential candidate,
    -Z

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