Romney is not necessarily a flip-flopper in the direct sense of the word. The changes in his stance are rather predictable, and Dean Obeidallah is right on the money.
“This is a man without a core, a man without substance, a man that will say anything to become president of the United States.”
Rudy Giuliani uttered these harsh words when describing Mitt Romney eight months ago. But then, four months later, Giuliani endorsed Romney.
Is Giuliani correct? Is Romney truly a man “without a core”? The simple answer: No. Romney has a distinct core — not that of a politician, but of a CEO.
What do I mean? We have become accustomed in these highly partisan times to politicians who adhere rigidly to their ideological positions. They don’t change their views to attract supporters. Rather, they want voters to agree with the positions they advocate.
In contrast, a CEO is not shackled by ideology. A CEO’s success is measured by the bottom line, not by how many principles he or she sticks to.
To the CEO, if a product is not selling, you don’t stick with it until the product destroys your business. Instead, you tweak it. You rebrand it. You try a new slogan or new packaging. And if people are still not buying it, like New Coke, you drop it. You regroup, come up with a new product and then start selling again.
Romney is first and foremost a businessman. In fact, Romney has repeatedly made this very point to us with statements like: “I spent my life in the private sector, not in government. I only spent four years as a governor. I didn’t inhale. I’m a business guy.”
I’m not defending Romney’s acrobatic flips on issues. In fact, if Romney loses this election, he would make a great circus performer. I can see the ads: “The Amazing Romney — he can change positions in midair.” At times, I truly wonder if Mitt realizes we have Google and can look up his record on issues.
But Romney’s “evolution” on certain key issues does not technically constitute a “flip-flop,” which is defined by Dictionary.com as, “A sudden or unexpected reversal as of direction, belief, attitude or policy.”
Romney’s changing views are neither sudden nor unexpected. Rather, they are astutely calculated by Romney the businessman to appeal to the customers he’s targeting at that very moment. This is a man clearly driven by the adage: “The customer is always right.”
For example, this week Romney declared that the individual mandate imposed by Obamacare is a tax. Yet when Romney was the governor of Massachusetts, he implemented an identical individual mandate but consistently denied it was a tax.
Romney has simply modified his “product line” to attract the most customers based on the current marketplace conditions. Even “Mad Men’s” Don Draper would have to be in awe of Romney’s business acumen.
This strategy is even more apparent when you contrast Romney’s views from when he ran for office in Massachusetts with those he espoused when seeking the Republican presidential nomination. In Massachusetts, Romney fashioned a product that appealed to the left-leaning consumers who populate the state. But when seeking to sell his wares to the more conservative Republican primary market, he customized it accordingly.
For example, on abortion, Romney was unequivocally pro-choice in his run for the Senate in 1994 and for governor in 2002. In fact, during a 2002 gubernatorial debate, Romney stated, “I will preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose and am devoted and dedicated to honoring my word in that regard.”
But when Romney sought the Republican nomination, he tweaked his goods to appeal to these right-leaning buyers by saying, “I support the reversal of Roe v. Wade.”
On gun control, Romney admitted during his 1994 Senate race that his views were, “… not going to make me the hero of the NRA.” Indeed, as governor, Romney signed into law a ban on assault weapons, dubbing them “instruments of destruction with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people.”
Flash forward to 2012. During the Republican primaries, Romney again fine-tuned his merchandise to attract the more conservative gun owners. In April, he even addressed the NRA’s national convention, explaining, “We need a president who will enforce current laws, not create new ones that only serve to burden lawful gun owners.”
Romney not only revamped his product line, he also repackaged himself. During his 1994 Senate campaign, Romney told Massachusetts voters, “I’m not trying to return to Reagan-Bush.” But when running for the Republican presidential nomination, he shrewdly rebranded himself as a self-described “Reagan Republican.”
For many, a CEO-style president could be a good fit. Romney’s track record indicates he will likely be a pragmatic leader, not rigidly beholden to ideology.
But for others like myself, Romney’s CEO core and ever evolving product line lead to doubt about every word he says.
Editor’s note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the editor of the politics blog “The Dean’s Report” and co-director of the upcoming documentary, “The Muslims Are Coming!” Follow him on Twitter: @deanofcomedy