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Posted at 05:45 PM ET, 10/28/2011

Mitt Romney flops on climate change


“I can come in again!” (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File) (Cliff Owen - AP)

I don’t know what causes Mitt Romney’s position changes. I think it’s probably man-made.

In the course of geologic time, people do adopt contradictory positions. We grow. We change. We unlearn what we have learned.

But this change seems more rapid than would occur in the natural course of time.

Maybe Mitt Romney’s position on climate change has not changed at all. Maybe this is an illusion created by scientists, and Mitt Romney in the Warm Middle Period actually said exactly the same thing that he’s saying right now,

But to the untrained eye, he went from saying, in June, that “I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that,” to telling the Consol Energy center in Pittsburg, PA, that “My view is that we don't know what's causing climate change on this planet.”

To some, that’s hardly a change. Romney’s views on climate change never separated him too far from the pack, and simply omitting that he believes humans may have contributed to it? Hardly a departure. But if he continues not saying it, he’ll sound no different than the rest of the pack at all.

Besides — he argues — he’s never changed position on what should be done about it! Inputs may vary, but outputs remain consistent! “Surely that counts for something!”

Well, no. “I don’t think this bus will crash,” someone says, “but we should put on our safety belts.” “This bus will definitely crash,” the same person says, later, “so we should put on our safety belts.” Sure, in practice, there’s no difference, but please, put me on the first bus.

And this is the week when evidence for climate change emerged from the mouth of a former skeptic! Really, the timing couldn’t be worse. The facts were aligning on your side! Some would argue that they always were.

It’s moments like this on climate change— admittedly small moments, in the scheme of things — when even the staunch, stolid 20-something percent who say, “Fine. We’ll take Romney. Hold the mayo” have to pause and wonder.

The reason anyone liked Mitt Romney was because he liked feeling that Romney would be the guy who was going to show up to things. There was a lot to like. He was educated. He said coherent things. He had experience tackling challenges like health care. He even had a few stances that differed from his party, and we looked forward to hearing him defend them in a coherent and educated manner.

Instead, he’s been falling all over himself to explain away all the things we liked. “Great,” he says. “Okay. What should I believe so that you don’t call me that?”This approach somewhat misses the point, but it seems to be the one he’s decided to take.

Romney’s changes have been so unsubtle that even unsophisticated instruments have picked them up. Remember Perry’s bungled charge at that debate? “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.”

Rick Perry’s problem so far has been an utter, total, complete unwillingness to apologize for anything. Romney has the opposite problem. All he ever does is apologize. “Please, stop,” everyone says. It’s the kind of desperate complaisance that only excites contempt. I’m astounded he hasn’t already showed up at a debate cross-gartered.

We know what he used to believe. We know now what he says his positions are. That’s why we hang on his every word and nitpick all his omissions. He’s in there somewhere, we hope. Unless all his convictions have melted away into the vague overarching belief that he’d like voters to like him. Anything is possible in this climate.

Next he will announce he doesn’t believe in — I don’t remember what his other memorably un­or­tho­dox position is, but if he has one left, it’ll be gone within the month.

Mitt Romney has remained consistent on one position: he would like Mitt Romney to be elected president of the United States. On everything else, who knows. It’s a man-made problem.

By  |  05:45 PM ET, 10/28/2011

Tags:  Mitt Romney, GOP 2012

 
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