WHY ROMNEY SEEMS LIKE A FLIP-FLOPPER EVEN WHEN HE DOESN'T REALLY FLIP-FLOP
Yesterday there was a headline at ABC that read in part, "Romney Consistent in Support of Gay Adoption." Today the headlines are a bit different. Think Progress: "Mitt Romney's Support Of Same-Sex Adoption Lasts One Day." National Journal: "Romney Backs Away from Gay Adoptions."
But I'm not sure Romney's really changed his position. Here's part of that National Journal story:
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Friday backed away from his support of adoptions by gay couples, saying that he simply "acknowledges" the legality of such adoptions in many states.
A day earlier, Romney, in an interview with Fox News host Neil Cavuto, had indicated that while he does not support same-sex marriage, he considers the adoption of children by gay couples a "right."
He said on Thursday: "And if two people of the same gender want to live together, want to have a loving relationship, or even to adopt a child -- in my state, individuals of the same sex were able to adopt children. In my view, that's something that people have a right to do. But to call that 'marriage' is something that, in my view, is a departure from the real meaning of that word."
On Friday,he was asked, in an interview with CBS affiliate WBTV in Charlotte, N.C., how his opposition to gay marriage "squared" with his support for gay adoptions. Romney told anchor Paul Cameron, "Well, actually I think all states but one allow gay adoption, so that's a position which has been decided by most of the state legislatures, including the one in my state some time ago. So I simply acknowledge the fact that gay adoption is legal in all states but one."
Romney's problem is that, as he attempts to finesse the process of kowtowing to the far right while trying to appeal to the center, he can't seem to talk about issues like this in a way that even falsely persuades us that he's speaking out of core convictions. Not only does he seem to have no real belief system, he can't even fake one effectively.
And so two statements that are essentially synonymous -- one in which he says that gay people have a "right" to adopt, another in which he declares (rather inaccurately) that gay people have a legal right to adopt without using the word "right" -- sound contradictory. They sound contradictory because we have no sense of what he thinks. In the first statement, he doesn't distance himself from the word "right" -- he doesn't say, in effect, Look, it's out of my hands because this right has been granted already, which might tell us he's not thrilled -- so we think he's cool with that "right."
It's the same thing with another part of what he said on Thursday:
In his most detailed comments to date on the issue of civil rights for gay people, Romney told Fox News host Neil Cavuto, "I know many gay couples that are able to adopt children. That's fine. But my preference is that we ... continue to define marriage as the relationship between a man and a woman."
When he says, "That's fine," who can blame people for thinking he thinks it's, y'know, fine? But clearly it isn't fine to him -- or it isn't fine today, at least.
If you go back through the history of Romney's words and deeds on gay adoptions, you get the feeling that gay adoption is not "fine" with him, but he's accepted it, more or less. But he's been all over the map in how he's tried to position himself on gay issues in his political career, so he's addressed the issues in so many ways that he can't get himself to talk about them in words that even seem genuine.
By contrast, in the period when Barack Obama was opposed to gay marriage, he communicated a sense of fellow-feeling toward gay people; that was genuine, and it seemed genuine, even if the marriage opposition seemed cynical and calculated. Somewhere inside the politician was a human.
We're still looking for a human in Romney. And we're still not finding one.
(X-posted at Booman Tribune.)