It has been said, or at least implied, that Mitt Romney doesn't have any core values.
For example, in a column in The New York Times on June 27, 2012 entitled "Election 2012 Pop Quiz!" Nicholas Kristof illustrated six major policy issues on which the GOP's Presidential candidate has at different times taken diametrically opposed positions (1). He has said that he would "preserve and protect a woman's right to choose" and has also said (more recently) that he would fight to overturn Roe v. Wade. (Mr. Kristof did not point out that last year Romney supported the Mississippi "Personhood Amendment" that would have defined a fertilized [human, presumably] egg as a person.) He has said that he is for "full equality for America's gay and lesbian citizens" and has also said (more recently) that marriage has traditionally been between one man and one woman. (The latter is a particularly interesting position to take for a Mormon who had one grandfather who had 5 wives, one of whom, presumably, was one of Romney's two[?] grandmothers.)
At different times, Romney has been for and against "government economic stimulus." On the issue of global warming/climate change due to human causation at different times he has taken both sides, the scientifically correct one and the extractive-industries-generated mythological one. On the necessity for some form of national health insurance, again at different times he has been both for and against it. He has been both for and against financial bailouts for certain kinds of financial and manufacturing institutions. Finally, to quote directly from Kristof, "Before entering politics, he [Romney] was a registered independent, and on 2002 he declared, "People recognize that I am not a partisan Republican, that I'm someone who is moderate, and that my views are progressive.' " So does all of this mean that Romney has no core values, that he just goes along with what he thinks are the politically convenient/correct positions to take at any one time in his political career? Well, I don't think so, and here's why.
First of all, there are people who take views at any given point in time that would seem to most persons to be internally contradictory who themselves do not see them as such. (Such people are frequently found on the politically right-end of the spectrum. For example, consider the "libertarian" Ron Paul who is unalterably opposed to freedom of choice in the outcome of pregnancy .) Second, there are people like Romney whose views on major issues change over time (as above). Now one might say that he does this for political reasons. However, there is no evidence that this is the case with Romney. He is never defensive about his volte faces, even if they are of the 180 degree variety. He never admits to any internal contradictions on them. In a word, he does not embarrass.
The likely explanation for this characteristic (and now I must admit that I am wandering into the arena of my good friend, the psychiatrist Justin "Justy' Frank, author of Bush on the Couch and Obama on the Couch) is that Romney is in the first group above. He simply doesn't recognize that there are any internal contradictions in what he has done on policy matters over time. (Romney's condition is not what is called "cognitive dissonance." It causes mental discomfort. If Romney is discomfited by his contradictory views, he shows no evidence of being so.) Romney, if one were able to get close enough to him to have a heart-to-heart discussion of the matter (something that would appear from his public persona to be highly unlikely) would probably see the changes as "evolutionary," not revolutionary. He would probably see them as indications that he has an open mind and is able to change it over time, as circumstances and his understanding of those circumstances change. So. Core values on policy issues? Well, no.
And so, does this mean that Romney has no core values at all? Au contraire, mon amis. He has them, and they are the ones that one should really be frightened of. They are just not concerned with the policy issues that are on the table (or should be) in this Presidential campaign. A first core value is his understanding of capitalism. For Romney the number one task of capitalism is making a profit, and there is no number two. If doing so in business happens to create jobs, either in the United States or overseas, that is a side benefit. If doing so happens to cost jobs, well that's just too bad for the persons who lost theirs in the process, just as long as the capitalist made a profit in the process. And so, Romney has done us all a favor. He has illustrated, openly and plainly, what capitalism is about at its core (as Karl Marx pointed out so many years ago): making profits for the capitalists. Anything else is a side-benefit (or debit).
A second core value for Romney, stemming from the first, is that if the traditional profit-makers for American capitalism, like his father's auto industry, are drying up or are showing smaller profit-margins for investors, then capitalism should move into other arenas in which it has not been traditionally involved. Like investing in organizing the bankruptcies of other businesses, or replacing public education with a private version, or taking a significant chunk of operating funds out of the health care delivery system to support profit-making by the private insurance industry (which is what both "Romneycare" and its off-spring "Obamacare" are designed to do), or trading pieces of financial paper that are so complex that even in the financial industry few people have a full understanding of their nature.
A third core value for Romney, as he said without equivocation in a famous moment during the GOP primaries, is that "corporations are people" (to which he added "my friend," even though most corporations are not very friendly). That position has many meanings and implications for the structure and function of the U.S. economy beyond "Citizens United." Fourth, his "kind of people" are the people who should rule, both for their own benefit and for the benefit of everyone. And they are, by nature of their positions, entitled to a wide variety of benefits to which the rest of us are not. Yes indeed, these folks do believe in certain "entitlements." They are just not the sorts of things most people using the word mean.
A "Romneytitlement" would be, for example, the ability to avoid paying taxes, legally, if one's accountants can figure how to do that within the strictures of a tax code that is designed to protect the wealthy and indeed make them wealthier. Furthermore, since he is entitled to these benefits, the rest of us have no right to invade his privacy and see, for example through an examination of his tax returns, just how he and his accountants took advantage of the entitlements to which he in his mind is entitled. Mitt's wife Ann Romney put their position well in responding to questions about why Mitt will not be releasing any past tax returns (3): ". . . [w]e've given all you people need to know and understand about our financial situation and about how we live our life [emphasis added]."
Fifth and perhaps most importantly, comes Mormonism. I have covered that one in some detail elsewhere (4, 5). Suffice it to say here that Romney, following Mormon doctrine and tradition, believes that the U.S Constitution is divinely inspired, that there is no separation between church and state, that he will have eternal life after death, and that he talks with God.
So yes, former Gov. Mitt Romney does have core values, and they should make the rest of us very uncomfortable, given that he might well be the next President of the United States.
1. Kristof, N., The New York Times, "Election 2012 Pop Quiz!," June 27, 2012.
3. Huffington Post, July 19, 2012, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/19/ann- romney_n_1685735.html?ref=election-2012-blog&icid=maing-grid10%7Chtmlws-main-bb%7Cdl1%7Csec1_lnk3%26pLid%3D181555
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