By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

But what about 2002?

Scott Helman of the Boston Globe weighs in today with a curious — or perhaps I should say incurious — profile of Peter Flaherty, who is described as Mitt Romney’s “go-to guy for conservatives.”

Romney, of course, has engendered considerable skepticism on the right with his shift from moderate to conservative on social issues, especially abortion and gay rights. Flaherty’s job is to tell conservatives that Romney’s conversion is sincere and not a matter of mere political expediency.

Flaherty’s key talking point: “Obviously I’ve got to believe he’s for real, or I wouldn’t be wasting my time.”

Trouble is, the only evidence Helman cites that Romney used to be a moderate dates back to 1994, and to that illuminating YouTube video of Romney trying to out-liberal Ted Kennedy during their Faneuil Hall debate for the U.S. Senate. There’s no question that Romney has moved well to the right since then.

But there’s also no question that Romney has moved well to the right since 2002, when he ran for governor as a moderate — and, significantly, when Flaherty went to work for him, according to Helman’s story.

Take, for instance, this AP story from October 2002 in which Romney’s then-running mate, Kerry Healey, defended her boss as being every bit as pro-choice as his Democratic rival: “There isn’t a dime of difference between Mitt Romney’s position on choice and Shannon O’Brien.” Romney himself said that he “will preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose … I will not change any provisions in Massachusetts’ pro-choice laws.”

Or consider that in 2002 Romney opposed a constitutional amendment that would ban same-sex marriage. Or that, also in 2002, his campaign distributed pink-colored fliers at Gay Pride that read, “
Mitt and Kerry wish you a great Pride weekend! All citizens deserve equal rights, regardless of their sexual preference.”

Which brings us back to Flaherty, who defends Romney’s conservative credentials on the grounds that he wouldn’t waste his time working for someone who did not genuinely hold such views. The obvious question is why Flaherty was so willing to waste his time in 2002.

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  1. Don

    So, is Mitt a Mormon or a politician? You are what you believe. What does he believe?

  2. Peter Porcupine

    Dan – doesn’t this strike you as a little ‘inside baseball’?Flyers saying people have equal rights? That’s pre-Goodridge, and you know it. It’s the same red herring as the Log Cabin Letter – trying to hand a rep. around Mitt’s neck which theorizes in advance of events.Mitt Romney will be a great President, albeit not a member of the Psychic Friends Network.

  3. Dan Kennedy

    Peter: You are correct that Romney never supported same-sex marriage, and that inn 1994 — or even 2002 — it was possible to be considered pro-gay-rights without getting into the marriage issue. So I would agree with that.However, can we agree that Romney won’t be sending out pink fliers to gay Republicans as he campaigns for president? He is now setting a very different tone. It’s not just among liberals — his enemies on the right have noticed it as well.

  4. Neil

    And even here in the future, it’s still possible of course to make the case that you can be for gay rights and against same-sex marriage. That rights-wise, the two are not mutually exclusive though they’ve been presented that way. Similar to, the way to give Zoidberg the decapod the same rights as a human isn’t to pass a law declaring him human.Point being it’s easily arguable. Mainstream is anti-same-sex marriage and not objecting to civil union. I think Romney’s said something like “I think the best env for kids is a father and a mother.” which, big deal, he’s entitled to think that, and conservatives will like it. Doesn’t contradict support for civil union.So I don’t see a lot of compelling difference in Romney’s change. Has his stance on abortion changed in some dramatic way? Is that the only other issue? Pretty typical for pols to rail on bravely about how bad it is, then do nothing about it once elected. Abortion is the classic pander–say whatever the audience wants to hear and leave the real fight to the true believers. If it’s only a difference in tone then, eh, I don’t know, I’d agree with inside baseball.

  5. Peter Porcupine

    Dan – I would argue that the meaning of pro-gay rights has been irretrevably changed, and it now means ONLY marriage, which is a shame.In 1994, Romney spoke about housing and fair credit issues, and said he was against gays being discriminated in those areas. Gays in the military is gone from the radar. Instead, all the energy of the movement is channelled into this bizarre rush to respectability, at a time when heterosexual marriage becomes increasingly uncommon, except on a serial basis.I would say that Mitt is STILL pro gay rights – traditional LEGAL rights – and against gay marriage. The movement, with this Which Side Are You On, Boy? mentality has turned that into an oxymoron – which at the end of the day is bad for gay people.

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