Romney addresses his Achilles’ heel

Last week, in one of the more amusing political claims of the year, Mitt Romney boasted, “I stand by my positions. I’m proud of them.” Given Romney’s record of abandoning every policy position he’s ever taken, it was hard not to marvel at his shamelessness.

But NBC’s First Read reports from New Hampshire, where Romney took a different line on one of his biggest vulnerabilities.

In the town hall of 250 people … Romney addressed perceptions and concerns that he is “a flip flopper.”

“In the private sector,” he said, “if you don’t change your view when the facts change, well you’ll get fired for being stubborn and stupid. Winston Churchill said, ‘When the facts change I change too, Madam. What do you do?'”

That’s different from what he said a week ago, when he said he doesn’t change positions.

The American people “can tell when people are being phony and are pandering to an audience,” he said, “and you’ll see that in politics. You’re not going to see that in my campaign.”

Wait a second. Mitt Romney is flip-flopping on flip-flopping? How very meta of him.

That said, does Romney — at least this new version of Romney — have a point? Doesn’t it make sense that someone would change their views when the facts change?

In general, this is persuasive. There’s nothing inherently offensive about a political figure changing his or her mind once in a while. Policy makers come to one conclusion, they gain more information, and then they reach a different conclusion. That’s a good thing — it reflects a politician with an open mind and a healthy intellectual curiosity. Better to have a leader who changes his or her mind based on new information than one who stubbornly sticks to outmoded policy positions, regardless of facts or circumstances.

But this only works when there are sincere changes of heart. It’s something else entirely when pandering politicians reinvent themselves, sometimes more than once, as part of a cynical, calculated ploy. This isn’t indicative of an open mind; it’s evidence of a character flaw.

Romney would have voters believe that he’s simply adapted to changing facts. The circumstances make this impossible to believe — his radical transformations, purely by happenstance, just happen to coincide with political expediency to further Romney’s ambitions? The parallels between his metamorphoses and the shifting political winds are an accident?

Please. The list of Romney flip-flops is just too long, and covers too much ground, to be a remarkable coincidence. There’s nothing remotely sincere about his repeated reinventions. The guy has demonstrated a willingness to flip-flop like no other American politician in a generation.

Indeed, can anyone name a single issue of any significance in which Romney has been consistent? Anything at all? I don’t mean generic platitudes — he’s “pro-freedom” or wants “a strong military” — I mean actual public policies. The fact that this question is challenging for the former governor’s campaign speaks volumes.

I’m perfectly comfortable with a politician pondering doubts and questioning whether he or she is right about an issue. But when a politician changes his views so fundamentally that he’s adopted several different worldviews in a fairly brief time span, is it really unreasonable to question the man’s integrity?

Update: Aimai notes that Romney didn’t even get the “when the facts change” quote right.