‘Steadiness and constancy’

Were it not for Rick Perry’s and Herman Cain’s bizarre remarks last night, I’d like to think Mitt Romney’s explanation on flip-flopping would be a bigger deal this morning.

To his credit, John Harwood, one of the debate’s co-moderators, pressed the Republican frontrunner on “seeming to be on all sides” of some issues, adding, “Your opponents have said you switched positions on many issues.” Harwood ultimately asked, “What can you say to Republicans to persuade them that the things you say in the campaign are rooted in something deeper than the fact that you are running for office?”

Romney replied:

“I think people understand that I’m a man of steadiness and constancy. I don’t think you are going to find somebody who has more of those attributes than I do. I have been married to the same woman for 25 — excuse me, I will get in trouble, for 42 years.

“I have been in the same church my entire life. I worked at one company, Bain, for 25 years. And I left that to go off and help save the Olympic Games. I think it is outrageous the Obama campaign continues to push this idea…. Let me tell you this, if I’m president of the United States, I will be true to my family, to my faith, and to our country, and I will never apologize for the United States of America.”

I realize Romney looks like a terrific debater in light of his GOP competition, but this response offers a reminder about just how empty Romney’s suit really is.

The former governor seems to want credit for consistency for not having changed his religion or his wife. Granted, that’s a two-prong test that Newt Gingrich fails, but it hardly makes Romney “a man of steadiness and constancy.” Indeed, what does Romney’s faith and wife have to do with his willingness to shift with the political winds on every issue under the sun?

And just throwing in his lack of apologies for America reinforces the fact that Romney is just as shallow a sound-bite-reciting robot as he seems.

The Republican audience seemed pleased with Romney’s response, but there’s a limit to how long this line can work. The man has, after all, taken both sides of the question on whether it’s all right to take both sides of questions. His reputation as a shameless, craven politician who’s flip-flopped like no other American politician in a generation is well deserved.

If Romney seriously believes he’s “a man of steadiness and constancy,” he’s (a) lying to himself; (b) lacking any sense of self-awareness; or (c) doesn’t know what the words steadiness and constancy mean.

Update: One more thing. The notion that “the Obama campaign” is responsible for “pushing this idea” is pretty silly. Half the candidates on the stage, especially Jon Huntsman, has been slamming Romney for his flip-flops. For that matter, four years ago, John McCain and other GOP candidates were doing the same thing. If Romney thinks Obama’s team suddenly discovered his near-constant reversals on just about every important policy dispute, he’s giving the president’s campaign far too much credit.