The weakest flip-flop defense yet

Mitt Romney and his campaign team have experimented with different responses to questions about his incessant flip-flopping. At different times, they’ve argued that the reversals don’t really exist, and if they were real, they wouldn’t much matter anyway.

Today, we see a new one: Team Romney is rolling out the I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I defense.

Romney’s team lists several examples of Obama’s contradictions. The president promised to fix the economy, and he didn’t. He promised to close Guantanamo Bay, and he didn’t. He promised a White House based on transparency, devoid of the influence of special interests. The unfolding Solyndra scandal, to them, proves that’s not the case.

I know I’m supposed to think Romney and his advisers are the serious ones, worthy of some modicum of respect, but this silliness is really no better than the kind of nonsense we’d get from Michele Bachmann.

For one thing, the economy is improving, but if it weren’t, it’d be a policy failure, not a flip-flop.

For another, President Obama still wants to close Gitmo, and would were it not for Congress. The president’s position hasn’t changed at all, and for Romney to think of this as a “contradiction” suggests the Republican campaign has forgotten what the word means. Want to call it an unfulfilled campaign promise? No problem. But a flip-flop? No.

Finally, there is no Solyndra “scandal,” and this White House at least as transparent, if not more so, than any American history.

But the overarching problem is that Romney thinks he can draw some parallel between his own flip-flops and Obama’s. That’s not only wrong, it’s a ridiculous strategy — if the race comes down to which candidate is more consistent in his positions, the president should win re-election with 538 electoral votes.

Ben Smith makes an effort to point out issues on which the president has changed his mind, and to be sure, there are some legitimate examples. In fact, Smith missed a big one: Obama used to be against the public option individual mandate, before switching.

But in each instance, we see Obama making minor moves between the left and the center-left. The president never completely reinvented his entire political worldview; his shifts were subtle and nuanced.

Is there anyone — outside of Romney’s payroll and/or immediate family — who thinks Obama is in Romney’s league? Of course not. The Republican frontrunner 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.

Conservative columnist George Will recently slammed Romney as “a recidivist reviser of his principles,” who seems to “lack the courage of his absence of convictions.” As the campaign progresses, we keep getting more examples of this. If Romney’s team seriously wants to compare this record to the president’s, I suspect Obama for America would be delighted.