Conservative columnist George Will recently slammed Mitt Romney as “a recidivist reviser of his principles,” who seems to “lack the courage of his absence of convictions.” The line continues to look more and more apt all the time.
Last night, Newt Gingrich showed some guts and said when it comes to undocumented immigrants who entered the country a quarter-century ago, he sees no need to “separate them from their families and expel them.” Romney and his team pounced, condemning Gingrich for supporting “amnesty.”
It led, however, to a rather remarkable exchange in the spin room, with Romney adviser and spokesperson Eric Fehrnstrom finding himself at a loss for words.
When Examiner reporter Philip Klein asked whether the former Massachusetts governor believed in deporting undocumented immigrants, Fehrnstrom repeated, “He doesn’t believe in granting them amnesty.”
Asked again what Romney would do with immigrants who are currently living in the Unites States illegally, Fehrnstrom once more evaded the question.
The evasion wasn’t exactly graceful. Klein asked what Romney would do with the undocumented immigrants who are already here, and Fehrnstrom replied, “He would not grant them amnesty.” Right, Klein said, but instead of amnesty, what would Romney do with these people? “He would not grant them amnesty,” Fehrnstrom answered. Got it, Klein said, but what, specifically, would Romney do? “I just told you, he’s not going to grant them amnesty,” the campaign spokesperson said. When Klein then explained that this isn’t actually an answer, Fehrnstrom, once again, said, “He would not grant them amnesty.”
Remember, Philip Klein writes for the Washington Examiner, which is a conservative outlet. It’s not like the Romney campaign was blowing off some liberal reporter; the leading Republican campaign couldn’t get past its own superficial talking point with a conservative reporter asking a basic question.
In this case, Romney wanted to take a shot at Gingrich over immigration, without pesky questions about what Romney believes about the same policy.
And this ties in perfectly with one of Romney’s more glaring character flaws: his cowardice on key issues.
Does Romney support the “Personhood” amendment in Mississippi? He doesn’t want to give an opinion.
Does Romney support an extension of the payroll tax break? He doesn’t want to give an opinion.
Does Romney support collective bargaining rights in Ohio? He doesn’t want to give an opinion.
Was Romney comfortable with GOP voters booing a U.S. soldier serving in Iraq during a Republican debate? He doesn’t want to give an opinion.
Does Romney support mass deportation of undocumented immigrants? He doesn’t want to give an opinion.
There’s going to come a point next year when the Obama campaign is likely to say, “Mitt Romney lacks the courage and the character to be a leader.” And the criticism will sting because it’s based in fact.
Either Romney has the guts to lead or he doesn’t.