Romney’s cravenness

As House Republicans fought amongst themselves over Speaker Boehner’s budget bill last week, Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney was asked for his opinion. He took a pass. Romney wasn’t sure which way the prevailing winds were blowing in his party, so he simply didn’t know what he was supposed to say.

It reinforced the perception that Romney isn’t just a weak frontrunner, but on a more personal level, is also a weak candidate.

The former governor, hoping to dispel this perception, announced his opposition to the new debt-ceiling agreement reached by GOP leaders and the White House. While remaining silent made Romney look cowardly, ironically, this new position makes him look slightly worse.

As Romney sees it, he “personally cannot support” the deal, in part because it “opens the door” to the possibility of higher taxes on someone at some time. Suggesting he’s struggling badly to keep up on the basics of current events, Romney added that President Obama has “pushed the economy to the brink,” which doesn’t make any sense.

The GOP candidate no doubt hopes that by taking a position, he’ll look less weak than he did last week. The problem is, Romney still looks like a coward — this time he’s only saying what he thinks the rabid Republican base wants to hear.

After all, how much more generous could this deal be to his party?

Joe Klein noted that Romney is demonstrating, again, why “he lacks the character for higher office.” Ruth Marcus goes even further.

I didn’t begrudge Mitt Romney’s weeks of silence on the debt ceiling, although I understood Democrats’ efforts to prod the Republican front-runner out of hiding. As a political matter, Romney had nothing to gain from engaging in the nitty gritty of deal-making. He could stand above the fray while everyone else squabbled and horse-traded and looked smaller by comparison.

But Romney’s just-announced opposition to the deal is truly deplorable…. If this man is willing to act so cavalierly in pursuit of the presidency, what would he do in office?

It’s a rhetorical question, of course, but here’s hoping voters take it seriously. Romney is giving the impression that he would say, do, and think anything to win. He has no core values or character — just tell him who to be in order to win, and Romney will adopt the persona of your choice.

Such cravenness is generally not the quality one looks for in a presidential candidate.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.