A friend sends this tough editorial from the Boston Globe denouncing Mitt Romney’s stance on the lower Manhattan mosque.
[Romney] has been far quieter on the issue than other potential GOP presidential candidates, leading some people to hope that he might break with the pack. But his spokesman finally came forward to say the former governor opposes the mosque on the grounds that it could be used as a recruitment tool for radicals (thereby pandering to all the falsehoods about the mosque being somehow related to 9/11) and that its presence offends some relatives of 9/11 victims. But there are plenty of relatives of 9/11 victims, among them some Muslims, who support the mosque. In any case, it’s a terrible precedent to curb freedom of religion on the grounds that other people are uncomfortable. The mere presence of Romney’s great-grandparents offended non-Mormon settlers in Utah, whose prejudices eventually drove the Romneys to seek a freer environment to practice their religion in Mexico.
Now wait a minute! Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich have enflamed the mosque into an all-out culture war. Other potential GOP presidential candidates from Tim Pawlenty to Mike Huckabee have had tough things to say about the mosque. Romney held silent, then finally joined the GOP consensus in the most elongated manner possible. Romney may not have been a profile in courage on this issue. But it’s hard to see why he deserves the special scorn of his hometown paper.
This editorial in fact sums up the Romney problem in a nutshell. By any conventional measure, here is an outstandingly qualified GOP presidential candidate. He’s proved his executive skills, he has thought long and intelligently about public policy and he articulates those views forcefully and well.
Yet when he makes the kinds of compromises that politicians sometimes have to make, he attracts unique odium. Romney has had many fewer abrupt changes of mind than, say, Newt Gingrich, who (you may recall) used to be an environmentalist, among other things. Yet Newt escapes the flip-flopper charge, because whatever view he is expressing at the moment, he expresses ferociously. There’s an old Hollywood saying, “The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” Romney’s problem is that he cannot fake sincerity. When he panders, people always suspect he knows better – and they blame him for it.