Friday, November 24, 2006

Has the Eleventh Commandment Been Violated Already?

Has Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney violated the Eleventh Commandment promoted by Ronald Reagan: Thou shalt not speak ill of any Republican, just as the 2008 presidential campaign begins?

This past week Romney went after John McCain and Rudy Giuliani on the issue of gay marriage. The New York Sun reported on Wednesday:
With most potential presidential candidates still making final decisions about whether to pursue a White House bid, one prospect, Governor Romney of Massachusetts, is already slugging away at his rivals for the Republican nomination.

In an interview published yesterday, Mr. Romney alleged that two other prominent Republicans likely to enter the race, Mayor Giuliani and Senator McCain of Arizona, are not true conservatives.

"I'm a conservative Republican. There's no question about that," Mr. Romney told the Washington Examiner. "I'm at a different place than the other two."

Mr. Romney said his positions were more conservative than those of the other men on immigration, campaign finance restrictions, same-sex marriage, and interrogation of detainees, but the governor took particular aim at Mr. McCain for claiming to oppose legalized gay marriage while also opposing a federal constitutional amendment to outlaw the practice.

"In my opinion, it's disingenuous," Mr. Romney said. "Look, if somebody says they're in favor of gay marriage, I respect that view. If someone says, like I do, that I oppose same-sex marriage, I respect that view. But those who try and pretend to have it both ways, I find it to be disingenuous."
McCain opposes gay marriage, but respects the right of states to allow it. The regulation of marriage and domestic relationships has always been the prerogative of states under our Constitution. McCain appears to wish to uphold that conservative principle.

Romney, on the other hand, seems to accept the neo-conservative view, ascendant during the Bush years, that the federal government should be involved in such matters. That's a legitimate position, of course. But it doesn't make him more conservative than McCain.

Philosophical issues aside though, one of the lessons drawn from the midterm elections this year is that Americans want more civility in their politics. Does Romney's accusation of disingenuousness on John McCain's part flout that sentiment and does it bode ill for civility in the 2008 campaign? I hope not.

[For more on the shifting notions of what constitutes conservatism, see the "third angle of vision" here.]

[This is being cross-posted at]

[UPDATE: For what seems like a balanced and fair overview of Mitt Romney's one term as Massachusetts governor, see here.]

[THANKS TO: Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice for linking to this post. Mitt Romney's candidacy for President is the subject of several posts at his site.]

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