Today the Concord, New Hampshire, Monitor did something I don’t remember having seen before. In an editorial, rather than endorsing a candidate in the New Hampshire primary, the Monitor singled out one candidate, Mitt Romney, as the one who “surely must be stopped.”
The editorial is a mean-spirited attack on Romney, who must wonder what he has done to merit such unusual treatment. Actually, the Monitor’s editorial doesn’t clearly answer that question. The main thrust of its attack is that Romney is a flip-flopper. True enough, Romney has changed his mind on some issues. But that hardly makes him unique among this year’s candidates; as I argued here, Barack Obama has shifted his position on at least as many significant issues as Romney. But the Monitor isn’t labeling Obama the candidate who “must be stopped.”
Everyone knows that Romney has moved to the right on the social issues over the years; in that regard, he resembles many other Republicans, including Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. The Monitor is a notoriously liberal newspaper, so it is understandably unhappy with Romney’s current positions. Still, given that Romney’s views on the social issues are more or less the same as those of the other Republican contenders, with the exception of Rudy Giuliani, it isn’t clear why they should be the occasion for such a venomous attack.
The answer to the question comes, perhaps, near the editorial’s conclusion:
In the 2008 campaign for president, there are numerous issues on which Romney has no record, and so voters must take him at his word. On these issues, those words are often chilling. While other candidates of both parties speak of restoring America’s moral leadership in the world, Romney has said he’d like to “double” the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, where inmates have been held for years without formal charge or access to the courts. He dodges the issue of torture – unable to say, simply, that waterboarding is torture and America won’t do it.
There, I suspect, is the rub. Romney has refused to toe the liberal line on the war on terror. With respect to interrogations of terrorists, he is to the right of John McCain, his chief rival in new Hampshire. That looks like the real reason why the left-wing Monitor thinks Romney is the candidate who “must be stopped.”
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