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Flipping Through DNC Playbook on Romney

The DNC goes too far in a lengthy Web video that casts Romney as a flip-flopper.


The Democratic National Committee casts Mitt Romney as an untrustworthy flip-flopper in a lengthy Web video, but pads a long list of examples with some falsehoods and distortions. It’s true that Romney has changed or modified his position on some major issues — including abortion, a federal assault weapons ban and Reaganomics, as the DNC says. But the video strains the truth to build a case against Romney by including some dubious claims:

  • The DNC says Romney flip-flopped on the Wall Street bailout — when, in fact, he has consistently supported its original intent but opposed Obama’s decision to extend TARP and use its funds for other programs, including the auto bailout.
  • The DNC also claims Romney changed his position on the auto bailout. The fact is Romney consistently called for a “managed bankruptcy” similar to what was later undertaken, but he opposed the use of federal funds by both Bush and Obama.
  • The video casts Romney as a one-time supporter of Obama’s stimulus. In fact, Romney favored a smaller stimulus and opposed the “excessive borrowing” of Obama’s plan as the “wrong course.”
  • The DNC video also portrays Romney as supporting the Obama health care plan. Not true. He has consistently defended his Massachusetts law as right for his state, but opposed imposing it on other states by federal law.
  • Similarly, the DNC claims Romney supported Obama’s education program, Race to the Top. But, again, Romney supported some of the program’s goals, but he said those kinds of issues ought to be handled at the state level, not federal.

We also found the DNC video wrongly accuses Romney of reversing his positions on the minimum wage, stem-cell research, don’t ask don’t tell, and whether he hired illegal immigrants.

On other issues the DNC is on target, however. While running for president four years ago, Romney managed to be both for the federal assault weapons ban and against reviving it after it expired. He also acknowledged changing sides on abortion. As he said in 2007: “[M]y position was effectively pro-choice. And that position changed.” He also changed positions on tax pledges, dismissing them as “government by gimmickry” in 2002 and then boasting in 2007 that he was the only major Republican presidential candidate to sign one.

And how does he really feel about Ronald Reagan? While running for U.S. Senate in 1994, he said he did not want to “return to Reagan-Bush.” Then, while running for the GOP presidential nomination in 2007, Romney admitted he “wasn’t always a Ronald Reagan conservative,” but “my life experience convinced me that Ronald Reagan was right.”

For more details on these and other issues — including, but not limited to, climate change, minimum wage and stem cell research — please read our Analysis.


The DNC laid bare its opposition research on Republican Mitt Romney in a four-minute Web video posted Nov. 27 that accuses the former Massachusetts governor of flip-flopping on 15 policy issues. The DNC also produced a 30-second version for television that invites viewers to watch the longer video of “the story of two men trapped in one body: Mitt versus Mitt.”

The Democrats have put little money behind the TV ad, but the Web video has received a lot of media buzz and for good reason. It has long been expected that Romney, a leading contender for the GOP nomination, would be a top Democratic target. With this video, the Democrats revealed their line of attack against Romney. They will go after Romney’s character — raising doubts in voters’ minds about his trustworthiness by playing up his reputation for changing his mind on policy issues. But how much of Romney’s reputation is earned and how much of it is myth? We looked at all 15 issues raised in the lengthy Web video to find out. We found four flip-flops, one flip-flop-flip, one half-flip — and nine times when the DNC wrongly accused Romney of flip-flopping.

No Flip: TARP

The DNC falsely claims Romney flip-flopped on the Troubled Asset Relief Program — when, in fact, he consistently supported its original intent but opposed the president’s decision to extend TARP and use its funds for other programs. The DNC twists Romney’s words by using a video clip out of context. Its Web video shows Romney saying, “TARP ought to be ended.” But he was speaking in opposition to using TARP money for new programs, saying: “And, by the way, TARP has served its purpose. TARP ought to be ended.”

In October 2008, then-President George W. Bush signed the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, which created TARP. The new program was designed “to enable the Department of the Treasury to purchase or insure troubled assets as a way to promote stability in financial markets,” as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office explained in one of its many reports on the program.

In its Web video, the DNC first shows a clip of Romney voicing support for TARP during a Jan. 28, 2010, interview with Fox News’ Neil Cavuto. The DNC ad shows the word “yes” on screen as they speak.

Romney, Jan. 28, 2010: TARP got paid back and it kept the financial system from collapsing.

Neil Cavuto: So you feel that it was well worth it?

Romney: Well, it was the right thing to do.

Rather ominously, the words “YOU KNOW WHAT’S COMING” appear on the screen. The DNC then shows a clip — twice — of Romney saying, “TARP ought to be ended.” The word “no” appears on the screen to underscore the claim that Romney changed positions.

But he did not flip-flop. Romney opposed the administration’s plan to extend and expand the program.

In calling for an end to TARP, Romney was responding to reports circulating at the time that Obama would extend the program beyond the Dec. 31, 2009, expiration date and would seek to use leftover TARP money for new job-creation programs. Romney was asked by CNN’s John King about reports of the administration’s new proposals to stimulate the economy, including redirecting TARP funds to help small banks. Romney responded, in part, by saying: “And, by the way, TARP has served its purpose. TARP ought to be ended.”

Romney’s CNN interview took place Dec. 6, 2009 — more than a year after the legislation became law and shortly before it was scheduled to end. By that time, the grave threat to the nation’s banking system had been averted. The discussion shifted to whether TARP should be extended and the money used for other purposes. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota introduced a bill in November 2009 that would have blocked the extension and expansion of TARP.

On Dec. 9, 2009 — three days after Romney’s CNN interview — the administration formally announced it would extend TARP until Oct. 3, 2010, as allowed by law. In doing so, the president echoed Romney’s comment to King, saying that TARP “has served its original purpose.” But the president went on to say that he now wanted to use TARP funds “to invest in job creation on Main Street rather than on Wall Street.” In a Dec. 9 letter to Congress detailing the administration’s “exit strategy” for TARP, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner called for using TARP funds in 2010 to help small businesses, community banks and homeowners. The National Federation of Independent Businesses, a trade group representing small businesses, was among those opposed to the new plans, urging Congress to end the program and use the remaining funds to reduce the debt.

In short, Romney didn’t change his position on TARP; it was the president who changed TARP.

Romney’s record of supporting TARP is clear, both before and after the legislation became law. Two days before it became law on Oct. 3, 2008, Romney was campaigning for a Senate candidate in Idaho and said: “The administration and Congress, Republican and Democrat, are working hard to fashion a stabilization fund that will protect the American economy, and I support that effort.” Shortly after it became law, Romney went before a group hostile to TARP and reiterated his support for it. On Feb. 27, 2009, Romney told the Conservative Political Action Conference, “I know we didn’t all agree on TARP. I believe that it was necessary to prevent a cascade of bank collapses.” The American Conservative Union — which hosts the annual conference — opposed the bill, calling it the “nationalization of an industry.”

Romney, however, has been critical of the Obama administration’s handling of TARP money — a point that he made in his book “No Apology” and more recently in an interview this month with Fox News’ Sean Hannity. Romney wrote in his book that TARP “did in fact keep our economy from total meltdown,” but he criticized the Obama administration for going beyond the original intent of the program. “Secretary [Henry] Paulson’s TARP prevented a systematic collapse of the national financial system; Secretary [Timothy] Geithner’s TARP became an opaque, heavy-handed, expensive slush fund. It should be shut down.”

The DNC could be critical of Romney for failing to support programs designed to help small businesses, community banks and homeowners. But it cannot say that Romney flip-flopped on TARP, when he has not wavered from his support of what Obama called the “original purpose” of program.

No Flip: Auto Bailout

Likewise, the DNC uses televisual sleight of hand to portray Romney — falsely — as flip-flopping on the auto bailout.

The fact is Romney has been consistent on the auto bailout issue. He opposed providing federal funds to automobile manufacturers and instead called for a “managed bankruptcy.” Obama pursued a managed bankruptcy using federal money and leaving the government owning a stake in two automakers. Romney’s spokesman sought to claim some credit in May for the auto industry’s turnaround — but only for the “managed bankruptcy” part of Obama’s plan, not the bailout. Nevertheless, some attacked Romney, saying he flip-flopped on the auto bailout — giving the DNC the fodder it needed for its Web video.

In its video, the DNC uses a clip of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews from May 25 saying that Romney flip-flopped on the auto bailout. The DNC spliced Matthews’ 2011 comments with two clips of Romney: a 2008 speech in Michigan (which allegedly shows Romney supporting a bailout) and a 2011 TV interview (which shows Romney opposed it).

Here is how the DNC used the three videos:

Matthews, May 25, 2011: Mitt Romney flip-flopped again. He is trying to take credit for saving the auto industry …

Romney, Jan. 14, 2008: I’m not willing to sit back and say, ‘Too bad for Michigan, too bad, too bad for the car industry’ …

Matthews: … after he proposed letting the auto industry die.

Romney, June 3, 2011: That’s exactly what I said … ‘Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.’

Now, there is a lot going on here — so let’s do this in chronological order. First, the Jan. 14, 2008, speech that Romney gave in Michigan is not proof that he supported a bailout. He didn’t discuss the bailout in that speech. However, that same day, Romney told the Detroit Economic Club that he opposed a bailout. “I am not open to a bail out, but I am open to a work out,” Romney said. “Washington should not be a benefactor, but it can and must be a partner.” He went on to discuss what he described as a need to cut burdensome industry regulations.

Later that same year, on Nov. 18, 2008, Romney wrote an op-ed in the New York Times that argued for a “managed bankruptcy,” not a bailout. He wrote, “Detroit needs a turnaround, not a check.” He ended the op-ed with these words: “In a managed bankruptcy, the federal government would propel newly competitive and viable automakers, rather than seal their fate with a bailout check.” The headline of the op-ed: “Let Detroit go bankrupt.”

Obama pushed for both a managed bankruptcy and substantial use of federal money. As President Bush did before he left office, Obama used TARP funds to provide help for Detroit automakers. However, Obama insisted that General Motors and Chrysler develop reorganization plans as a condition for receiving federal aid. The companies resisted filing for bankruptcy at first, but ultimately relented.

Now, jump forward to 2011 — specifically May 24, 2011. On that day, Chrysler repaid the government $5.1 billion and Obama released a statement calling it a “significant milestone” and taking credit for making “tough decisions.” Eric Fehrnstrom, a spokesman for Romney, sought to claim some credit for his boss, too, by saying that “Mitt Romney had the idea first.” His comments triggered a flurry of stories about Romney claiming credit for the auto bailout — including Chris Matthews’ comments that appear in the DNC video.

However, Fehrnstrom’s statement was either misunderstood or taken out of context by those who accused Romney of flip-flopping on the auto bailout. What exactly did Fehrnstrom mean when he said “Mitt Romney had the idea first”? Well, the New York Times wrote a story on Romney and Obama vying for credit for Detroit’s turnaround, and it’s pretty clear from Fehrnstrom’s full remarks that he was just talking about a managed bankruptcy, not a bailout.

New York Times, May 24, 2011: A Romney spokesman said on Tuesday that the president’s plan was modeled after one Mr. Romney advocated in 2008.

“Mitt Romney had the idea first,” said Eric Fehrnstrom, a Romney spokesman, citing the Times opinion article. “You have to acknowledge that. He was advocating for a course of action that eventually the Obama administration adopted.”

But Mr. Fehrnstrom also accused Mr. Obama of wasting billions of dollars “propping up” the auto companies as part of the government’s restructuring plans for the industry.

“Mitt Romney argued that instead of a bailout, we should let the car companies go through a restructuring under the bankruptcy laws,” Mr. Fehrnstrom said.

Fehrnstrom’s full statement is consistent with what Romney wrote in his November 2008 op-ed. It is also consistent with what Romney said in the June 3 TV interview that the DNC misappropriated for its Web video. In that interview, Romney was talking about his 2008 op-ed that called for a managed bankruptcy, not a bailout.

No Flip: Obama’s Stimulus

The DNC also claims that Romney has flip-flopped on Obama’s $787 billion stimulus plan. Romney’s GOP rivals have also made that claim, as we have written before. But here’s the truth: Romney advocated for a stimulus plan, but he did not support the one that Obama signed into law.

The DNC’s Web video shows Romney speaking Sept. 28 at a town hall event in Goffstown, N.H., emphatically saying he never supported “the president’s recovery act … no time, nowhere, no how.” As he speaks, the screen displays the words “Opposed the stimulus.” Then the Web ad shows Romney speaking on Jan. 4, 2009 — before Obama took office and before the president unveiled details of his stimulus plan. “I think there is need for economic stimulus,” Romney told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. But is that proof that Romney supported the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — a bill that received no Republican votes in the House and only three in the Senate? The short answer is no.

In his interview with Blitzer, Romney spoke of some things he would like to see in the bill and other things that he could not support. He left open the possibility he would oppose the president-elect’s stimulus plan when it was unveiled.

Romney, Jan. 4, 2009: I’d move quickly. These are unusual times. But it has to be something which relieves pressure on middle-income families. I think a tax cut is necessary for them as well as for businesses that are growing. We’ll be investing in infrastructure and in energy technologies. But let’s not make this a Christmas tree of all of the favors for various politicians who have helped out the Obama campaign, giving them special projects.

That would be wrong. You’ll see Republicans fight that tooth and nail if that happens. Let’s do what’s right for the economy, and let’s not do what’s a political expedient move.

And indeed, Republicans fought “tooth and nail” against the stimulus plan and Romney was among those urging Congress not to pass it.

On Jan. 28, 2009, the day of the House vote, Romney appeared on Fox News and criticized the bill as the “wrong course” for the country. He claimed it contained a “wish list of congressional favors.” He warned of “excessive borrowing.”

Less than two weeks later, on the day of the Senate vote, Romney appeared on Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor” to again criticize the bill. He told O’Reilly the president was “right to try and push the stimulus plan,” but he criticized the bill for spending too much money “on a whole host of long-range programs that don’t create jobs.”

As we have reported, Romney has also criticized the stimulus in his book “No Apology,” although the language was more pointed in the paperback edition released this year than it was in the hardcover edition that was released in 2010. In his original version, Romney said the stimulus was “far less than successful,” and that “it will impose a heavy burden on the economy.” In the revised paperback edition released this year, he called it a “failure” and a “bust.”

Either way, this much is clear: Romney didn’t support the president’s stimulus bill.

No Flip: Race to the Top

The DNC video also accuses Romney of changing positions on Obama’s “Race to the Top” program, a hallmark of the president’s education policy. It’s true that Romney has indicated that he supports some goals of the program. But at the same time, he has said that it should not be handled at the federal level.

During a Fox News debate in September, Texas Gov. Rick Perry singled out Romney as the “one person on this stage that is for Obama’s Race to the Top.” Romney denied supporting the president’s education policy, saying: “I don’t support any particular program that he’s describing.” As we wrote after the debate, Politico reported that Romney “praised Obama’s education secretary for the Race to the Top program” during a town hall meeting in Miami on Sept. 21. But Romney’s full statement made it clear he was praising some of the administration’s goals but not how it was pursuing them at the federal level.

Here’s what Romney told those in attendance:

Romney, Sept. 21, 2011: I think Secretary Duncan has done some good things. He’s the current Secretary of Education. I hope that’s not heresy in the room. But he, for instance, has a program called Race to the Top which encourages schools to have more choice, more testing of kids, more evaluation of teachers. Those are things I think make some sense. But for me, get that back to the state level.

It should be noted that Romney hasn’t always opposed federal education initiatives. When he last ran for president in 2008, for example, Romney said he supported President George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” program because it “allows us to get better schools, better teachers.”

No Flip: Romney’s Health Overhaul

It’s true that Romney championed a major health care overhaul when he was governor of Massachusetts that has much in common with the federal health care legislation that President Obama signed into law. But it’s also true that Romney has consistently said that he’s against the federal effort and that states should be free to make whatever changes fit their particular circumstances. The DNC tries — and fails — to make the case that Romney has flipped on health care.

The DNC video highlights a June 2009 interview with Romney on CBS’ “The Early Show,” when the federal legislation, and the prospect of a government “public option” insurance plan, was still being debated. The snippet included in the DNC video is in bold below:

CBS’ Harry Smith, June 24, 2009: Yeah, the question then becomes how do you– how do you insure the forty-five or fifty million Americans who are not on the books?

Romney: Well, that’s what we did in Massachusetts. And that is we put together an exchange and the Pre–President’s copying that idea. I’m glad to hear that. We let people buy their own private insurance. Most people can afford to buy that insurance once you have an exchange that allows them to do that on a cost effective basis. And then for those that are low income, you help them buy their own private insurance. But you don’t set up a government insurance plan because it’s going to end up costing billions of dollars in subsidy. It’s the wrong way to go.

Romney stops well short of endorsing the federal legislation — instead, he endorses the idea of an exchange, or marketplace, where individuals could shop for insurance. (Both the Massachusetts plan and the national plan do have exchanges.)

The DNC video then shows a clip of Romney from the Oct. 18 Republican presidential debate, saying: “Obamacare is bad news. … And if I’m president of the United States, I will repeal it.”

But that doesn’t contradict the fact that he supported the idea of an exchange in 2009. We have found Romney making false and misleading statements in an attempt to differentiate his plan from the national law. And voters may form their own opinions about the logical consistency of Romney backing the Massachusetts effort while being against a federal overhaul that shares the same basic framework. But he has consistently explained his position.

Back in 2007, he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that states should be free to adopt whatever plan they’d like.

Romney, Dec. 16, 2007 “Meet the Press”: I like what we did in Massachusetts. I think it’s a great plan. But I’m a federalist. I don’t believe in applying what works in one state to all states if different states have different circumstances. …

Given the kind of differences between states, I’m not somebody who’s going to say what I did in Massachusetts I’m going to now tell every state they have to do it the same way. Now, I happen to like what we did. I think it’s a good model for other states. Maybe not every state, but most. And so what I’d do at the federal level is give to every state the same kind of flexibility we got from the federal government, as well as some carrots and sticks to actually get all their citizens insured. And I think a lot of states will choose what we did. I wouldn’t tell them they have to do our plan.

No Flip: Minimum Wage

The lengthy DNC video doesn’t go into detail on Romney’s position on the minimum wage; instead it simply inserts the phrase “minimum wage” in the list of alleged flip-flops at the end. But this one isn’t actually a flip at all. He consistently supported an increase in Massachusetts, but only in line with inflation.

The case for a flip-flop on the issue of the minimum wage goes like this:

On Romney’s 2002 gubernatorial campaign website (preserved via the Internet archive Wayback Machine), it states:

Romney campaign website, 2002: The minimum wage is important to our economy and Mitt Romney supports minimum wage increases, at least in line with inflation.

And then, on July 22, 2006, the Boston Globe reported:

Boston Globe, July 22, 2006: Governor Mitt Romney yesterday rejected the Legislature’s plan to raise the state minimum wage to $8 an hour over two years, angering Democratic lawmakers and advocates who accused him of abandoning a 2002 campaign pledge to significantly boost the pay of low-wage workers.

But the article goes on to explain that Romney proposed an alternative plan to raise the state’s minimum wage from $6.75 to $7 and then to “have the executive branch study and possibly recommend further increases every two years.”

About the proposed $8 minimum wage, Romney wrote in a letter to lawmakers: “Such abrupt and disproportionate increases would threaten to eliminate jobs in Massachusetts, especially at the entry level.”

Romney’s spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, told the Globe at the time that Romney’s proposed 25-cent increase reflected the rate of inflation, as he promised. (Fehrnstrom is also Romney’s current campaign spokesman.)

“The governor is not opposed to a minimum-wage increase, but he thinks it should be in line with inflation, so that’s what he has put on the table,” Fehrnstrom told the Globe. “This is logical and consistent with what the governor has supported in the past.”

But whether Romney’s proposal actually kept pace with inflation depends on your starting point. If you start with 2006, when the change was being considered, Romney’s proposed 25-cent increase would have kept pace with inflation through the following year. But if you start at 2001, the year Massachusetts’ minimum wage was last increased, to $6.75, Romney’s proposal fell well short of keeping pace with inflationary increase since then.

The state Legislature overrode Romney’s veto that summer, and the state minimum wage increased from $6.75 to $7.50 on Jan. 1, 2007, and to $8 an hour the following year.

No Flip: Immigration

The DNC ad also claims that Romney flip-flopped on immigration, showing clips from the presidential debate on Oct. 18 in Las Vegas. The ad shows Romney saying, “I don’t think I’ve ever hired an illegal in my life,” followed by another clip from the same debate in which Romney says, “We hired a lawn company to mow our lawn, and they had illegal immigrants that were working there.” The ad omits the next sentence from Romney’s debate response, in which he says, “And when that was pointed out to us, we let them go.”

It was an embarrassment for Romney, but not a flip-flop.

As we wrote when the debate first aired, there is no evidence that Romney knowingly hired illegal immigrants. He did hire a lawn service that employed illegal immigrants, as the Boston Globe reported in 2006. A year later, while running for president, the Globe wrote a follow-up story that found the company was still being used by Romney and it was still employing illegal immigrants. After the second story, Romney issued a statement saying that he had just learned that the company was still hiring illegal immigrants and that he had fired the company.

Boston Globe, Dec. 4, 2007: “After this same issue arose last year, I gave the company a second chance with very specific conditions,” Romney said in a statement. “They were instructed to make sure people working for the company were of legal status. We personally met with the company in order to inform them about the importance of this matter. The owner of the company guaranteed us, in very certain terms, that the company would be in total compliance with the law going forward. The company’s failure to comply with the law is disappointing and inexcusable, and I believe it is important I take this action.”

This statement is consistent with his comment four years later referenced in the DNC Web video. Romney hired the lawn care company, did not fire them after initially learning about illegal immigrants, but did “let them go” when he learned that they had violated the law a second time.

The clip immediately following the Romney exchange on illegal workers is entirely unrelated to the immigration issue. It shows Fox News correspondent Wendell Goler saying “flip-flop Mitt.” That is from a 2007 GOP primary debate and, as the full quote shows, is referring to what Romney’s critics thought about his tax policy at that time.

Goler, May 15, 2007: Your critics have called you “flip-flop Mitt” for, among other things, your decision to take the “no new taxes” pledge this year after refusing to do so in 2002.

No Flip: Stem Cells

At the end of the DNC video, several words are shown on screen as supposed examples of issues on which Romney has switched his position. One of those is “stem cells.” Romney’s position has clearly evolved, but we found no support for a definitive switch.

Instead, Romney long said that he supported stem cell research but refused to take a position on using cloned embryos. He later said that he did not support cloning embryos for research purposes but did support using embryos from fertility clinics — a position that angered both those opposed to abortion and state politicians who thought he would have supported such research.

Here’s a run-down of what Romney has said about embryonic stem cell research:

June 2002: Then-gubernatorial candidate Romney speaks at a bioethics forum, where, according to the Boston Globe, he “endorsed embryonic stem cell research but avoided mention of human cloning, steering clear of a high-profile moral issue thrust into the public spotlight partly by Massachusetts scientists.” Romney’s wife, Ann, has multiple sclerosis, and he said this type of research might lead to treatment for the disease. As for using cloned embryos, Eric Fehrnstrom, Romney’s deputy campaign manager at the time, told the paper: “We haven’t looked at [cloning] closely enough. It’s a very complicated subject and we want to know it more thoroughly.”

April 2004: Romney tells biotech executives that he supports stem cell research. According to the Telegram & Gazette in Worcester, he said: “We don’t want there to be any impediment to doing research in Massachusetts, any impediment that would take you to another state.”

August 2004: Fehrnstrom again tells the Globe that Romney supports embryonic stem cell research, saying that the then-governor “wants to encourage and support scientific research and the discovery of new cures. … For that reason, he supports stem cell research on new and existing lines, in both private and federally funded settings.” He also avoided taking a position on using cloned embryos, saying that “we’re not going to take a position on finer and finer gradations of this issue without giving it careful reflection and thought.”

February 2005: In an interview with the New York Times, Romney said that he opposed the creation of embryos for research purposes, that he would oppose a state Senate bill that supported such research, and that he would propose legislation to make it a crime to create embryos for research. “Some of the practices that Harvard and probably other institutions in Massachusetts are engaged in cross the line of ethical conduct,” he said, telling the Times that “creation for the purpose of destruction is wrong.” He said he did not object to using embryos leftover from in vitro fertilization.

May 2007: At a Republican presidential debate, Romney reiterated that he was OK with using embryos from fertility clinics, but said he wouldn’t support federal funding for that. He pushed something called “altered nuclear transfer,” a method to create stem cells without creating an embryo. He told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that as for using fertility clinic embryos: “I’m happy to allow that — or I shouldn’t say happy. It’s fine for that to be allowed to be legal. I won’t use our government funds for that. Instead, I want our government funds to be used on Dr. Hurlbut’s method, which is Altered Nuclear Transfer.”

No Flip: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Romney hasn’t been effusive with regard to his position on the military’s former “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, so the DNC video does not include any clips of Romney statements. But the DNC website makes the case for a flip-flop based on these comments:

When he was running for the U.S. Senate in 1994, Romney wrote a letter to the Log Cabin Club of Massachusetts, an organization of gay and lesbian Republicans, in which he talked about the ultimate goal of having “gays and lesbians being able to serve openly and honestly in our nation’s military.”

Romney letter to Log Cabin Club of Massachusetts, Oct. 6, 1994: One issue I want to clarify concerns President Clinton’s “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue” military policy. I believe that the Clinton compromise was a step in the right direction. I am also convinced that it is the first of a number of steps that will ultimately lead to gays and lesbians being able to serve openly and honestly in our nation’s military. That goal will only be reached when preventing discrimination against gays and lesbians is a mainstream concern, which is a goal we share.

And here’s what Romney said in a 2006 interview with National Review Online:

Romney, National Review, Dec. 14, 2006: As for military policy and the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, I trust the counsel of those in uniform who have set these policies over a dozen years ago. I agree with President Bush’s decision to maintain this policy and I would do the same.

Others have contrasted Romney’s 1994 letter with his statement in a 2007 presidential debate, in which he said of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, “I wouldn’t change it at this point.”

Here’s the fuller context of Romney’s statement:

Romney, Republican presidential debate, June 5, 2007: No, actually when I first heard of the don’t ask/don’t tell policy I thought it sounded awfully silly and didn’t think that’d be very effective, and I turned out to be wrong.

It’s been the policy now in the military for, what, 10, 15 years? And it seems to be working.

And I agree with what Mayor Giuliani said, that this is not the time to put in place a major change, a social experiment, in the middle of a war going on.

I wouldn’t change it at this point. We can look at it down the road. But it does seem to me that we have much bigger issues as a nation that we ought to be talking about than that policy right now.

The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy since has been overturned. When Romney was asked about it in a Republican presidential debate on June 13, he said, “I believe that ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ should have been kept in place until conflict was over.”

Are those comments in direct conflict with what Romney said his 1994 letter to the Log Cabin Club? Not really. He said in 1994 that he “ultimately” would like to see gays and lesbians “being able to serve openly and honestly in our nation’s military.” And we see no evidence that he’s retreated from that carefully hedged position, much as his recent comments may have disappointed gay-rights advocates. Currently Romney is saying the timing was still not right to change the policy, while the nation was at war. That’s less forceful language than he used in his letter to the Log Cabin Club, but to qualify as a flip-flop he would have to say he no longer favors seeing gays serve openly at any time.

Half Flip: Ohio’s Issue 2

This one isn’t a 180 degree change in position; it’s more like a 90 degree twist and turn from supporting Ohio Gov. John Kasich to declining to take a position to firmly supporting Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

Back in June, a Facebook post by Romney said that he stood with Kasich on Issue 2, a referendum that asked Ohio voters whether they supported a law Kasich had signed limiting the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions. But the DNC video focuses on what happened a few months later, in October. Late that month, Romney spoke after an appearance in Ohio and surprisingly didn’t take a position on Issue 2. Romney said: “I am not speaking about the particular ballot issues, those are up to the people of Ohio but I certainly support the effort of the governor to rein in the scale of government.” That drew criticism from Republicans, including presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

The next day, Romney made clear that he backed Kasich on the issue, and said that he was “sorry if I created any confusion.” He said his comments a day earlier were about other ballot issues in the state. “I wasn’t taking a position on those.”

The DNC video includes a few edited lines from a CNN report on this issue:

CNN’s Joe Johns: If Republicans didn’t like Mitt Romney’s position on the so-called union busting proposal in Ohio all they had to do is wait one day before he changed it. …

Romney: I am not speaking about the particular ballot issues. …

Johns: But by today, Romney had a different answer. …

Romney: I fully support Gov. Kasich’s, I think it’s called Question 2, in Ohio.

CNN went on to question whether this was a misstep or political calculation.

CNN’s Joe Johns: Confusion, perhaps. Among those other ballot questions, one would ban government from forcing people to buy health insurance, which might give pause to a health care reformer like Romney. Raising the question whether what happened was a mistake or a political tactic.

Peter Hamby, CNN political reporter: He walked into a call center for these two ballot initiatives and appeared to either not know what these ballot initiatives were about, or intentionally tried to dodge them to kind of protect his brand for general election. So it’s one or the other.

Voters rejected the measure, by the way, repealing the collective bargaining legislation.

Flip: Assault Weapons Ban

The DNC Web video also portrays Romney as changing positions 180 degrees on a key gun control issue. On-screen graphics describe him as “For Assault Weapons Ban” when he was governor and “Against Assault Weapons Ban” when running for president.

That’s true — but not quite the whole story. Romney managed to be both for the assault weapons ban and against reviving it after it expired. The worst we can say about the DNC video is that it uses a selective clip from a 2008 presidential debate in which Romney says he doesn’t favor a “new” law, but it edits out his statement that he would have extended the old one.

Romney’s position on gun-control measures changed as he went from running in liberal Massachusetts to running for national office. In 1994, when he ran for the Senate against incumbent Democrat Ted Kennedy, he was in favor of a federal ban on assault weapons and a waiting period for buying handguns. According to the Boston Herald, he told a “citizens panel” sponsored by the newspaper:

Boston Herald, Aug. 1, 1994: The candidate reiterated his support for an assault weapons ban contained in Congress’ crime bill, and the Brady law which imposes a five-day waiting period on handgun purchases. “I don’t think (the waiting period) will have a massive effect on crime but I think it will have a positive effect,” Romney said.

A decade later, as governor, Romney was still a strong advocate of banning assault weapons, and the ad captures that accurately. In the ad he is heard to say, “I just signed a piece of legislation extending the ban on certain assault weapons.” And indeed, on July 1, 2004, he signed a law making a state ban permanent and also issued a news release calling assault weapons “instruments of destruction” used only for “killing people.”

Romney news release, July 1, 2004: “Deadly assault weapons have no place in Massachusetts,” Romney said, at a bill signing ceremony with legislators, sportsmen’s groups and gun safety advocates. “These guns are not made for recreation or self-defense. They are instruments of destruction with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people.”

But two years later, in August 2006, Romney joined the National Rifle Association, which was and is strongly opposed to the ban. The Boston Globe described him then as a “former” advocate of gun control. But the fact is that Romney continued to take a public position at odds with the NRA on the federal legislation. He became a vocal supporter of the Second Amendment — but only up to a point.

The ad shows Romney saying, “I do not support any new legislation of an assault weapons ban nature.” That’s accurate as far as it goes — but not the whole story. In fact Romney said he would have signed a law to extend the federal law that expired in 2004, but  opposed a “new” law.

The snippet used in the ad is from a GOP debate in Boca Raton, Fla., on Jan. 24, 2008. What Romney really said is this:

Romney, Jan. 24, 2008: I also, like the president [George W. Bush], would have signed the assault weapon ban that came to his desk. … [W]e signed that in Massachusetts, and I said I’d — I would support that at the federal level, just as the president said he would. It did not pass at the federal level.

I do not believe we need new legislation. I do not support any new legislation of an assault weapon ban nature, including that against semiautomatic weapons. I instead believe that we have laws in place that, if they’re implemented and enforced, will provide the protection and the safety of the American people.

Romney’s position was criticized as inconsistent. He was in fact responding to a question from Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee who scolded him for supporting an extension of the old federal assault weapon ban, which Huckabee said was “really a denial of the Second Amendment” that Romney also claimed to support. But Romney held to this position in the Boca Raton debate and in other forums as well.

(Note: President Obama’s position has also evolved. He has yet to deliver on a campaign promise to push for renewal of the assault weapons ban, and after a year in office the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence gave Obama an “F” for his record on gun control in general and a renewed assault weapons ban in particular.)

Flip: Tax Pledge

The two clips highlighted in the DNC ad that show Romney’s opposing positions on signing a no-tax-increase pledge have no time stamp. And it turns out you’ve got to head pretty deep into the archives to flesh this one out.

Back when he was running to be governor of Massachusetts in 2002, Romney declined to sign the Citizens for Limited Taxation and Government’s “no new taxes” pledge.

A March 28, 2002, story by Rick Klein and Stephanie Ebbert in the Boston Globe noted that Romney’s refusal to sign the anti-tax pledge broke with the precedent of his three Republican predecessors.

Boston Globe, March 28, 2002: Romney said that while he opposes all tax increases in principle, he will not make such a pledge in writing.

“I am not in favor of increasing taxes,” Romney said before he met with Republican convention delegates. “At this stage, I am inclined to make that position as clear as I can, but not to enter into a written pledge of some kind, and that’s true on this and other issues.” …

“I’m against tax increases,” Romney said at a meeting with Western Massachusetts GOP delegates, according to the Union-News. “But I’m not intending to, at this stage, sign a document which would prevent me from being able to look specifically at the revenue needs of the Commonwealth.”

The Globe article notes that Fehrnstrom, Romney’s spokesman, went so far as to mock written pledges as “government by gimmickry.”

Flash forward a few years to Romney running for president in 2007. This time, he not only signed a “no new tax pledge” from Americans for Tax Reform, he crowed about it in a radio ad and criticized his Republican opponents for not following his lead.

“For years, conservative candidates for president signed their name on the dotted line, pledging to oppose tax increases,” Romney said in the ad. “I’m proud to be the only major candidate for president to sign the tax pledge. The others have not.”

Romney has signed the Americans for Tax Reform Taxpayer Protection Pledge this time around as well. But so has every other GOP candidate except for Jon Huntsman. Huntsman refuses to sign pledges on principle, and says his fiscal record as governor of Utah speaks for itself.

“I pledge allegiance to my country,” Huntsman told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “I have a pledge to my wife. But beyond that, I don’t do pledges.”

Flip: Abortion

Call it an “evolving” position (as Romney supporters have) or simply a flip-flop, there is no question that Romney has done a 180-degree turn with regard to his stated position on the abortion issue. In his two bids for the presidency, Romney has maintained a conservative anti-abortion stance. But that wasn’t always his position.

The DNC video features a snippet of Romney in a 2002 Massachusetts gubernatorial debate in which he stated, “I will preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose.”

It’s not in the video, but Romney follows up that statement by saying that he is “devoted and dedicated to honoring my word in that regard.”

What’s interesting, and perhaps ironic, is that his opponent in the debate, Democratic candidate Shannon O’Brien, accuses Romney of waffling on the issue. Romney said he did not like pro-life or pro-choice labels, but forcefully responded, “I can tell you, I do not take the position of a pro-life candidate. I am in favor of preserving and protecting a woman’s right to choose.”

Going even further back, Romney said in a 1994 senatorial debate against Ted Kennedy, “I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country. I have since the time that my mom took that position when she ran in 1970 as a U.S. Senate candidate. I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years that we should sustain and support it, and I sustain and support that law and the right of a woman to make that choice.”

Kennedy famously quipped in response that Romney was “multiple choice” on the issue of abortion. But Romney said his position has been consistent and was informed by an incident years before when a family relative died while having an illegal abortion.

The DNC ad then switches to an appearance on “Meet the Press” on Dec. 16, 2007, in which Romney states, “My view is that the right next step in the fight to preserve the sanctity of life is to see Roe v. Wade overturned.” Romney went on to say that he would return the issue to the states to decide.

In that interview, Romney readily acknowledged a change of position. He explained that his change came when he was governor and “theoretical became reality” as he was faced with a decision on embryonic stem cell research.

Romney, Dec. 16, 2007: You can find, you know, many, many instances of my indicating my position previous to that time of being effectively pro-choice. I didn’t call myself pro-choice, but my position was effectively pro-choice. And that position changed. It changed at that point.

To keep track of Romney’s evolving position on abortion through the years, our fact-checking colleague at the Washington Post, Glenn Kessler, put together a handy time line of Romney’s various statements.

More recently, Romney said in an Oct. 1 interview with former GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee on Fox News, “My view is that the Supreme Court should reverse Roe v. Wade and send back to the states the responsibility to decide whether they’re going to have abortion legal in their state or not.”

Romney and Jon Huntsman are the only Republican candidates who have balked at signing the Susan B. Anthony List Pro-life Presidential Leadership Pledge. In a June 18 op-ed in National Review, Romney spelled out his position on abortion — that it should be limited only to instances of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother — and explained that while he believed the Susan B. Anthony List pledge is “well-meaning,” it is “overly broad and would have unintended consequences,” such as ending federal funding to thousands of hospitals.

In an interview with NPR on Nov. 29, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List, said of Romney, “I believe he is a true convert.”

Flip: Ronald Reagan

The DNC video also shows Romney changing positions on whether the country should return to the policies of former Republican President Ronald Reagan. And there is no disputing that Romney has reversed course on this subject. Romney himself has admitted as much.

The video includes footage of Romney at a 1994 debate against then-Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy. When Kennedy suggested that Romney supported the Reagan administration’s economic policies, Romney countered by saying that he was “an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush.” He added, “I’m not trying to return to Reagan-Bush.” Those comments, however, are a stark contrast to more recent statements that Romney has made that embrace the former president’s policies.

The DNC video highlights footage of Romney — at the annual Ronal Reagan Lecture in May 2010 — saying that “the principles that Ronald Reagan espoused are as true today as they were when he spoke them.” And nearly three years prior to that, Romney gave Reagan credit for bringing down tax rates and jump-starting the economy. During an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Dec. 16, 2007, then-host Tim Russert played a video clip of Romney acknowledging days earlier that “the right way for America to proceed when we face the kind of challenges we face is to pursue the strategy which Ronald Reagan pursued when we faced the challenges of the last century.” In the clip, Romney went on to say that Reagan “brought our taxes down a lot,” which “caused our economy to take off.”

Romney, in fact, has said that his view of Reagan has changed over time. Addressing conservative activists in January 2007, Romney said that “I wasn’t always a Ronald Reagan conservative.” But he later added that “my life experience convinced me that Ronald Reagan was right.”

Flip-Flop-Flip/Climate Change Causes

The DNC has a solid case that Romney changed his position on whether humans contribute to climate change — even if it was just for one speech. Romney had repeatedly said that he believes humans contribute to global warming. But then, at an event in Pittsburgh in late October, he said that “we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet.” The Romney camp, however, claimed that he hadn’t changed his position at all. Spokeswoman Andrea Saul told reporters: “He believes it’s occurring, and that human activity contributes to it, but he doesn’t know to what extent.”

That’s consistent with what Romney has said several times, but it’s not consistent with what he said in Pittsburgh.

The DNC uses a clip from a town hall event in June in Manchester, N.H., where Romney said:

Romney, June 3: I believe the world’s getting warmer. I can’t prove that, but I believe based on what I read that the world is getting warmer. And number two, I believe that humans contribute to that. I don’t know how much our contribution is to that, because I know there’s been, there have been periods of greater heat and warmth in the past, but I believe that we contribute to that. And so I think it’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may well be significant contributors to the climate change and the global warming that you’re seeing.

Romney wrote something very similar about the role of humans in his 2010 book “No Apology.”

Romney, “No Apology”: I also believe that human activity is a contributing factor. I am uncertain how much of the warming, however, is attributable to man and how much is attributable to factors out of our control.

In Pittsburgh, on Oct. 27, Romney was asked at an event at the Consol Energy Center, the city’s new hockey arena: “What is your position on man-made global warming and would you reject legislation, such as cap and trade, which is based on the idea of man-made global warming?” He said he was against cap and trade but made no mention of humans contributing to climate change. In fact, he said he didn’t know what was causing global warming.

Romney, Oct. 27: My view is that we don’t know what’s causing climate change on this planet. And the idea of spending trillions and trillions of dollars to try to reduce CO2 emissions is not the right course for us.

As we mentioned, the Romney camp then said that he does believe humans contribute to global warming. He just didn’t tell the questioner in Pittsburgh that.

— by Eugene Kiely, Lori Robertson, Robert Farley, Brooks Jackson, D’Angelo Gore, Scott Blackburn and Lalita Clozel


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