Commentary: Romney showed people in Massachusetts that he’s all about style, never substance

His rightward slide during his run for president and his centrist slide in the past weeks have been well documented.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Mitt Romney speaks at the Tech Summit at the Salt Palace Convention Center, Friday, January 19, 2018.

One of the main things to know about Mitt Romney is that he is all about style, but has little substance. His sketchy plans when running for president showed a lack of substance. When running for governor of Massachusetts, he was great on style.

When campaigning for governor, he worked for one day each week at a “regular “job.” That “day at work program” (as a fisherman, as a burger flipper) provided for great photo opportunities, but it did not give time for the meaninglessness of much of that work to sink in.

When I was a student, I only lasted a week on a donut assembly line: I could not get to sleep until I started up the line in my dreams. That is the reality of many assembly line jobs. The one day working at a menial job did not give Romney the insight into the reality of poor people’s lives that he could have gained by reading “Nickel and Dimed” (Barbara Ehrenreich) or “When Work Disappears” (W. J. Wilson). As always for Romney, symbol trumps substance.

As governor, in July 2005, he rode the subway for one stop – just to show it was safe following the London terrorist attacks. Of course that ride, even if he had known the correct fare, would have done nothing to demonstrate that the subway is safe. What demonstrates its safety are the actions of thousands of commuters each day who ride the subway to work.

On women, he had a mixed record. He ran with a woman lieutenant governor candidate, Kerry Healey, and appointed women to top level jobs in his administration. However, the original Republican standard bearer in the 2002 election was Jane Swift. Romney promised he would not run against her in the primary, but when influential Republican power-brokers told Swift that she should withdraw for the good of the party, Romney had no qualms about taking up the candidacy and, ultimately, the governorship.

Romney has attacked Barack Obama for “apologizing for America.” Romney’s behavior as governor was much, much worse. In 2005 and 2006, while positioning himself for the presidential primaries, Romney, went around conservative states criticizing the Commonwealth. He made us a joke because he disagreed with the liberal policies pursued by the state.

The Boston Globe reported in February 2005 that: “In recent weeks, he (Romney) has taken that message (that Massachusetts is out of step with the rest of the nation) on the road, poking fun at the Bay State in front of conservative audiences in Missouri, South Carolina, and Utah, and comparing himself to ‘a cattle rancher at a vegetarian convention.’”

Will he treat Utah, the same way he treated Massachusetts? Probably not.

Finally, his rightward slide during his run for president and his centrist slide in the past weeks have been well documented. They include:

• Abortion: The experience of a family member led him to support choice. These were also his mother’s views. He supported Roe v. Wade. Now he has a much more restrictive view.

• Contraception: He vetoed the Massachusetts Emergency Contraception Bill of 2005.

• Addiction/AIDS: He vetoed a needle exchange bill in 2006.

• Stem cell research. He was for it before he was against it.

• Immigration: He supported the Kennedy-McCain compromise. No longer.

• Gay rights: He supported them in the 1970′s, but recently he allowed a gay foreign policy adviser to be forced off his campaign staff.

• After negotiating a complex deal on Romneycare, he vetoed an important provision (the employer mandate). His veto was overridden, thereby demonstrating his un-trustworthiness and his preference for style over substance.

I do not think Romney will stand on principle, nor do I think he will stand up for America. He is an Etch-a-Sketch upon which each of us can engrave our own wishes. He will aggregate the information from all those devices and act in the interests of that majority. A man swayed by the popular mob is not the man we need to serve in the U.S. senate in these difficult times.

Martin G. Evans, Cambridge, Mass., is professor emeritus of the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto.

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