I was fascinated last week as the saga of Mitt Romney, the great white hunter, played out in the media. Romney, one of the leading candidates for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008, got things kicked off last year when he joined the National Rifle Association. He cleverly paid up for a "lifetime" membership, which allows him to claim that label, even though he's been part of the organization for less than one year. Last week, Romney claimed at a campaign event that he had been a hunter "all his life." That quickly fell apart, however, as the only two hunting trips anybody could remember Romney taking were last year and back when he was 15 years old.* Trying to ramp up his manly credentials, Romney attempted to clarify:
When he corrected his staff's statement during a news conference Thursday in Indianapolis, Romney said: 'I've always been a rodent and rabbit hunter, small varmints, if you will.' He added: 'I began when I was 15 or so and I have hunted those kinds of varmints since then. More than two times.'But even that didn't really take, as the AP surveyed the four states where Romney has lived and concluded that he never got a hunting permit. The excuse this time, Romney said, is that he rarely hunted in areas where he needed one (which assumes there were some times where he was hunting illegally, right?).
All of this goes to show that, when it comes to ass-kissing politics, Romney doesn't exactly have a deft touch. Which I suppose is to his credit - his ham-handed sucking up to the NRA and hunters everywhere is so transparent that it's unlikely to win him any new supporters. That being said, it's a sad commentary on modern politics. As last week's run of Doonesbury hilariously pointed out, Romney has changed his position on almost every major issue in a play for conservative GOP primary voters. Support for gay rights? Gone. Pro-choice? Like George H.W. Bush before him, conveniently jettisoned for political gain. The list goes on and on.
I'm not sure what's worse - that candidates (and Romney is hardly alone - he's just the best example) do this repeatedly and routinely, but that voters just roll with the punches and go with it. I'm not asking for rigid positions out of which no candidate can be moved - smart people keep their minds open and always consider the possibility they might be wrong. But would it be too much to ask that candidates not fall all over themselves to try and portray themselves as something they clearly aren't just to get a few more votes.
The underlying moral of Romney's NRA pandering seems to be that unless you own guns, join the NRA, and blow away small furry animals you're not qualified to be President. That's no skin off my nose - Romney's already told me I can't be President, anyway.
* The 2006 event doesn't really count. It was one of those "hunting" reserves where people like Dick Cheney pay good money to shoot elderly lawyers. C'mon, that's not real hunting!