In Romney’s retelling, Melton coolly explained how his work relied on cloning human embryos. “He said, ‘Look, you don’t have to think about this stem cell research as a moral issue, because we kill the embryos after fourteen days,’ ” Romney would later say. Melton afterward vigorously denied Romney’s characterization of the meeting, saying, “We didn’t discuss killing or anything related to it.” Melton said, “I explained my work to him, told him about my deeply held respect for life, and explained that my work focuses on improving the lives of those suffering from debilitating diseases.”
But for Romney, it was a seminal day, triggering what he describes as an awakening on “life” issues after he had spent his entire political career espousing very different views. In the official account of Romney’s rebirth as a social conservative, the meeting with Melton would become the Genesis story. On February 10, 2005, three months after his meeting, Romney came out strongly against the cloning technique, saying in a New York Times interview that the method breached an “ethical boundary.” He vowed to press for legislation to criminalize the work. Romney’s opposition stunned scientists, lawmakers, and observers because of his past statements endorsing, at least in general terms, embryonic stem cell research. Six months earlier, his wife, Ann, had publicly expressed hope that stem cells would hold a cure for her multiple sclerosis (locations 4471--4482).Romney took his transformation to the next level in July 2005, when he vetoed a bill making the morning-after pill available over the counter and mandating that hospitals make it available to rape victims. This from a governor who had pressed his pro-choice credentials in the 2002 campaign, as well as in his 1994 run for the Senate. In an op-ed published in the Boston Globe on July 26, 2005, Romney claimed he vetoed the bill because the pill would not simply prevent conception "would also terminate a living embryo after conception" (recalling his objection to creating embryos for stem cell research). He claimed then, as he has recently in debates, that
these convictions [against abortion] have evolved and deepened during my time as governor. In considering the issue of embryo cloning and embryo farming, I saw where the harsh logic of abortion can lead -- to the view of innocent new life as nothing more than research material or a commodity to be exploited.He then went on to proclaim his opposition to Roe v. Wade, which he had previously supported.
It's worth recalling now that at the time, this "deepening" fooled no one. On August 2, 2005, The New York Times' Pam Belluck probed reactions from Romney's constituents to his volte-face:
His actions stirred dismay among some moderate Republicans and prompted predictions that he would seek national office. They also underscored the challenge that Mr. Romney is likely to face in primaries where conservative voters often hold the upper hand.If moderate Republicans, independents and Democrats who supported Romney felt betrayed, conservatives weren't swooning:
''Within the Republican Party, the nominating process, Massachusetts has been kind of the liberal state that the conservative Republicans like to point at,'' said Paul Cellucci, a former Republican governor of Massachusetts who until recently was President Bush's ambassador to Canada. ''That kind of becomes something he has to overcome.''
In recent months, Mr. Romney has appeared to be trying to do just that by emphasizing conservative positions on combustible social issues like gay marriage, stem cell research and the death penalty. As he has traveled to strategic states like South Carolina and Iowa, he has portrayed himself as a conservative fish swimming upstream in Massachusetts, or, using a metaphor with more macho appeal, as ''a cattle rancher at a vegetarian convention.''
''Most pro-life voters aren't looking for 'evolving' views among candidates,'' Carrie Gordon Earll, senior policy analyst for bioethics for Focus on the Family, wrote in an e-mail message. ''They're hungry for principled positions based on immovable morals -- something that doesn't come from a veto and an op-ed.''Sound familiar?
It wasn't just the liberal MSM that gave voice to the skepticism. Anop-ed in the Boston Herald by Rachelle Cohen, published the day after Romney's and titled "It's Extreme Makeovers '08," led off like this (sorry, no link):
The second Bush administration has hardly passed the six-month mark, but in the wonderful world of presidential politics it's never too early to reinvent yourself.Cohen continued with an easy contrast and natural conclusion:
Candidate Romney was going to be a friend to the state's promising biotech industry. Candidate Romney supported wider access to the hormone regimen used as emergency contraception. And an earlier incarnation of Gov. Romney even supported a compromise referendum that would roll back the right of same-sex couples to marry, but offer instead all those rights and privileges under a civil unions bill.If Romney becomes president, Americans will have elected a serial dissembler with their eyes open.
Ah, but that was yesterday. Today future presidential candidate Mitt Romney has abandoned any flirtation with civil unions. Today at last Romney has stopped "faking it" in Massachusetts (as his political guru Mike Murphy so delicately described the governor's earlier stand on abortion). He's bigger, badder and shifting to the right as fast and as furiously as he can.
Using the occasion of his veto of the emergency contraception bill, Romney got to explore his own radical transformation on the oped pages of The Boston Globe, wrapping up nearly all of the issues destined presumably to send him to the top of the Republican presidential primary charts.