May 20th, 2007

Another Romney Flip-Flop?

Mitt Romney

Although I prefer the old Mitt Romney to his newfound presidential persona, it’s hard not to like the guy. He’s cheerful, charming, convincing, telegenic—in short, a lot like Ronald Reagan (sans the cowboy hats and boots).

But at least in secular terms, Romney faces a hurdle—of his own making, to be sure—which has grown so high that people automatically assume the worst. Consider the latest. According to a recent cover story in Time:

The closest he has ever come to a personal religious crisis, he recalls, was when he was in college and considering whether to go off on a mission, as his grandfather, father and brother had done. Mitt was deeply in love with Ann, his high school sweetheart and future wife, and couldn’t bear to spend more than two years away from her. He says he also felt guilty about the draft deferment he would get for it, when other young men his age were heading for Vietnam.

But in 1994, Romney was seemingly singing a different tune. Ryan Sager unearths a quote he gave to the Boston Herald:

Romney . . . acknowledged he did not have any desire to serve in the military during his college and missionary days, especially after he married and became a father. ‘I was not planning on signing up for the military,’ he said. ‘It was not my desire to go off and serve in Vietnam, but nor did I take any actions to remove myself from the pool of young men who were eligible for the draft. If drafted, I would have been happy to serve, and if I didn’t get drafted I was happy to be with my wife and new child.

Soren Dayton sees this as “further proof that Romney isn’t “[serious],” but, like Ryan, I see no contradiction here. One can feel guilty about getting a deferment while simultaneously being thankful for it. Guilt is a complex emotion, and to Romney’s credit, he acknowledges the nuance.

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