Election 2012 Pop Quiz!

How well have you been paying attention to the men running for president? Take this quiz to find out.

Comments: 178

  1. Why does it have to be one or the other, moderate or conservative? Maybe Romney would use whatever algorithm he has always used (whatever it is) to figure out his particular position at a particular time.

    Somebody once pointed out to me that people generally remain true to their natures, so if one can discern the nature, one can have a reasonable set of expectations for the person. Romney's nature seems to include changing his positions a lot, so my guess would be that he would continue to change his positions a lot.

  2. Interesting point. I'm all in favor of evolution (in all meanings) but I want an indication of an open mind in presidents and judges.

  3. I think that all depends on how you define a person's "nature." I do not consider a person's behavior to be their nature. I consider it to be a reflection of their nature, which may or may not be available for us to detect. It's a fine distinction, but an important one in my book.

    Something in Romney's nature (actually, it is present in many politicians it seems) allows him to claim opinions that are polar opposites, as Mr. Kristof has proven, and sometimes simultaneously. So what is it in his nature that allows for this? More importantly, what can that tell us about his possible future behavior?

    As president Obama has proven, nominees can make claims when campaigning that they will repudiate by behavior once elected. This may be a function of necessity, politics, misrepresentation, or nature. We usually don't know which.

    In the end, we do not know how an untested nominee will behave once in office. We have a pretty good inclination as to how president Obama will behave, as Mr. Kristof explains. So our choice is the devil we know versus the devil we don't. The nature of both men, while somewhat opaque to us, has been so far expressed in undesirable behavior, in my opinion.

  4. Diana, love, so did FDR: he tried something; if it worked, he doubled-down; if it didn't, he cut his losses and got someone to invent something else. He focused more on securing objectives, not on the means of doing so.

    Mitt Romney secured his first objective, didn't he? He's the apparent Republican nominee. Getting a little nervous that this makes the likelihood of his securing his next objective, the presidency, that much more compelling?

  5. Don't be too hard on the guy. His opponent voted "present" on more issues than he actually voted either "for" or "against". Or for another take on it, remember what Nikita Khruschov said, "A politician is a person who promises to build a bridge in a desert."

  6. A tiny detail. Nikita ruled in a dictatorship forbidding democratic elections, with no use for 'politicians', so quoting him is not too convincing. Think of a few of the achievements that some of our worthy politicians have historically passed into law which enabled a prosperous middle class: Universal voting, free public education, child labor laws, the 8 hour day, pensions, social security, medicare, medicaid, TVA, Hoover Dam, interstate highways, space travel--on and on. Role models for today's inferior breed of candidate who work mostly for wealthy donors and play act the role of politician for the TV cameras.

  7. Um, what does Obama's non-voting record have to do with Romney's contradictory one? I'll take a person who doesn't vote on an issue at all any time over someone who emphatically supports and then rabidly opposes the same proposal.

    And sure, politicians will never allow themselves to be completely pinned down, but if you have absolutely no idea what a person believes in (which is close to the case with Romney), how can you possibly vote for him?

  8. http://www.factcheck.org/2008/09/obamas-legislative-record/
    "Q: How many times did Obama vote 'present' as a state senator?
    A: He did so 129 times, which represents a little more than 3 percent of his total votes."
    3 percent is not "more" than 97 percent, my friend. I don't know where you heard your little factoid, but did you know that the word, "gullible," cannot be found in any dictionary?

  9. The evidence that Romney would govern as anything but a reactionary conservative is virtually non-existent.

    During the primaries, Romney cheered on the extremism that has taken over the GOP. He signed onto Paul Ryan's Cruel Austerity budget that would abolish Medicare, signed onto the agenda of the anti-LGBT National Organization for Marriage thereby vowing to support an anti-marriage equality Constitutional amendment, supported Arizona's anti-immigrant law that was so extreme that even Justice Roberts couldn't uphold it, and vowed to "get rid of" Planned Parenthood.

    Some claimed that these views didn't represent the "real" Romney. But since wrapping up the nomination, Romney has largely doubled down on these views, while also kissing the rings of the NRA and Jerry Falwell's anti-LGBT Liberty University. And Romney's stable of advisers include Robert Bork, Kris Kobach (the architect of self-deportation strategy for getting immigrants to leave the US), and John Bolton (who is constantly cheerleading for war against Iran, just as he did against Iraq).

    Frankly, it does not really matter whether Romney believes the extreme reactionary positions he is now espousing, or whether he is simply catering to the extremists who have taken over his party. Either way, the reality is that if Romney were to become President, those same extremists would be running our country.

    http://www.winningprogressive.org

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Winning-Progressive/195682780442236

  10. Let's not forget that one of the most consistently reactionary conservatives on the Supreme Court was nominated by the "moderate" GHW Bush. It's been more than two decades—probably three—since the structure of the Republican Party allowed for moderate governance.

  11. Before claiming that "The evidence that Romney would govern as anything but a reactionary conservative is virtually non-existent", you might want to review his term as governor of Massachusetts: I'm confident you'll find plenty of evidence.

    But what's encouraging to me isn't the weakness of liberals' arguments along this vein, but the attention they're paying to the prospect of Romney winning and getting to govern after all. Beginning to seem inevitable, isn't it?

  12. I have to agree with the comment that where Romney stands or what he believes is essentially irrelevant. His party will control much of government and they are anti-rational zealots with an agenda that will continuous to make my country (the US) ungovernable and a far less pleasant to live.

  13. An equally entertaining exercise would be to set out the comments Barack Obama made as part of his 2008 primary bid, primarily against Hillary Clinton; then juxtapose them with the reality of his actions once in office. Something of a hoot.

    If the point you're trying to make today is that Romney has bounced back and forth on important positions depending on his audience, I'd say this is old news that doesn't require emphasis. But then, most people understand that he needed to stitch together a coalition of the right, a spread of ideologies that has become quite big-tentish since Richard Nixon took the moderate wing of the Republican party out of the limelight, 'lo those many moons ago.

    Romney isn't playing to pundits. He had two objectives: 1) get nominated; and 2) get elected. A third objective, "govern rationally and lead this country back from the brink of an abyss", doesn't get to be even tried unless he first satisfies nos. 1 and 2. So, it appears that despite the hedging and jumping (and perhaps because of it), he's secured Objective 1. But until after the Tampa Convention, and despite a delegate count that suggests that he's the inevitable nominee, it ain't soup.

    However, he knows that to secure Objective 2, he's going to need to pull in moderate Democrats and Independents. Look for him a) to become far more consistent in his message starting in September, and 2) to be FAR more moderate in specific plans. Who are the far-right going to vote for then? Barack Obama?

  14. The far right might stay home or vote for Ron Paul, especially if Romney gives them any reason to think he is a closet moderate, captured by the same sinister forces that Obama serves. They are already watching him; any change in message or move toward moderation will result in a firestorm from them to bring him back into line. And since they are paranoid, they may well see a move toward moderation where Romney did not intend it and let loose some more firestorms.

    Many people, of all political persuasions, prefer candidates who have a core of beliefs that they use to guide them and betray only with great reluctance. We have no idea what Romney's real beliefs are, and he probably does not know either, since he does not need to figure them out until after he is elected. Perhaps he will try to make us all behave like Mormons.

    We just do not know what makes this guy tick except that he wants to be President. Very, very badly. Since he will say anything to get there, we cannot know whether he means it or not.

    We probably do not know Romney's inner core because it does not exist. But whatever the reason, we do not know it. Such a person should not be President.

  15. By September Mitt will not know whether he is talking through his mouth or else. You can please some for all the time, all for sometime but not all for all the time. But it will be too late.

  16. Richard, you are too funny.
    "If the point you're trying to make today is that Romney has bounced back and forth on important positions depending on his audience, I'd say this is old news that doesn't require emphasis. But then, most people understand that he needed to stitch together a coalition of the right, a spread of ideologies that has become quite big-tentish since Richard Nixon took the moderate wing of the Republican party out of the limelight, 'lo those many moons ago."

    Is the point of the Republican "big tent" that Romney should endorse every position under it, just to make every one comfortable with him, even when his positions are in direct conflict with each other? Then he is, famously, "a pander bear in two pair of flip flops." Or, to paraphrase Paul Ryan's favorite author: "Who is Mitt Romney?" Mitt Romney is a political version of Max Bialystock: He'll say anything to get your vote, just as Zero Mostel's Max would say anything to get a little old lady to write a check to Produce his play.

  17. I admired Romney tremendously until he turned his back on the people of Massachusetts in his quest for the Republican presidential nomination. It has been dispiriting and disillusioning to watch Romney recant the positions that he took to win office in Massachusetts, as well as to watch him backtrack from the health care reform program that was his strongest and most successful contribution to the Bay State.

    I don't doubt Romney's intelligence, work ethic or organizational skills, but I do doubt his character. This is a man who will repudiate anything and anyone, including his past accomplishments and supporters, in his quest to advance. I don't find this quality trustworthy or admirable.

  18. As a guy who had him as governor (and he was not a bad governor), his turn-around is disheartening at best. The fact that he disavows the successful MassHelath plan he spearheaded is telling and sad.

  19. Does he remind you a less nasty version of Richard Nixon ?

  20. Kristof's fantasy of Mitt's closeted pragmatism is entirely irrelevant. Whatever Mitt might or might not believe, he would come into the office beholden to folks with the very worst ideas in modern politics. Beholden to people who, if Bush had listened to them instead of ignoring their libertarian idiocy when the world econmy was on the brink in 08, would have brought everything down. His entire administration, all of his political appointees, every layer of government Romney can place people into, will be staffed with absolutist ideologues with no ability to see the world as it is. With people who think "facts have a well-known left wing bias".

  21. Very astute. Let's not forget what billionaires like Adelson (Israel's interests trump the US'), Friess, the Koch conglomerate, etc., are going to want as their pound of flesh. Mitt has also signed Grovor Norquist's pledge. Where is the pragmatism in that?

  22. "[P]ound of flesh"? Are we feeding stereotypes here?

  23. Don't miss the point. It's about hypocrisy and changing stated opinions to fit the game at hand.

  24. Unfortunately, folks have already decided who they are going to vote for.

    And unfortunately, they didn't use logic when they decided.

    Fears, prejudices, myths - these are the determinants of actions for the human species.

    Good luck sorting out the inconsistencies - more rewarding perhaps: comparing and contrasting the dueling fantasies.

    Nora would have been able to make a great book/movie about the humor/tragedy of it all - poignantly.

  25. The main problem a pragmatic Romney would have is with his own party. It is a safe bet that if elected he will also have a majority of Republicans in both houses of Congress. And most of these are Tea Party Republicans. How could he advance a moderate agenda against them? The only hope then is that Democrats in Congress will side with the few remaining moderate Republicans to support a moderate President. Would be a nice change from the current situation.

  26. Teenage bullies who never learn humility rarely become men of sterling character. Learning that Mitt Romney bullied, and physically attacked, a classmate was a puzzle piece that fit snugly with his treatment of his dog, his treatment of his wife's horse, his treatment of other candidates on the campaign trail, his treatment of a female Mormon who came to him for advice, and his treatment of the public as he costumed himself in a state trooper's uniform, put a flashing light on his car, and pulled people over as a "prank."

    This is not a man I want deciding ANYTHING except where he's going to have lunch... and I'm glad we don't eat at the same places.

  27. The media presents the image of an intellectual when in reality the individual is a bozo being stage managed. I often wonder if they really understand the meaning of what they are saying? Much of the public is really attuned to sounds and not the meaning. Recently Mit has been using the word freedom. To my ear it is sarcasm. There really is no freedom, it is an illusion spun by the diabolical to deceive the gullible.

  28. There are at least two freedoms Republicans have always believed in during my lifetime: The "right to work" for less and the freedom to starve if you don't do exactly as they dictate. Unfortunately, both these 'freedoms' do exist.

  29. Freedom. Where is the freedom for young people, who come out of college with tens of thousands of dollars of debt? This debt dictates their lives. Want to marry and start a family? Pay your debt first or both Mom and Dad will have to work while trying to raise a family. Want to buy a house? Your debt ratio with unpaid college loans renders you a bad risk. Save to educate your child? Sorry, you don't make enough.
    Freedom. Want to retire after thirty plus years of playing by the rules? Sorry, you no longer have the healthcare benefit that was promised as part of the bargin when you signed on. In Michigan, your pension( something you're lucky if you still have) just got smaller becauses businesses "need more incentive to hire", so it needs to be taxed. Better try and hang on to that job.
    Freedom. My nephew took himself to the hospital because he was experiencing chest pains. Many tests, a heart cath a stint and an overnight stay later and he was $100,000 in debt. No housing or car loans for him. No saving for the future for him. One quick trip to hospital and his freedom was gone.
    It is so clear that things need to change that it breaks my heart that there is an even chance that Romney and his ilk will have their way with our future. What will it take for everyone to believe what's real and vote against those who could care less about freedom.

  30. Lets be honest, President Obama also ran on the premise of Hope and Change, He was going to be above politics. His administration was going to be open. Instead we have an secretive, imperial president who thinks he is above the law.

    Every candidate has to, to a large degree, appeal to a certain base in order to secure the nomination. Once they have the nod they start to return to form. Its no different with Romney. He had to tilt right but now that he has the nod he can return to form. I do wish he'd relax and be himself, he'd be a lot more attractive a candidate especially for those people that don't pay much attention until the election in only days away. Lets be honest. We can't afford Mr Hope and Change. We can't afford a president who has refused to learn from his mistakes and continues to believe in the fraud of government being everyone's savior.

  31. I also disappointed in the hopey-changey thing. It absolutely did not work out for me. I would like a bash and burn agent instead, because that is the only thing his Republican opponents deserve. They have been nothing short of traitorous by working to destroy the economy, all in an effort to make him fail.

  32. If you're being completely honest, why don't you explain to us why "We can't afford Mr Hope and Change" but we can afford the job killer from Bain.

    Or maybe your idea of who "we" are is a lot different than my idea of who "we" are.

  33. We can't afford to elect republicans anymore.

  34. Jill Stein (Green) is also running for President. She may not win any state, but her platform is the one that makes the most sense for America's future. And, what about Rocky Anderson? Is he still going for an Independent run for President? Romney is a buffoon. Obama is either a timid, ineffective tool of the corporations, or a more cynical actor. I'd prefer Obama to Romney, but honestly, if we can't consider better alternatives, where's our imagination?

  35. The difficulty with this election, as with most elections, is that the media works very hard to ensure that the election ends up balanced on a knife edge; this is a far better situation in which to sell the daily fishwrap than a runaway election for either the Republicans or the Democrats.

    And in this situation, either the Republican or the Democrat *WILL* be elected; it won't be the Green, the Socialist, the Libertarian, or any third party candidate. It won't be John Anderson or Ross Perot.

    If we had *ACTUAL PRIMARY ELECTIONS* in this country (where the top two vote-getters from any party then go on to face each other in a run-off), people could afford to spend their primary votes on third-party candidates in the hopes that a third party such as the Greens would replace one of the two incumbent parties. But we don't have such a system and the two incumbent parties, because it would challenge their duopolous lock on power, will *NEVER* allow the emergence of such a system.

    So this year, you either vote for Obama or watch Romney win. And that's the very sad truth.

  36. Both Romney and Obama are centrist pragmatists... but my concern is that "presidents inevitably empower their political parties" and the McConnells and Boehners of this world will be in charge. With Supreme Court justices potentially in the balance, with the chance for Republicans to have their way with the environment, with the chance for wholesale privatization of most of the public sector, and with the opportunity for the Tea Party Republicans to finally drown government in the proverbial bathtub a "moderate" Mitt Romney will have to stand up to the Conservative wing of his party. My question: is there any evidence he can do that?

  37. A broader worry is that presidents inevitably empower their political parties, and, in Romney’s case, that would be a Republican Party that today makes no pretense of moderation.
    ****************
    That's where the worry is with a Mitt Romney presidency and, voters, don't you forget that!

  38. And he will be picking the next Supreme Court judges, which means a hard-right court for decades.

  39. If Romney mimics his personality in the type of food he eats, then he would eat a magnificent looking meal that doesn't have any real taste.

    If anyone believes, as I do, that real character, irrespective of your beliefs, is a necessary component to being a successful leader and President, then Romney is doomed to failure should he win in November.

    My impression of Romney -- sad that all we have is an "impression" after all the pitiful GOP debates we were condemned to watch -- is that his core consists first and foremost of a mere desire to win the top job. Everything else, if anything of real substance even exists beyond that shallowness, is a distant second to Mitt.

    Obama is real, representing a real story, and real beliefs. Some of us may not be so enthused at his success at implementing or fighting for those beliefs, but at least we get a sense that they are there. Romney is an abomination, the anti-Obama, that Republicans support with glee because he satisfies their obsession: get Obama out of the White House at all cost.

    If I disagreed with Obama, I'd still vote for him over Mr.Plastic. I think Romney is that bad. He's that bad because he would represent failure if he wins: a failure of the American people to elect a person who they can at least relate to in some way. And being able to relate, even minimally, is a necessary component to leadership.

    Romney would be a disastrous leader, based mainly on who he is. Or should I say, who he isn't.

  40. Mr. Kristoff, as always you are ever the optimist. The real issue--as clearly shown by your quiz--each statement seems to be the opposite the one that came before it. How can we trust a man who doesn't keep his views consistent and changes it to the group he is in front of? This isn't political pandering to constituents... he has no policy.

  41. I have no patience with those who might consider voting for Romney because he's not who he vehemently says he is. We must take him at his recent word.
    The fact that he has said all these contradictory things is a disqualifier for the office. He either has no problem with lying to get what he wants and misrepresents himself as he seeks to convince us he is fit for the office, or he doesn't know what he believes. Such a person should never be the leader of our country.

  42. Another enlightening article from Kristof.

    Through a creative technique, you have underscored the fundamental issue with the Romney campaign. That is, who would we actually be voting for? Is it fair to judge Romney on the outrageous things he said throughout primary season? It should be. Is it fair to judge him on his record before then? Absolutely. But what if the two conflict? How should we judge the candidate? Governor Romney seems to me a pleasing alternative that would help facilitate real debate about how to fix the country's problems. Present day Romney, not so much.

    I guess we will just have to wait and see -- not to mention, cross our fingers and pray to god that, if elected, Romney would revert to his better, more sensible ways.

  43. If Romney is elected, he'll probably have a Republican house and potentially a GOP senate. If both happen, what will he say if far right bills land on his desk that he supported in the primaries? I was lying during the election?

    I can imagine Romney being a centrist with a Democratic house and senate (an unlikely combination) -- but not with the GOP running one or both.

  44. The problem in this election is not which candidate will best represent the overall interests of the American people as opposed to the interests of a select few - that choice is abundantly clear. The problem is getting the American people to vote for their own best interests instead of responding to the most overwhelming and sustained disinformation campaign this country has ever known.

  45. The problem is, there is no real Mitt Romney. He's worn so many different costumes in front of so many different crowds, even he's probably forgotten which one is really his. He's whoever you need him to be at the moment.

    Being gay, I find his embrace of the gay community during his senate race against Kennedy simply for the purpose of winning to be especially galling. If you look at his website now, he has outreach to pretty every community in America -- except gay people. We've been scrubbed from the list of people he needs to liked by. I thought of that when he was addressing a Hispanic group in Florida last week, and wanted to warn them what a fickle thing Romney's embrace could be.

    And one demonstration of Romney's phoniness has been too little discussed -- the Washintong Post's report of his high school "hijninx" ie: leading his buddies in an assault on the kid whose hair and manner were a little too different for Mitt. The point is not what he did in high school, the point is how he accounts for himself more than 40 years later as he runs for our highest office. Given the opportunity to own up to his actions,he looked his questioner right in the eye and claimed no memory of the event -- even with the details so carefully laid by his now grown and remorseful henchmen. No one is swallowing that one, and he needs to be called on this lie. The event might have been in high school, the "I don't remember" defense sounds more like he's still in 3rd grade.

  46. How ironic that conservatives argue in support of mandatory sentencing for minors but say that this incident from Romney's past shouldn't count for anything. The lack of mercy for those who don't come from priviledge is astounding.

  47. Let's hope that the more moderate Romney is the "real" one --- if there is a real one. His Massachusetts gubinatorial record was centrist and even a little liberal on some issues (e.g. health care). He didn't hesitate to raise taxes on corporations when the state needed more revenue, rather than slash programs like education. If the Republicans outspend the Democrats and buy his election, we'll have to hope that he reverts to his earlier persona.

    But he'll be indebted to the right-wing Republicans, which are now nearly all of them, for allowing him to get the nomination (after trying hard to find an alternative), even though they don't really trust his lately announced ultra-conservatism. That may make him cater to the right-wingers more than if he hadn't sold his soul, or at least his principles, in the primaries. And the Republicans will be all over him, pushing to get their pet reactionary programs passed: abolish the Affordable Care Act (if the Supremes leave any part of it standing), slash or privatize Medicare and Medicaid, push for school vouchers, trim Social Security, cut other social programs, do away with government regulations, beef up military spending, and cut taxes further for the wealthy and for corporations. In other words, turn the nation into a corporatocracy.

    The only thing that might stand in the way of the Republican bulldozer is the Democrats holding at leat one house of Congress. I'm not willing to take that chance, so I'll be voting for Obama.

  48. Romney is a coward. There's no other explanation (or excuse) for disavowing his sole achievement in political life (arguably in his entire life), namely Romneycare. As recently as 2009, he vigorously argued for a national version of Romneycare in a published op-ed in USA today (link below). Now he's against it. It's disgraceful and sickening There is no way he'll be able to do an about face if elected, even assuming he were so inclined. The 2012 election will eventually focus on the question of why Romney opposes his own creation and how it is working (well), especially if the Supreme Court upholds the ACA and thereby places its fate where it belongs, in the hands of those who vote in this year's election.

    Mitt Romney, July 2009, USA Today Op-Ed
    www.usatoday.com/printedition/news/20090730/column30_st.art.htm

  49. Your entire post is founded on two falsehoods. First, Romney has never disowned Romneycare. His opponents during the primaries repeatedly called on him to disown it and admit he had made a mistake, but he steadfastly refused (courage, not cowardice). Second, in the Op-Ed you cite, he never calls for a national version of Romneycare. He states that the lessons learned in Massachusetts should inform decision making in Washington.

    Here is the Romney argument, which his opponents refuse to even acknowledge, much less dispute. Romneycare is a success. It achieved the highest health insurance coverage in the nation. It is not perfect, but it was the first of its kind, so it despite its imperfections it deserves great praise. It is not a model for the nation for two reasons. First, after implication we realize there are things that can be improved. Second, and most important, it is not fully scalable. What works for a state may not work for the nation. It is better for each of the states to work on solutions more taylored for they economy, culture, and politics. But not being a model, does not mean it should not inform a national decision.

  50. I would like to believe that the next four months would expose the Willmitt hypocricy. However, studies show that most Americans now only watch news "shows" that agree with their political persuasion. Righties only watch Foxx and Fiends, Lefties only watch MSNBC.
    There is no clean filter for the rest who are not committed either way.
    It then comes down to Madison Ave and good old advertising. The Scalia Court and Citizens United has assured that Willmitt's message will have a lot more volume than does Obama's.

  51. Remember from 2000, the compassionate conservative GW Bush who supposedly only promised those big tax cuts to neutralize candidates to the right of him in the Republican primaries? He was considered a more moderate governor than his presidential campaign rhetoric who could work with members of both parties to get things done. But did he do that when he became president? Or did he use narrow Republican majorities to build right wing power, cut taxes (especially for the wealthy) not once but twice (including during wartime), break his promise on greenhouse gasses, stifle government scientists, and on and on. Given that Romney has campaigned for president to the right of GW Bush, why should any sane person think he would govern more moderately? His stated fiscal, budget, tax, and regulatory policies are the same as Bush's, only more so. The same policies that led to the global financial crisis and converted our surpluses into huge deficits.There may be reason to believe that Romney would be a better manager than Bush. That only means he will manage to implement those disastrous policies more effectively, driving us to economic ruin even faster.

  52. "Given that Romney has campaigned for president to the right of GW Bush, why should any sane person think he would govern more moderately?"

    I'm no Romney supporter, but I believe I can answer that. Going back to when he was Governor of Mass, he has no record of alliance with anything resembling the far right conservative he is (at times) campaigning as Romney is a panderer. Prior to this campaign, he was a proven moderate. His campaign staff is surrounded by moderates. He is likely distrustful of many in his own party. Forming a cabinet will be difficult since the party will force him to choose far right conservatives for which there is mutual distrust. His embrace of the tea party is as phony as his stance against Obamacare, because how can he praise his crowning achievement as Governor and yet desecrate a policy that so closely resembles it. It must be hard to overcome the "gag reflex" when he's up there in front of the mike promising to overturn it if the court doesn't do it for him first (should he get the opportunity).

    But guess what, this isn't a surprise. Tea partiers suspect this too. Why else did he get such weak support in the primaries? I believe that a President Romney would fail badly because the tea party element, if they aren't tossed out in droves in the coming election, will hog tie him worse than Obama. He'll have a harder time with his own party than with Democrats. And a majority of Americans may be foolish enough to let it happen.

  53. Thank you, Nick Kristof, for your pop quiz. Utterly gobsmacking that each of the quotes in your quiz were Romney's! How on earth can Americans think of electing that man President of the United States? On the eve of the SCOTUS decision on President Obama's healthcare initiative, we (Obama's choir, his base, his support, in his corner come what may) wonder if Romney's Republican reach and two-sided promises (re gays, women's right to choose, Roe v Wade, climate change, etc, the items in your pop quiz)) will affect the decision of The Nines tomorrow. This eldering Court is freighted and listing toward the Right, toward the extremely severe Conservatives with very deep pockets. This is frightening.

  54. Well-done. I got 50%. You won.

    Philosophical and political niceties aside, what Romney really believes is unimportant. The fact that he lies 50% of the time purely to get votes makes him unsuitable for any office. No backbone there. And, worse, no heart there, either, not for others' lives -- Just listen to him tell us how their doggy Seamus just loved that roof-ride, gut-clearingly long, high-speed trip to Quebec.

    With Mitt, as Gertrude Stein once said of Oakland, "There's no there there when you get there."

  55. Well said!
    Seamus lives!

  56. yikes, i didn't know he dressed as a cop....my god, how scary.....he's even worse than I thought. That shows true contempt for law. The decency of our candidates is on a steep downward slope. How outrageous will the 2016 candidate be?

  57. I guessed the answer after reading the first two quotations - which suggests to me that people have Mitt Romney's number. Unfortunately, that may help to win him votes, because the subtext of his campaign, aimed at independents, is "Don't believe a word I say; I'm merely being a pragmatic politician, and that, rather than a man with a mission, is what we need in the White House."

    A cynical strategy that elevates cynicism over conviction. It is evidence of our electorate's frustration and despair that so many of us seem to feel that the political system is so corrupt, that a vote for a liar is the smart vote.

  58. And this is a surprise because?

    Romney is a panderer. End of statement.

    To elect him would be to elect a cat to guard the hen house. He will lie there and do nothing while the foxes rob the coop blind.

    http://wifelyperson.blogspot.com/

  59. Romney's shape-shifting is the reason that even if Obama was the GOP candidate, I vote for him over Mitt.

  60. I don’t get this column. Seems a waste of time to now start wondering if there’s actually some hypocrisy going on. The gop disrespect for the well being of the majority has been pretty evident for a while now. Naturally they can't just come out and say "We disrespect the American voter, and will continue trying to fool the gullible booboisie."

    Non ideological pragmatist? Say what? Romney’s ideology is held like a true believer—to make use of his fellow citizens to amass more of the country’s power & resources for his own and his financial sponsors’ benefit. Continue the wealth transfer from us to them. Why is this acceptable? Because of his fervent belief that he and they are superior. Because they can. They have the mechanisms of our financial machinery. To them, this is what capitalism is.

    Progressives have an ideology too—it’s the constitution and bill of rights, and meritocracy, which are quickly going out of fashion.

    You actually ask the question who Romney is? Your ‘broader worry’ is that the gop makes no pretense of moderation? Gosh, where did you ever get that idea? What a concept!

  61. Booboisie? I gotta steal that line.
    The interesting phenomenon is that the white poor and soon to be poor tend too identify with Willmitt and his oligarchs. Why? Psychologists find that the american psyche has been bombarded with the rags to riches story so persistently, that even the most down and out believe that they are just one small break away from becoming a 1%er.

  62. Gov Romney has plenty of money, he's running to save our country from naive inexperienced newbies like obama

  63. @Bobby Bow: It already is stolen, an unattributed reference to the great cynical journalist from Baltimore, HL Mencken, who first used "booboisie."

  64. So, who didn't tumble immediately to the trick that the quotes were all Romney? Fess up, folks.

    The only hope for preserving our democracy is to give the Democrats the presidency, the House, and a Senate supermajority. It's not looking good.

  65. I didn't, but I'm often gullible--but not gullible enough to vote for Romney.

  66. Obama HAD the house and the senate and he blew it

  67. We did give Democrats the presidency, the House and a Senate supermajority in 2008. And they completely wasted those terms. Why do so many liberals dismiss those years so easily? My guess is that it shows the lie to what they want us to suddenly believe now.

  68. Willard's only chance in November is if the "social welfare" groups led by Karl Rove and funded by Sheldon Adelson pound away the message to white working class rural Americans that Obama is a black Kenyan Muslim socialist usurper.

  69. It took me only two questions to know where you were going with this. That's how legend Romney's selective pivoting and pandering is.

    But people who try to please everyone end up pleasing no one. We saw that in Obama's first three years, before he wised up and is now fighting for what he truly believes.

    Romney's problem, however, is that he doesn't believe in anything. Except maybe the power of money. Its ability to accomplish the near impossible, like buying you a nomination when more than 75% of your own party repeatedly rejected you, until they had no other choice left.

    How tough it must be for you late-arriving Romney supporters to declare that Mitt is your guy. Like pretending to gush over a Christmas gift when you don't really know what it is.

  70. Obama fighting for what he believes? Oh please. First you have to know what Obama believes before you can venture into knowing whether or not he will fight for those beliefs. And so far, the one true Obama we know is that he'll say anything while campaigning without regard for the truth or what he'll actually do with the power of his office. Which he'll use mostly to pander to people whose votes he believes he desperately needs. And then throw them under the bus immediately after the election.

  71. The scary thing about people like him is that like chameloens, they tend to take the color of whatever is behind or near them. If elected, God forbid, he will want what all first therm presidents want, a second term. Which means he will continue to do subscribe to "severely conservative" policies in order to please his base. He will surround himself with people who are more conservative than he pretends to be just to sure up his base. Not to mention supreme court nominations and possibly getting us into another war just to prove he is a tough guy like someone else we know. I for one am not willing to take that risk besides I like most people have a severe allergy to fake people.

  72. I agree. Romney changes his color way too much for me to get any sense of what he might do with power, other than his handlers' biddings. Some other poster compared him to an octopus, which also changes color to hide. The octopus is much more voracious and hunts from ambush, which might be a more apt description.

  73. Romney will surround himself with people who have actual business experience, unlike the ivory tower pseudo intellectuals Obama has.......they can teach, but they sure can't work.Obama has Dem controlled congress for two years and still spent all his time on the golf course.

  74. Brilliant column!
    Kristof keeps raising the journalistic bar.

    His series on Iran made intuitively clear why attacking that country would be precisely the wrong thing to do.

    And this column?
    Perhaps an eloquent case for that old saying: "Better the devil you know than the devil you don't."

  75. Except in this case the devil we know is perhaps not a metaphorical one.

  76. The Willard that is currently on display is the culmination of two plus Centuries of political science.
    Idealogues tend to crash and burn - they are too easy to corner.
    Wilmitt has combined the cynicism of Nixon, the looks of Kennedy, the slipperiness of Clinton, the wealth of Roosevelt into a smarmy mix that is impossible to capture.
    This IS the New Age Politician. Have no discernible record or position that can be defined and criticized.
    The only thing that we know for sure is that Willmitt like money and has an aversion to having his family pets either to be Olympians or Roof Surfers.

  77. This election isn't about flip-flopping or taking multiple positions on a single issue. It's just about money; the rest is window dressing. Romney knows that people hear only what they want to hear, so he puts something out there for everybody, figuring any inconsistencies can be overcome by the treasure chests of the Super PACs. Using sophisticated Madison Avenue strategies and tactics, votes can and will be bought.
    See: http://revolutionofreason.com and http://www.youtube.com/RobertLBlackburn

  78. Romney has created jobs, Obama plays golf

  79. Sorry, Barb, most of the jobs Mitt created while at Bain were overseas. When he was governor, Massachusetts had one of the worst job creating records in the country. Meanwhile, employment has increased *every month* that Obama has been in office. Not as much as might be desired, but still...

  80. Contrary to what the author states, this election is not between two men. There is former Republican Governor of NM Gary Johnson (Libertarian), Dr. Jill Stein (Green Party) and former Mayor of Salt Lake City Rocky Anderson (Justice Party.)
    54% of the American people want a third patty. 2.5 million voters have left the Republicans and Democrats, and yet the mainstream news media feels that two parties are enough for this country and don't even investigate the policies or potential of third parties. Most countries in the world have more than two candidates. We deserve more than two also.. Why the news blackout on minor party candidates? In Canada the NDP used to be a "third party," today, it is the blockbuster party in that country. I want the Times to pretend we are a true democracy where the press and news media report on all our choices, and do not predetermine which candidates should be on the ballot. It's a Catch 22. No one votes for third parties because the media doesn't cover third parties, therefore, the self-fulfilling prophecy that no one votes for third parties continues. I concede a third party will not win this election but I'd like to hear their voices and put some pressure on the duopoly to force positive change.
    |

  81. I guessed that each comment was by Romney, not by considering the ideas too carefully, but merely by the language. If the country makes this mistake, we would miss Obama for a great many things, including his eloquence.
    Carmen in Maine

  82. Exactly, Carmen! I was also parsed the language, not the lack of eloquence, but the hedging. For example, Romney stated with respect to the right of women to choose, he is dedicated to honoring his word. Barack Obama would never say that because he simply keeps his word. Romney left open the possibility he might not be able to honor his word, his dedication notwithstanding.

    With gay rights, Romney promised leadership, but he conveniently left out that might involve supporting the anti-homosexual rights lobby in repealing the overturn of "don't ask, don't tell".

    Regarding the stimulus, Romney's strong suit is spouting out numbers. Barack Obama is more interested in humans.

    As for climate change, even in his pro-admit-there-is-global-warming phase, Romney implied he would like to ignore the facts, but cannot because it is too hard. Barack Obama does not find climate change hard to ignore, because he has never tried to ignore it.

    On the matter of health care, note how Romney emphasizes every financial angle of the problem. Barack Obama has consistently approached the problem as a humanitarian.

    Finally, on TARP, Romney only reluctantly, as evidenced by his rhetorical hedge, "Well," acknowledged the success of the program.

    Would Romney govern from the right or the center? I for one, would never be willing to take a chance on him. His own right wing thinks he's a liar, and those on the left have even less reason to trust him.

  83. Since our childhood we Americans have been taught that we have a democracy. That is false. We do have elections, but campaign contributions tend to determine the outcome. A recent study, cited by Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Harvard Law School, concluded that 196 individuals contribute 80% of US campaign financing. So what we really have is a plutocracy, government by the rich for the very rich.
    Of course both major parties pander to the rich, but the Republicans appear to be more blatantly slavish to them, eg GW Bush tax cuts for the rich.
    You want a President who favors the country over the rich? President Obama is your man.

  84. Pop quiz indeed, emphasis on pop, as in trendy, ephemeral and meaningless.

    We're in the worst economic situation in eighty years.
    We are still as broke as we can be.
    We still live under the threat of islamic terrorism
    Our federal government, by all accounts, is utterly non-functional.
    The US Constitution is under active assault from the Executve branch.
    Half our children have no idea who their fathers are.
    The populace is almost completely polarized.

    and what we talking about?
    Our sexual behavior and the weather.

  85. If you can't attack the message, attack the messenger?

    You're going to vote for Romney, despite not knowing where he stands on any issue. No one knows where he stands on any issue.

  86. Here are a few examples of story lines you chose to ignore:

    I will never vote to give retroactive immunity to the telecoms.
    I will end extraordinary renditions.
    I will close Guantanamo with one year.
    I will have an immigration reform bill to congress in my first year.
    I do not support a mandatory requirement to purchase health insurance.
    I support a public option for any health care reform bill.

    Which shows absolutely who Obama is. What a candidate says isn't nearly as important as what an office holder reveals after assuming office. Which is why no one should believe a word Obama says while campaigning, which is pretty much every day of his life. Yes, we know all too well who is lying.

  87. Steve B:
    this is the frustration we liberals have had with Obama, and why it drives us crazy to hear the Right discuss how "far left" he is. He is, and always has, been a Right Center politician.
    Those in power on the right love having him, because he can deliver what no Republican President ever could. the Left would rage if Bush proposed half of what Obama does. But Obama has neutered the Left completely. Any time we squawk they drag out Michelle Bachman and Rick Santorum and we run with tail between legs back to Obama.

    I disagree with one assertion however:
    We know what Obama will do in his second term (if he wins). Exactly what he did his first term. Sell out the Left and further a right center pro-corporate agenda, putting Medicare and Social Security on the chopping block in order to work with the insane Right.
    Only pie-in-the-sky liberals imagine that he will somehow change course as a lame duck President. He didn't his first 1-2 years when he had a Super Majority, thus he won't next term either.

    Unlike in 2008, we do have a 3.5 year track record to see exactly what Obama does. But I agree wholeheartedly... look at what Obama does and completely ignore what he says.

    We have no idea what Romney will do, because he has not yet held office. He will clearly pursue a major pro-Big Business agenda (it's the only thing he is consistent about), although I imagine he will be pulled FAR to the right on social issues, since he tends to appease his constituency.

  88. All of Obama's "lines" you mention were either attempted and squashed by a Republican congress, said before the crash so other "items" became priority, or conceded to in order to compromise with congress and/or the military. Romney "lines" in the article, shows he has two, or no, opposing sides to what most people hold as core personal beliefs. Woman's rights, Gay rights, Climate Change and Heath Care for All.. you're either for or against. Romney has flipped on all, while Obama holds steady in his beliefs, (evolving on gay rights, which we saw coming), compromising on some but always moving forward towards his stated goals. With Romney.. the line "There's no there, there" fits like a glove. Romney speaking out of both sides of his mouth on the Stimulus and TARP displays, to me, a weak, indecisive, business mind.

  89. Just a moment Mr. Kristof--you're saying that if Romney has been lying for the last year, putting on an act in order to deceive people & get the nomination, then he might make a good president? But you're concerned that there is a possibility that he is actually being honest, which would make him a bad choice for president?

    Doesn't that say something about the state of our democracy? For example, that it's a charade?

  90. What is Mitt's position on any issue? The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.

  91. Romney said all those things just after he didn't. Or was it before?
    Since Romney has little to no mind of his own, if elected, he will need a mind, or minds, to guide him through the day. Karl Rove would be an excellent choice or Dick Cheney, in between shooting people. These folks could complete George Bush's dreams and take us all the way into outright depression and war with Iran.

  92. Romney has sworn fealty to the most crazed right-wing positions in the country; he is already a dangerous man with a disastrous agenda. Don't let him off the hook.

  93. Romney is all over the political spectrum because he is not ideological. He is a capitalist. He will make decisions based upon profit motives. As such his focus is on efficiency. He will run the government like a business which is a big problem for the majority of Americans. His "Opportunity Society" will create winners and losers. Unfortunately he will create many more losers than winners, which in the long run is very bad for the economy. And most dangerously we will learn that pursuing efficiency can create some very bad unintended consequences. This works for corporations, as they do not have to worry about the welfare of the people. The government takes care of that. But when you are the government the people are on their own and some very bad things can happen. Rumsfeld said it best: "Freedom is messy." That is freedom from leadership that considers the welfare of all the people and not just the winners.

  94. Americans used to be proud to be Americans, but those days are almost over. If Americans elect for President a job-killing vulture capitalist who lies all the time with no apparent sense of shame, the whole world will know that Americans will have nothing left to be proud of. American will be ground zero for the corporate takeover of the planet. No one will trust our President, and no one will trust America.

  95. I cannot take a chance with my vote or the future of this country on which Mitt Romney will show up at the White House. Even if moderate Mitt shows up, he still won't govern that way. He will be controlled by the extremists in his own party and by far right wing lobbying and corporate interests who lurk in the dark, shelling out money for his campaign hand over fist. All Grover Norquist wants is someone in the Oval Office with enough working digits to sign the right wing legislative agenda and he said so at CPAC this past February.

  96. Even if he governs 'moderately', his 'moderate' positions are the exact same as W's policies during his term in office: lower taxes, lower regulation, more belligerence in the Middle East. Who wants to go through that again even if he doesn't force gays out of the military, end funding for family planning worldwide, demonize immigrants, etc., etc.

  97. Does it really matter who wins, given that both are beholden to big money interests?

  98. Yes. Supreme Court, Supreme Court, and Supreme Court. And war with Iran or not war with Iran.

  99. Who is the real Romney? He will go where ever the wind blows. He says things what his audience wants him to say. He doesn't stand on anything. If he hated Romney care aka Obama care why did he sign into law? Why is he saying things that are supportive of the President's policies.

    One other thing to mention: A person who had been moderate twenty years ago can very well go either the very right or left. So his days as governor of MA doesn't mean he will be a moderate.

    One thing is clear that he is a very weak leader and is not qualified for the job. A strong leader stands by his principles, polices and defends them. Romney, so far, has demonstrated that he is a weal leader and will go the way as the wind blows. For this reason turns blank or refuses to address important and difficult issues.

  100. Based on the diametrically opposed positions and views of Romney, laid out in the 10 point Pop Quiz, the question is not: " Which is the real Romney?" The question is: What is wrong with this Romney?

    One can only conclude that there is a problem with basic brain function and that there is evidence that brain deficits must exist.
    Memory loss of this magnitude, the lack of cognitive thought processes, and the inability to categorize leads inexorable to the conclusion that brain malfunction is evident and should be investigated.
    The opinion of those versed in the matter of brain damage should be consulted and their views carefully considered.

    If Romney was age 75 or more and demonstrated the above impairments, he would be promptly taken to a neurologist for evaluation and subsequent MRI and brain scan tests. Those areas of the brain having to do memory acquisition, categorization of ideas and concepts, problem solving, and other factors should be studied for damage.

    A lack of perception and/or his own awareness of his opposing views and statements should be cause for concern for all of us, given his desire and intent to be President of our country. Concentration and attention also enter into the picture under consideration here.

    If other conclusions exist or should be considered regarding the blatant and persistent demonstration of opposing views and positions as stated by Romney, then let those opinions be made and discussion undertaken. And soon, very soon.

  101. Can't we just say that Romney is a true delegate of the electorate? If you look at what Romney promises and campaigns on compared to what he actually does in office, he is the truest form of serve-your-supporters politics. He was a moderate in Massachusetts because that's what he thought the voters who put him in power wanted. If he's elected now, he'll be an ideologue of the right, because that's what the voters who put him into power wanted.

    You don't HAVE to look at Romney as being a man divided against himself or playing some cynical political game. You get a clear narrative of his entire political career if you just consider him a straight delegate, that will carry the beliefs of his supporters to congress, whatever those beliefs may be. He's a surface pragmatist, he has no deep convictions to challenge his supporters.

    That's why he never does. That's why he has nothing to say about his religion, his business practices, his vision for how to reshape the economy, his plan for immigration, his foreign policy for the arab spring, etc. etc.

    He is instead simply going to figure out what his supporters want him to do, appoint it to a political-scapegoat-i-mean qualified overseer for the task, and then wait to see how it goes. If you thought Obama was leading from behind, Romney will be leading from far enough back to be clear of the artillery shelling, but close enough to claim credit.

    Why is that so hard for pundits to grasp instead of the two-face schtick?

  102. Which Romney is the 'real' one? The answer is that it probably doesn't matter. There's nothing in Romney's history to suggest that he has the guts to stand up to the rabid right wing of his party, so unless he's got more of a backbone then he has ever displayed, we're in for a tidal wave of reactionary legislation that I don't see him vetoing any of (realistically, if Romney wins then the Republicans certainly keep control of the House, and probably gain the Senate - they then probably pass the anti-fillibuster rule that Reid was too wimpy to attempt). Then heaven help us all.

    If Romney were the nominee in 'reasonable' times, I might be tempted to consider him, but under the current circumstances, no way!

  103. What worries me are the statements made by right wing regressives confessing they just want Romney be there to sign the bills ALEC, the Kochs, etc - the word used was "Congress" but we all know what that means - want made law. Doubt Romney has the courage or wiles to veto the billionaires bills, even if he deep down doesn't believe.

  104. Given what I know about Romney (and I voted against him in 2002 and lived through his time as governor), I can tell that he lacks a core and doesn't care much about anything except being in charge.

    He will do the bidding of those to whom he feels beholden. I suspect that will be the far right for many social issues, including judicial appointments.

    "we have a pretty good feel for how Obama governs. Democrats and Republicans may disagree about him, but they largely know what they’re getting". To listen to much of the rhetoric coming from the right, I don't know whether they know what Obama's done. They still talk about him being a secret Muslim socialist, and appear totally oblivious to what has happened over the past four years.

  105. Mitt read somewhere in his childhood that "You should keep on changing your position because it will confuse your opponent from effectively arguing against you; then you can highlight that inability of your opponent as his greatest weakness as a leader and win your point." Mitt is yet to grow up after reading that book.

  106. Romney may tend towards pragmatism and centrality but he doesn't tend to be honest. He should stop wriggling and start explaining his positions, if he really has any.

  107. trick questions, trick lead in. with romney, guessing what someone will do who has no basic truthfulness about him, is not something i would care to do. there is already a 5 justice reactionary majority on the supreme court.

  108. The idea of a non-ideological problem-solver president makes about as much sense as a non-ideological problem-solver pope.

  109. For me, it's simple: Vote for Obama.

  110. "My dad made strong, principled stands, and paid the price for it."

    Mitt Romney has made this statement or some variation on it all over the nation, and most people took it as a man showing pride in his dad.

    But I think Mitt really saw it as a warning, a cautionary lesson: Never take a principled stand or you'll pay the price. That's why while George Romney was a principled man, his son Mitt is a shifty Mr. Etch-A-Sketch, as these quotes reveal.

    www.newyorkgritty.net

  111. Pander to all never mind the hypocrisy. Hey I think we have finally found the Romney campaign slogan!

  112. I had 8 out of 10 good. Even though it was clear that most if not all were statements by Romney, there were two I could not believe him having said.
    It could mean that if he governs, he will say / do what is best at that moment, thus solve the issue. This might be what is needed for the country.

  113. What concerns me most about Romney says more about our electoral process than anything else. He's betting that he can be the 'etch a sketch' candidate and say whatever is favorable now and completely contradict it later. And that his contradictions won't matter to the electorate.

    If he wins with such a completely mindless, thoughtless, contentless campaign, what does it say about how we choose a leader? Worse, what will the next crop of candidates sound like?

  114. Haha, I knew them all Mr. Kristof. Please nominate me for White House aid.

    Oh, for being Romney a pragmatist, just check the NYT piece a few weeks ago about his pragmatism. Here is the quote from the piece.

    "Mr. Romney also prays before taking action on decisions he has already made, asking for divine reassurance, a feeling that he is “united with the powers above,” Dr. Hassell said. Sometimes Mr. Romney would report that even though he had made a decision on the merits, prayer had changed his mind. “Even though rationally this looks like the thing to do, I just have a feeling we shouldn’t do it,” he would say, according to Grant Bennett, another friend and church leader. "

  115. Let's Hope that Romney is the pragmatist Nick says he might be.

    Because -- Oh, no! (gasp) -- Romney just might get elected because Obama hasn't performed, and some of his previous supporters might not be sufficiently turned on to bother to come out and vote for Obama this time.

  116. I agree with those who question Romney's character. To achieve his goal he is willing to be a shameless liar and panderer.
    Obama came into office and naively tried to lead both political parties. For his trouble he was kicked in the teeth, and to this day the GOP leaders in the house and senate are still trying to run him out of office. To satisfy his party, Romney will do anything they want. He has turned into a person who will say anything to get what he wants.
    The Dems need to make sure Obama wins this election. If Romney wins we will have him, a GOP congress, and this Supreme Court.
    To repeat, we need to keep Obama in office. And taking back the House would be a good idea.

  117. I got them all, sensed a trick quiz early on. When do I get my appointment to the White House?

  118. BTW, everyone talks as if there will be no further confrontation between the candidates than appearances before supporters or the media. Will there not be a debate between these two men? That may be a time when Mitt comes apart at the seams. Hmmmm.

  119. Mr. Kristof must have the secret to reading Romney's messages on his Etch-A-Sketch prior to all the erasures. As Romney's handler predicted, that toy would become the instrument to be used in formulating his campaign strategy to win the presidency. In recognition of its usefulness, the GOP should stop using the elephant as its symbol, and substitute an Etch-A-Sketch as more accurate.

  120. Romney is a chameleon on so many issues that no one can predict who the real Romney is. Let me rephrase that: no one can predict how he would govern if he were to be elected. But we don't have any reason to believe he will be any more compassionate that what he says in his most current statements. Just (as he does) follow the money: he's surely a guy who believes in "Dance with the guy who brung ya". And we know who brung him.

  121. Yes, we know what we're getting with Obama, but isn't that sort of the problem here? If people liked what they were getting, polls would not be where they are now.

    The trouble is that Obama the Campaigner was different from Obama the Leader. He did not deliver on the huge mandate for change he was given by the voters. Instead we got Bush Lite with Lousy Messaging, while he coasted for 3 years on his popularity and we sank into the mire of pessimism and Washington gridlock.

    We can't blame the Republicans for that. They can always be relied on to do what they did, and will again. We needed someone who would take the fight to them. Instead we got a policy of appeasement.

    It didn't work well for Chamberlain. Let's see if Obama can scrape by on the "better than the alternative" platform that you, damningly and with faint praise, advocate today.

  122. Mitt Romney wants the White House. He wants it so badly, he will say and do whatever is necessary to make it happen. It is the only thing he has been unable to buy, and so he creates a puppet candidacy that dances to the music in the street.

    While this seems sad, what is tragic, is that there are those who despise Barack Obama for reasons they probably cannot even define, and will vote for anyone who runs against him. They have no choice, for they exhausted all of the other candidates, finding them less "clever." The contradiction in the statements described in the column are not a concern for them, and I fear no fact or reality will be considered by them.

  123. God forbid the if Romney gets elected...but he will be the hardliner. First he doesn't have the guts to stand up to the wingnuts of his own party. Second, he is beholden to the ilk like the Koch brothers who are financing his campaign. Oops, sorry. The groups that Citizens United says he can't communicate with.

  124. Oh come on Nick, Romney is an empty suit filled with an ambition to do better than his Pa did: Full stop. He'll take any position his audience needs to hear, since he has no real core that can withstand more than a gentle breeze. I will grant you that his syntax is better than the last Republican who fits that description; but he still manages to step in the whoopsie and then put his foot in his mouth on a regular basis. Has he not constantly and consistently shown how his family's money has isolated him from the vast unwashed of the general populace?

    Meanwhile, Obama's main fault is that he wants to build a consensus soooo badly, that he can't help but move to the right in search of a Republican who will come out and play ball. Unfortunately, he has the great misfortune of being faced by an entire party of Lucys, to his lone Charlie Brown. I'll take the candidate with some 'there' there, over the empty suit any day. bc

  125. I'm sure you can find out by examining his college transcripts.

  126. I am in favor of a contest to find a word that best describes Mitt Romney. Just one word. The winner would be published in the NYT. How about it, editors?
    I propose "slithering." Sort of a cross between slimy and dithering (with a nice sideward glance toward "blithering.")

  127. Mr. Kristof:

    If you ask yourself the question: "How can Romney get away with this?", the answer lies as near as your very own newspaper. The Times along with the rest of the American media has been complicit in promoting the idea that all political positions are equally valid and worthy of discussion. Republican spokesman are presented in your paper as equally worthy as Democratic spokespersons, even when it's clear to anyone with a minimal command of the facts that one side or the other is simply lying their posteriors off for political advantage.

    In fact, many political positions are entirely unsustainable when even the slightest facts are presented in rebuttal. Yet the fiction that, for example, cutting taxes raises government revenue is daily presented in America as an absolute dogmatic fact. Similarly, when Republicans assert that the military budget must be increased even as we cut overall government expenditures, it goes unquestioned.

    The American Media has left the American Electorate woefully misinformed for at least several decades now, and the current crop of know-nothing/"No"-everything Republicans (and their flip-flopping candidate at the top of their ticket) is the inevitable result.

    Do your job: When someone is lying, call them on it. When their "facts" are simply fantasies, don't be wishy-washy; simply state that their facts are unambiguously wrong.

    When the media does this, candidates like Romney will evaporate under the hot glare of the truth.

  128. I've been saying for quite sometime that the media is our problem. You have expressed it very well. FactCheck.org can find the facts, and they report false statements made by both Democrats and Republicans. Why can't the media find the facts and report them? The media has learned that profits can be made from the entertainment known as "news broadcasting". People are given what they want to hear.

    There would not be liberal and conservative news organizations if both spoke the truth.

    It is the job of the media to provide facts so that the populace can make intelligent decisions when they vote. This isn't happening.

  129. I got them all correct. When do I start? (I want the job only if Romney loses, so maybe we should start with that.)

    By the way, Romney is not an "enigma." He's a liar and an opportunist.

  130. Take it from a former resident of Massachusetts: Romney is a pragmatic Neocon. Stress the Neocon part. His one contribution to education reform was to try to codify recommendations of his former employer, Bain Capital: to turn the Massachusetts university system into a trade school system driven by private sector needs only. His real contribution to healthcare reform? To kill an early provision that would have required employers to provide insurance. Oh, and to gut the exisitng MassHealth system overnight as soon as he took the oath of office.

  131. The problem is not (only) which Mitt would be elected, but whom he would choose for his administration. Since moderate Republican has become an oxymoron, we'd wind up either way with. a bunch of teapartiers and reactionaries, in fealty to the richest of the rich.

    And don't get me started on the Supreme Court.

  132. My, my, my. There are electioneering promises, personal viewpoints . . . and then, when you are in the office and must deal with reality, there is . . . reality.

    Like, "I will close Gitmo." Hmm? No, I don't condem Obama for not closing Gitmo. I applaud him for allowing reality to reverse politically motivated pronouncements.

    Of course, that does say a lot about his integrity. That is, about the absence of any.

    Which is why I'd vote for almost any oppenent of his. No, not Ron Paul; I did say "almost."

    I'd suggest that Kristof be somewhat more circumspect in his declarations, examinations, and evaluations, but that's been suggested before and hasn't had much effect. So I won't.

  133. So you'll go for someone whose lack of integrity is already on full view? Hmm. I suppose there's some sense in that, but not much.

  134. "And the quiz? It illustrates the problem: Every single statement was made by Romney."

    Problem proposed and solved. Question asked and answered. Why would anyone vote for someone who stands for nothing?

  135. Here's another quiz. Who said: "...and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States"? And has he? Which Obama have we actually seen?

  136. Sorry, Nick. Better stick to your foreign reporting. Your analysis of Romney and its conclusion ignores the obvious: a man willing to bend in the wind, so overtly ambitious that he embodies "etch-a-sketch" principles, and if elected indebted to the crypto-fascist billionaires and Karl Rove's money laundering. He's pragmatic in the way Tony Soprano and Jamie Dimon are "pragmatic".

  137. Who would a President Romney appoint to the U.S. Supreme Court?

  138. How do you know when a politician is lying? That's easy: their mouth is moving.

  139. The Romney to keep at the forefront is the 18-year-old thug who tortured a classmate by holding him down and cutting off his hair. What 18-year-old you know would do that -- and if you know someone who might would you vote to put them in charge of the US? As for Romney dressing up in policeman's clothing and putting a flashing light on his car in both prep school and college -- it is a crime to impersonate an officer of the law. Is this the kind of person that should get a vote to the White House? At this age Romney's classmates were going to Vietnam. The man deserves no respect. He certainly deserves NO VOTE.

  140. And what is the most tragic is that even though Romney spins faster than a dervish, his followers couldn't care less. A graphics yesterday showed another two sides of Romney stating that the government doesn't create jobs, the private sector does. A few days later he stated that as president he will create jobs! Huh? Global warming/climate change is real except when it isn't. Government bail outs for businesses are necessary except when they're not. Abortion is a protected right except when it isn't. I will make illegals so miserable that they will self deport/I will allow illegals a path to citizenship if they go to college or join the military. I will stand firm on my beliefs except when I won't or changing my "beliefs" is expedient to the political cause. Romney is the master of double speak in our new and improved Orwellian "democracy". and sadly his disciples could not care less. All of his nihilistic proposals : ie gutting S.S, medicare, environmental regulations, financial regulations, public education funding, health care, social programs... somehow will not have an adverse effect on his mesmerized, irrational, deluded, minions. Do they live in a bubble? How they feel none of the destructive policies he supports will not have a debilitating effect on their lives is beyond my comprehension. Are we really so ignorant or uninformed that we can no longer recognize how damaging his agenda will be to the health and welfare of the American population? Do we even care?

  141. President of the US is a one-of-a-kind job. Except for second termer's who can legitimately say: "I have experience as the single most powerful political leader of the free world?" A single term as a Governor isn't much better than a turn as a Senator, and maybe not as good as 8 years as First Lady in terms of practical experience and training. The truth is that the job will change you, the world situation will thwart and threaten you, Congress will confuse and bruise you.

    We know that anyone who takes the job is going to morph, and in the clarity of hindsight will become a candidate for Liar of the Year. Mitt's problem is that he may already be ahead of Obama in the polls on that count. And he hasn't even begun to feel the first flicker of the pressures that go with the most high pressure job on earth.

  142. Mitt read somewhere in his childhood that "You should keep on changing your position because it will confuse your opponent from effectively arguing against you; then you can highlight that inability of your opponent as his greatest weakness as a leader and win your point." Mitt is yet to grow up after reading that book.

  143. Actually, Mitt and his team read the adult version of that quote as written by Lee Atwater and his equally evil spawn, Karl Rove and Frank Luntz.

  144. Who said the following?:

    "You know, keep in mind, though there are a lot of banks that are actually pretty well managed, JPMorgan being a good example, Jamie Dimon, the CEO there, I don't think should be punished for doing a pretty good job managing an enormous portfolio?

    1. Mitt
    2. Obama

  145. 2.

  146. Romney lacks any integrity as the quotes illustrate. End of story.

  147. For years I've heard people complain that they want a "none of the above" line on their ballots. Well, they almost have what they want; Mitt Romney is the "all of the above" candidate. I don't know how anyone, regardless of party or political leaning,
    can figure out what Romney means or believes. Beware.

  148. I wonder, now that Obamacare has been upheld by the Supreme Court, will Romney claim the credit for having invented it, or will he continue to say that he will overturn it on his first day in office.

  149. The problem is not so much "Who is Romney?" as it is with Grover Norquist and his menions. Norquist stated that all they needed in the White House was someone to sign the bills into law that the Noroquist Congress sent to him. Mitt Romney, whoever he is today and whoever he might be tomorrow, does not have the strength of personal integrity to hold back the fascist tide that nows resides in the Republican Party.

  150. Actually,

    Whatever both of the candidates believe or support is not important anymore?

    The most important issue in this political system is who is going to appoint justices to the SCOTUS.

    You'll understand why tomorrow.

    You should already have understood why with the citizens united decision and the decision about Montana campaign finance law this week.

    There will be either justices to expend democracy or there will be justices to spread the corporate oligarchy in all aspects of the society.

    This is the choice you will make when you are voting for either Obama or Romney.

    The rest is not even worth to mention compared to this SCOTUS appointment issue.

  151. May be, Romney makes as ukrainian politics - promises everything for everyone. Because he hopes that people will vote him for his beautiful eyes. Our ex-premier Tymoshenko also worked like Romney in USA. She lived with opinion: I'll win the election - after that we will decide. So, Tymoshenko now in prison..

  152. Kristoff uses a so clled "liberal" newspaper to further the cause of false equivalency .

    one should NEVER listen to anything Romney says but instead review his deeds...he collapses into positions acceptable to the extremist right of his party and will indeed be nothing more than their tool in the oval office ...a "hand to hold a pen and sign their Draconian bills into law " to paraphrase chief rightwingnut Grover Norquist...

    The Republicans are trying to get the American people to believe in a Homeopathic approach to politics...that somehow an economic meltdown created by vulture capitalism will be best resolved by electing a vulture capitalist to the White House....if they are stupid enough to believe this class confusion rubbish then one must indeed fear for the future of this nation.

    But Kristoff blithely glides over the extensive Romney record and instead tries to convince the reader that there is no need for concern regarding Romney and his band of former GW Bush neo-con advisors who applied their voodoo supply side /dereg economics and trumped up a war of choice in Iraq thus creating the present Bush Depression....this is a paradigm of everything that is wrong about the media and its assumed role as lapdog rather that watchdog of the public welfare...

    Today's media would never be able to break the Watergate Scandal...they're far too cozy with those whom they are assigned to cover. They'd be too afraid of not being invited to the next dinner party or golf outing.

  153. Nice columns, NK; however, where you write:

    "I’m also reassured by many of Romney’s advisers. He mostly seeks advice from smart center-rightists, such as Gregory Mankiw of Harvard or Glenn Hubbard of Columbia among economists."

    You might want to call up Paul Krugman to get his economist's perspective on this.

    See again the documentary "Inside Job," and enjoy your "smart center-rightist" Hubbard's arrogant and ridiculous responses.

  154. Heck, today we're likely to see Romney, the creator of Romneycare, strutting his stuff in celebration that the supremes declared Romneycare unconstitutional.

    My head wants to explode. And my heart is breaking.

  155. Happily, it hasn't worked out that way.

    Instead, we get to see Romney strutting his stuff telling us how, once elected, he'll dismantle that nasty Romneycare, err, Obamacare! Curious, isn't it? He was for his health-care program before he was dead-set against it.

  156. Why is it that you and several members of the Washington post insist the the primary Romney is not the real Romney. He is that person. He will follow the Ryan budget if he get in and he will do the other bad things for the country too. Do you all work for the Romney campaign? Or are you just wishing he was someone else.

  157. Thank you Mr Kristof for this article!

    I hope this article will be an eye opener for those voters who believe Romney has a political vision.

  158. To understand Romney, check out the enneagram of personality types - he is a type three. Strange thing is, Obama may be a three as well. John Edwards and Romney are classic examples of these types of personalities that believe they are the successes, rewards and accolades that they receive, and will do whatever it takes to keep receiving them. They morph into whatever is perceived as the best, and lose themselves in the process.

  159. You will get hard-liner - Congress will give him no choice.

  160. Mitt Romney wants to be president, full stop. There is no there, there. He will do or say anything and has proved it. He will not criticize Ted Nugent, an unhinged race baiter, he gloms onto Donald Trump, as odious an excuse for a human as exists and also a race baiter. In all his years running for president, actual acquiring knowledge seems to have been neglected, especially in foreign policy where he relies on the neo cons from the Bush/Cheney first term, you know the ones that got us into war with Iraq and who talk tough about Iran with itchy trigger fingers. Combine that crowd with Sheldon Adelson money and we'll be outsourcing our foreign policy to Israel. He won't stand up to Rush Limbaugh or anybody else, his stump speech is a pack of pants or fire lies, which the media ignores as if it doesn't matter. Shoud he win, his will be the least transparent administration in the history of the Republic, we could well embark on war with Iran, the middle class which is in extreme distress already will further shrink and the extreme elements of the Republican Party will be in charge, so get use to those potholes but do not get use to education, doctor visits or safe air and food, those are for the elite who can afford cloistered communities of affluence.

  161. He is a full fledged hollow headed phony slimy consultant, with a fake laugh (it always comes in threes -- heh heh heh - listen sometime. So obvious.

  162. My vote doesn't count, I live in New York. If I lived in California it would't count either. So, if you care about who's elected President, and you want to vote so it will matter, you have to establish residency in a so called, "swing state". Usually, Ohio or Florida, where about half the people are of each party.

    My problem with moving there, is that I have a real problem talking to Republicans here in New York where they are a minority. In swing states Rush Limbaugh is taken very seriously, so any sense of logic is out the window and "dogma", as in a strong believe in the, "I believe it, so it must be true", is the hook that everyone hangs their hat.

    So I guess I'm leaving the election up to the corn growers in Ohio, and the Republican leaning conservative, ex-Cubans, in Florida. Ah, the greatest democracy in the world!

  163. The first thing Romney will do, Mr, Kristoff, is re-instate the global gag rule and put the millions of women you advocate for so eloquently, at immediate risk of death. He supported the Blunt amendment. He will appoint justices who will overturn Roe v Wade.

    Please. The real Mitt Romney? . Follow the Money.

  164. If the American electorate was not able to accept that Kerry could change his mind over time, how will they deal with Romney flip flopping every couple of days? He says one thing and then has to back off when the right tells him to. The President got some criticism when he said that "private sector is doing fine" but that was the one thing over the last 3 1/2 years that he flubbed. A Romney presidency will have some sort of gaffe every week -- and we may be in another war or two before it's over.

    It's obvious that we need to vote wisely. Elect Obama '12.

  165. I was briefly fooled who said which, and although I'll probably vote for Obama, I believe a similar list could be made for him—they're politicians, after all...

  166. You are reassured by those advising Romney; I find no comfort there. He has already proven himself incapable of standing up to even the craziest voices in his party. Worse -- he panders to them. President Clinton managed a "Sister Souljah moment" when he repudiated what he considered an extreme voice within his own party. Has Romney done anything similar? No; he has been a blade of grass in the wind. I find it hard to imagine he would suddenly find a spine once he got to the White House.

  167. > Personally, my hunch is that the real Romney is the
    > pragmatist, the nonideological problem-solver. I can imagine
    > him as the political equivalent of a management consultant,
    > where your job is to go in and fix messes without worrying too
    > much about partisanship or ideology. Romney’s old friends
    > and colleagues tell me that’s the Romney they know — and
    > that the one in the Republican primaries was a fraud.

    That's all well and good, but generally, one shouldn't hire the guy who lied constantly during the job interview and if Romney really is the guy described above, then lie is what he did.

  168. You are right when you say, “the real Romney is the pragmatist, the nonideological problem-solver. I can imagine him as the political equivalent of a management consultant, where your job is to go in and fix messes without worrying too much about partisanship or ideology.”
    And the Romney we have seen in the primaries was the one who played the game he had to play. It has little to do with who he really is as it is in most games people play-especially in politics. And that is not a bad thing. Look at all Obama said before he was elected…hollow promises to get himself to be President, at whatever cost and whatever CHANGES he needed to say and promise.
    So relax. If Romney wins he will be as above. He was that way in Massachusetts and was a good Governor. You now know what Obama is. The decision is easy as to who any reasonable person would vote for.
    But then this politics and in politics nothing is reasonable or logical. It is all about money and ego.

  169. Mouth breathing troglodytes like Senator Inhofe, who truly believe climate change is a hoax, are merely appalling. But a well-educated, intelligent guy like Mitt, who knows full well the scope and implications of climate change and fights to keep us from dealing with it to further his own ambitions is truly despicable and wicked, if I may use an old-fashioned word. We all have ambitions, but how depraved do you have to be to imperil our very future to pursue your goals? Is it not a species of sociopathy?

  170. Palin was right about "death panels" she just got the political party wrong. If Romeny is elected we will witness the death of our democracy as he appoints more radical right "justices". We will witness the death of public education, social security and countless other social programs, the death of our environment as industry is allowed to pour their toxins into our water, ground and air with impunity, the deaths of our elderly who will no longer be able to afford healthcare, the death of our children, neighbors, friends as insurance companies will once more be able to deny care.The death of our financial stability and economic vitality as banks and industry are allowed to go on unfettered, draining our wallets,retirement funds, outsourcing our jobs. We will witness the violent deaths of our children as more are called to endless war, the deaths of our brethren as any sane gun control will be eliminated, the death of our country as important infrastructure is allowed to slide into decay. We will witness the death of our constitution as ever draconian policies are enacted. We will witness the death of equality as gay rights are overturned, the death of protection of labor as businesses will further erode our right to protest unsafe working conditions, wage discrimination, age discrimination, race discrimination. We will become a nation of serfs, only here to serve our corporate masters. It will be hell on Earth and many may wish for the merciful release of death.

  171. Shocking - Romney bashing from the (former) paper of record turned liberal tag NY Times.
    To these comments - do you people read the other sections of this paper, especially those concerning world financial affairs? We are broke. If tge US was a person our house would be in foreclosure. Our debt per capita is GREATER than that of Greece! Many bemoan the role money plays in elections - I do as well. I bemoan the fact the Obama Administration's goal is to get a majority of Americans either on the government dole through welfare, food stamps, etc or working for the government, thereby buying their loyalty.
    Under a second Obama term the Ponzi scheme comes crashing down - but this has been Obama's (and George Soros') goal all along.

  172. Sam,
    The analogy of our country's economic condition as being that of a family is becoming boring. Your household isn't responsible for defending your entire neighborhood, it isn't responsible for building and maintaining the roads in your town, or building the bridges to get across the river so you can trade with other towns. Our government's role is very different from what a household must do. But if you want to continue your silly analogy, if you have too much debt, not only do you cut spending in your household, but you also try to raise income. Maybe get another job, maybe have your kids contribute through delivering papers, anything that might bring in some extra cash. So why aren't we talking about raising taxes as well as doing some intelligent cutting of budgets, like not spending billions on products that the military community doesn't want, but some Congressman does so he can talk about the pork that he has brought home to his district?

  173. So I should ignore the Romney of Republican debates and listen to his friends. If he is what his friends who may not be truthful like him say he actually is, then my vote hinges on lies told in public by Romney or possible lies being told in private by his cronies.

  174. Alas, I too had guessed that Romney said them all. What a shameless insult to the intelligence of the American press and voter-- let's hope that November does not cause us to add the adjective "accurate" after shameless.

    The problem, for Romney and many Republicans, is that they watch Fox "News" and so have been brainwashed (will Romney catch on that he is lapping up inaccurate information? His father caught on and said he had been brainwashed re Vietnam).

  175. ...Please help me, Doctor, I'm damaged. There's a pain where there once was a heart...
    the Rolling Stones.

  176. The flip-flopping makes one slightly nauseated. Romney seems to suffer from that personality disorder like "the Three Faces of Eve" character.

  177. Romney wasn't a bad governor for Massachusetts but the same thing could have been said about McCain as a senator for Arizona. The problem is that once someone enters the national (Republican) fray, any pragmatism and compassion they may have previously demonstrated seems to evaporate and the hard-liner emerges. Why would one assume that Romney would return to his moderate ways after he was elected? Why take that chance? Although I admired both these men in their previous incarnations, there is no way I would have voted for McCain in the last election and there is no way I will vote for Romney in November.

  178. The common thread to all these quotes is that candidate Romney said whatever he thought he needed to say to get nominated or elected.