Mitt Romney has attempted to thread the needle on whether gays and lesbians have a right to serve openly in the military, saying he staunchly opposed the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell but is not willing to reinstate the policy. In a 1994 letter to the Log Cabin Republicans, Romney called Don’t Ask Don’t Tell “the first of a number of steps that will ultimately lead to gays and lesbians being able to serve openly and honestly in our nation's military,” but then in 2007 Romney claimed he originally found the policy “silly” but effective, and has since criticized attempts to repeal it. In a June debate Romney dodged a question on whether he would reverse the repeal, until he finally told the Des Moines Register editorial board this week that he would oppose the restoration of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
While his halfhearted and milquetoast stand may not surprise the vast majority of Americans who supported the policy’s repeal, it has not played well with Religious Right activists who want to see Don’t Ask Don’t Tell reinstated.
Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness recently started the Military Culture Coalition along with other conservative leaders to oppose repeal efforts, denounced Romney for his position of supporting Don’t Ask Don’t Tell in principle but not its reinstatement:
Donnelly questioned Governor Romney's comments to the Des Moines Register, noting that "The military does not work that way. Flawed policies that impose heavy 'complicating features' on the backs of military men and women cannot and should not be switched on and off, depending on the direction of political winds or promises made to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) activists of either political party."
She added, "Sound policies that reinforce morale and readiness should be maintained at all times. A long list of what Governor Romney calls 'complicating features' were caused when the 2010 lame-duck Congress voted for Obama's LGBT Law and related policies. Current problems and those yet to come are no more acceptable now than in the midst of a shooting war."
Sandy Rios of Family-Pac and the former head of Concerned Women for America mocked Romney for the “audacity” to say he is more conservative than other candidates while revealing a complete lack of conviction regarding his views on open service in the military:
As the issue of allowing gays to openly serve in the military raged last year, Mitt Romney let it be known he roundly opposed the idea. He was outraged ... incensed. Many conservatives were certain this was the real Mitt revealing himself after years of having to pretend to embrace gay rights as governor of Massachusetts. With this messy business of his position on gay rights out of the way, they could at last breathe a sigh of relief and support the man they thought looked and sounded presidential and had the credentials to turn the economy around.
But now that has all changed. In an interview with the Des Moines Register editorial board last Friday, the former Massachusetts governor explained that it wasn't the concept of having gays openly serve in the military that had troubled him ... only the fact that the change was being made in a time of war. Now that the conflict is over, he would not, as Commander in Chief, do anything to change it.
As if to drive his point further, Romney added that Gingrich's "unreliability" hadn't just been 14-15 years ago, but in the last 2-3 years. Yet Mitt Romney's latest leap from conservatism had only taken place a few days prior. What kind of audacity does it take to stand before a news agency editorial board and brag in the face of the evidence that you are the most conservative candidate?
One could go further back with Romney's liberal/conservative iterations, but these are current examples which, in the case of gays in the military, goes back not a few years but a few days. Surely it is a quantum leap to assign him the mantle of conservatism in the current race.
Truth and honesty are inconvenient at times, but they are as much a part of conservative values as any position on the economy or national defense. Dishonesty and deceit are basic disqualifiers -- and bend as we may to excuse the inexcusable, in Romney's case, they are very hard to ignore.
Not to be outdone, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association went after Romney and Ron Paul, who voted in favor of repeal last year, calling them “non-starters as candidates”:
If evangelical Christians simply vote their values, there is simply no way they can cast a vote for someone who is in favor of legitimizing homosexual behavior in the military.
In the GOP field, there are just two candidates who support the presence of sexual deviancy in our armed forces: Mitt Romney and Ron Paul.
Romney told the editorial board of the Des Moines Register last Friday that he is just fine with sexually aberrant behavior in the military.
Bottom line: for values-driven voters who claim to be conservative and to draw their values from the Judeo-Christian tradition, Ron Paul and Mitt Romney are both likely to be - and should be - non-starters as candidates. If a voter only claims to be a social conservative but isn’t one in fact, then a vote for Romney or Paul is not likely to be a problem.