Ramesh Ponnuru responds to me and Leon Wolf: “Look, guys, I’m not ruling out the possibility that Romney has made a series of entirely cynical decisions to tack first this way and then that on the social issues. I’m just saying that we don’t know that to be true.”
Fair enough. I don’t claim to know that to be true either. I think I’ve certainly given Gov. Romney the benefit of the doubt over the years; I’ve even voted for him twice. You can look at Mitt Romney’s record in Massachusetts and make the case that he has always been as socially conservative as the prevailing political conditions permit. Or you can render a less flattering judgement. After a dozen years, I still don’t know which version would be correct.
Yet given that Romney hasn’t simply changed positions once but has actually bobbed and weaved on social issues since 1994, it is hardly unreasonable for social conservatives to ask tough questions. Excessive optimism about Republican politicians certainly hasn’t served conservatives well in recent years. And, whatever the Kansas senator’s many shortcomings, Sam Brownback has certainly accumulated a much more consistently conservative record on social issues than Mitt Romney. As Reagan might have put it, trust but verify.