In theory, presidential campaigns are a valuable opportunity for journalists to evaluate candidates' positions on important issues so citizens can make an informed choice. Actual media coverage is different, of course. And it's striking how some media voices diminish the importance of what the candidates are saying, treating it as meaningless theater that need not bear any relation to what they really think.
It's remarkably cynical–and arguably dangerous as well. But that seems to be the approach when it comes to Republican candidate Mitt Romney. As Jim Naureckas already pointed out, there's a tendency in the corporate media to argue that Romney's flipflops are a strength, not a liability.
Conservatives fear Romney is not telling the truth about his ideological conviction. Others, such as myself, are counting on it. We will forgive him these trespasses since to want to eliminate much of the Cabinet, reject all science regarding climate change, white-out the Federal Reserve or the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, round up all undocumented immigrants, mindlessly turn education over to local authorities, end the government's role in just about everything, and prohibit abortion, contraception and the errant midday sexual thought (pretty much the entire conservative platform right there) would severely hurt the American economy, not to mention ruining any chance of fun.
If we do see, as I expect we will, a reversion in the direction of the Massachusetts Romney, that's a flip we should celebrate. Until the Republican primaries sucked him into its vortex, he was a pragmatist and policy wonk rather similar to Bill Clinton and President Obama but more conservative. (Clinton described Romney to me as having done "a very good job" in Massachusetts.) Romney was much closer to George H.W. Bush than to George W. Bush….
So, in the coming months, the most interesting political battle may be between Romney and Romney. Now, do we really want a chameleon as a nominee for president? That's a legitimate question. But I'd much rather have a cynical chameleon than a far-right ideologue who doesn't require contortions to appeal to Republican primary voters, who says things that Republican candidates have all been saying and, God forbid, actually means it.
These are remarkable endorsements of a fraudulent and insincere brand of politics.