This front page New York Times article is a straight news piece, not something on the opinion page, which is what makes it so effective. The article offers a simply devastating, piece-by-piece analysis of the incredible shape-shifting candidacy of Mitt Romney. It's a blow-by-blow account of Romney's attempt to Etch-A-Sketch away his "severely conservative" positions and rhetoric of the past 12 months and more, and replace them with the new-found, bipartisan, "moderate" Mitt of the past four weeks.
The article describes how Romney shifted his rhetoric on a whole host of topics. He's gone from emphasizing the need for two parent, heterosexual families to praising single moms. Romney has stopped talking about how Barack Obama is essentially a European socialist who doesn't get America, and now gushes about how "Democrats love America too," and about how well he'd get along with them.
But the article's author, Michael Barbaro, doesn't let Romney off the hook. He doesn't criticize Romney for his "modulation," he merely offers his analysis of the situation. Barbaro notes that a good chunk (one-third) of recently polled voters in a New York Times/CBS survey believed that Romney is more moderate now than before he was nominated. Barbaro notes that, although this may have been a necessary move, it is "one that holds peril for Mr. Romney."
"The tone and substance of his closing argument risks raising the questions about consistency and authenticity that have dogged him, tracking with his muddied stance on issues like amnesty for young illegal immigrants, Pell grants for college students and limits on abortions."
Barbaro reminds us of Romney's characterization of himself as a "severely conservative" governor, and broadens out the contrast between then and now:
"Rewind to the primaries: Mr. Romney sounded much less centrist. He said then that Tea Party members, known for their uncompromising rigidity, would find him "the ideal candidate." He also questioned his rival Rick Santorum's conservative credentials, citing a vote to fund Planned Parenthood."
This article is no partisan, slashing attack. What it represents, however, is the mainstream media -- symbolized by the front page of The New York Times -- accepting the reality and the narrative of Mitt Romney as an unprincipled politician who will literally say anything, even if it directly contradicts his own positions. His willingness to lie is, of course, another issue. On that as well, however, The New York Times had a front page article on Wednesday that made it clear to readers (without using the word) that Romney was, well, lying in his statements and his ad about Chrysler/Jeep and jobs being moved to China.
The Etch-A-Sketch won't work. The media, finally, is starting to do it's job. It is important to give credit where credit is due.