During the closing moments of Tuesday night's debate Mitt Romney made much to do about how his deep faith shaped has character and policies. The problem is what to make of that with a man who has been pro-choice and pro-life, pro-environmental protection and anti-environmental protection, and pro-gun control and anti-gun control. Mormonism isn't about uncertainty but Mitt Romney's moral center fluctuates wildly in the political winds. Voters have always questioned such politicians.
As a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1994, Mitt Romney attended a benefit for Planned Parenthood and in his debate with incumbent Ted Kennedy said that he, like his mother, had been a strong support of a women's right to choose since 1970. Running for governor of Massachusetts in 2002 he said: "I will preserve and protect a woman's right to choose." But once he started running for the presidency he went around the country telling people that: "Every action I have taken as governor of Massachusetts has been pro-life."
Now he promises to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides not just contraception but also cancer screenings and other basic medical services for women. His views today -- though they may change tomorrow -- are finally consistent with the Mormon Church. But many Christian denominations, such as the United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church, offer a different perspective. In short, people of faith are divided on this issue but can generally tell when a politician is shifting views to win votes. Regardless, his views today are dangerous for women.
As governor, Mitt Romney was an environmentalist. His views on climate change were those of the world's scientific community and the types of reforms he advocated to protect the environment were ones supported by the Vatican and the World Council of Churches. At the debate last night, he railed against environmental protections and the Environmental Protection Agency. His presidential ambitions seem to have once again morphed Mitt Romney's views not as a matter of principle but as a matter of politics. To win the GOP nomination he had to win the support of climate-change deniers. Politics trumps morality with Romney time and time again.
The same is true on gun control. President Obama said last night he still supports re-instating the Assault Weapons Ban. Romney supported a similar law as governor but opposes a federal law today. Because the ban didn't work? No, it actually took many weapons of war off our streets and made America safer. But the NRA wields extreme influence over the GOP and Romney cannot afford to offend the people paying for his campaign.
Mitt Romney's debate performance last night showed Americans one thing tonight: It's politics that shapes his inner core and not, it would appear, religious values. A man willing to shift his opinions on so many major issues is defined much less by religion than ambition.