In response to National Review Online’s surprising editorial attacking our editorials critical of Mitt Romney — National Review’s choice for president — I offer a few brief comments.
1. The editorial begins, “John McCain’s aides complain that Mitt Romney is running a negative campaign. Those same aides have been attacking Romney themselves, but for the most part they can outsource the negativism to their friends in the press – starting with the Union Leader, a prominent conservative newspaper in New Hampshire that has endorsed him.”
The jab that “they can outsource their negativism to their friends in the press” implies strongly that our opinion of Mitt Romney is not our own, but is simply McCain talking points rewritten. Nothing is further from the truth. Not a single editorial we have written in favor of John McCain or in opposition to Mitt Romney was based on anything other than our own impressions of both men. The McCain campaign has not fed us editorials, nor have we fashioned any of our editorials out of raw material supplied by the campaign for that purpose. All of them were our own opinions.
2. NRO wrote, “The Union Leader has blasted Romney for changing his mind on immigration. It accused him of lying, too, for saying that McCain wanted to let illegal immigrants earn Social Security benefits while working here illegally. But Romney was right. McCain has voted to let illegal immigrants who meet certain conditions become citizens and then receive benefits for their prior illegal work. Few Senate Republicans joined him.”
But that’s not what Romney claimed. Romney’s ad says of McCain: “He even voted to allow illegals to collect Social Security.” National Review thinks we shouldn’t use the word “lie” to describe that falsehood, so we’ll just say it’s untrue, as it is. As National Review, the New York Times, Factcheck.org and our editorial noted, Sen. McCain supports letting immigrants who came here illegally collect the Social Security benefits they paid into the system, but only AFTER becoming citizens. So he does not support allowing “illegals to collect Social Security,” as Romney falsely claimed.
3. The editorial suggests that the Union Leader is guilty of a double standard because McCain has changed positions on some of the same issues Romney has, and we don’t point that out. But we never wrote that candidates cannot change their positions. Our issue with Romney is that he appears to have undergone a wholesale political conversion on virtually all issues, save the death penalty and a few others. Not only that, he has made misleading statements about his own personal history.
NRO ignores our criticism of Romney for having falsely claimed to have been a hunter “pretty much” all his life and to have marched with Martin Luther King Jr.
If our issue were simply that Romney changed positions on immigration and abortion, NRO might have a point in claiming that we held the candidates to two different standards. But we made it perfectly clear that Romney’s numerous position changes over the years combined with his false claims about his past and his ad mischaracterizing Sen. McCain’s position on Social Security for immigrants indicate that he is fundamentally less trustworthy than Sen. McCain. That is the issue — for us and, it seems, millions of other conservatives. That is what we wrote. It would have been nice if National Review had paid more careful attention.
Editorial Page Editor
New Hampshire Union Leader
THE EDITORS RESPOND: We’ll take our friend (and occasional contributor) Andrew Cline’s points in order.
1. Cline seems a trifle oversensitive here. We don’t think it would be scandalous for an editorialist to get information and insight from a campaign, but we didn’t mean to suggest that it happened here. Our point was only that it is easy for the McCain campaign to accentuate the positive when it can count on its friends in the press to go negative for it.
2. There are people in this country illegally. Senator McCain wants to let a lot of them get Social Security benefits for their illegal work. He would grant them legal status first, and then benefits. Romney is perfectly within his rights to describe McCain’s position as favoring Social Security benefits for illegal immigrants. The Union Leader has not stated McCain’s position accurately, and it has mistakenly said that it is identical to Romney’s.
3. Cline dodges our arguments. We argue that McCain has made as many discrete flip-flops, and has made as much of a “wholesale political conversion,” as anyone else in the race. (McCain’s zigzag is the reason Democrats were asking him to switch parties in 2002-2004, and not before or since.) On the honesty and trustworthiness front, we noted that McCain used to openly advocate “amnesty” and then pretended that his opponents had invented the notion. We do not think this ignoble performance renders McCain unfit for the presidency. We do wish our friends at the Union Leader would stop putting a halo above the man’s head, and horns above that of his chief opponent in its state.