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Romney should resign
If the governor is going to campaign for president by trashing Massachusetts, then he ought to get out — now

MITT ROMNEY OBVIOUSLY doesn’t like the state he purportedly governs. And he cares more about his political future than the economic well-being of Massachusetts — as he has made eminently clear with his opposition to embryonic-stem-cell research, a stance that could have devastating effects on the state’s biotechnology industry. After just two unremarkable years in the corner office, Romney is restless and bored, turning his attention increasingly to the 2008 presidential campaign.

He ought to resign.

Last week the Massachusetts governor took his nascent White House campaign on the road, speaking to Republicans in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and Salt Lake City, Utah. As the moderately conservative chief executive of a liberal state, Romney knew he had a problem: the Republican Party’s nominating process is wholly under the control of right-wing social activists who despise lesbians and gay men, who oppose women’s right to reproductive choice, and who would rather stop medical science in its tracks than allow research on clumps of cells in petri dishes.

Romney’s solution to this dilemma was to campaign against Massachusetts. He reiterated his opposition to stem-cell research. He proclaimed himself to be "pro-life," even though he continues to insist he will not interfere with abortion rights in Massachusetts — a conflicted stance that makes you wonder what he would do as president. Worst of all, Romney directed some truly venomous remarks at gay and lesbian families.

Complaining like a Mormon James Dobson that some gay and lesbian couples "are actually having children born to them," Romney said, "Every child has a right to a mother and a father." Just in case anyone mistook his drift, the governor also said, "America cannot continue to lead the family of nations around the world if we suffer the collapse of the family here at home" (see "Talking Politics," News and Features, February 25). That would be news to our allies in Europe, who are far ahead of the United States in treating gays with equality and respect. Just last week, the New York Times reported that the British Royal Navy — perhaps the most conservative military institution in Western Europe — is working hard to attract gay and lesbian sailors. Sadly, the US continues to move backward, discharging 10,000 gay and lesbian military officers over the past decade, many of them with language skills vital for combating terrorism. No doubt that’s just fine with Romney.

The applause line Romney kept repeating was pathetic. "Being a Republican governor in a blue state," he said at every opportunity, "is like being a cattle rancher at a vegetarian convention.

Even by the standards of politics, Romney has proved to be unusually expedient over the years. His stand on gay rights is a good example. Though he has never supported same-sex marriage or civil unions, following the landmark Goodridge decision, Romney made it clear that he would accept — with some reluctance — an amendment to the state constitution that would allow for civil unions with all the rights and responsibilities of marriage. And in fact, the legislature last year gave preliminary approval to a constitutional amendment that would accomplish just that. Now, on his traveling road show, Romney makes it sound as if he is as horrified by the idea of civil unions as he is by gay marriage. Fortunately, Massachusetts appears to be growing increasingly comfortable with the idea of marriage equality, whether Romney likes it or not.

Invariably, when a politician begins spending most of his time plotting for higher office, his political opponents call on him to resign. It’s ridiculous, and then–Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis, then–Texas governor George W. Bush, and Senator John Kerry were all right in refusing to give up their day jobs while running for president. But they, unlike Romney, did not further their ambitions by trashing the people of their home states. It’s becoming increasingly obvious that Romney is not going to run for re-election as governor in 2006. And there’s really no reason for him to stick around until then.

Since the election of Bill Weld as governor in 1990, the Massachusetts Republican Party has been a "virtual party" — an empty shell in a state thoroughly dominated by Democrats, and little more than a vehicle for the ambitions of affluent white men. The role of women has been chiefly to serve as window dressing. Romney’s window dressing is Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, who would become governor were he to leave before the end of his term. To be sure, Healey has an exceedingly thin résumé, and in her sole area of public-policy expertise — criminal justice — she has not shown herself to be particularly progressive or enlightened. But Healey, at least, would be unlikely to advance her interests by sneering contemptuously at the people of Massachusetts. She may prove to be more moderate than Romney, too. And if she’s not quite ready to be governor — well, Romney has been governor for two years, and he still doesn’t seem ready.

Given Romney’s almost nonexistent record of accomplishment, it’s mind-boggling that he’s now turned his attention to the White House. So be it. Three years from now, Republican voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina will determine his fate. In the meantime, Governor, please accept our invitation to leave. And don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

What do you think? Send an e-mail to letters[a]phx.com

Issue Date: March 4 - 10, 2005
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