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According to an AP story today, John McCain lashed out at Mitt Romney, of his top competitors in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, for Romney’s flip on abortion. The AP writes,

“Republican John McCain’s campaign on Wednesday circulated a video clip showing then-Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney reiterating his vow to uphold the state’s abortion-rights laws.

I have indicated that as governor, I am absolutely committed to my promise to maintain the status quo with regards to laws relating to abortion and choice, and so far I’ve been able to successfully do that,‘ Romney says. ‘And, my personal, philosophical views about this issue are not something that I think would do anything other than distract from what I think is a more critical agenda’ that includes jobs, education and health care.

Romney made the remark at a news conference on May 27, 2005, the same day he, in the name of ‘respecting human life,’ vetoed state legislation that would expand embryonic stem cell research. Nevertheless, McCain’s campaign sought to exploit Romney’s inconsistencies on the issue.

As a GOP governor of a liberal state, Romney repeatedly vowed not to change state abortion laws. He supported abortion rights as recently as 2 1/2 years ago, even though he insists he has always personally opposed the practice.

Now, as a presidential candidate seeking the Republican nomination, he not only emphasizes his personal opposition to abortion rights, but he also calls for the repeal of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion nationally.

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Jon from New York writes: 

American politicians change their ideology and policy. We have coined the term “flip-flop” to describe these vacillations. In fact Reality Check 08 is dedicated to charting the course of the changing ideologies and issue statements of the slew of presidential candidates in the 2008 field. Political pandering is far from unique to the United States. The New York Times’ Michael Slackman pointed out in an August 2006 article that Iran has a particularly instructive cultural phenomenon of supplication called taarof.

The practice of insincerity — of inviting people to dinner when you don’t really want their company…Iranians understand such practices as manners and are not offended by them…In the West, ”yes” generally means yes. In Iran, ”yes” can mean yes, but it often means maybe or no. In Iran…listeners are expected to understand that words don’t necessarily mean exactly what they mean.

Slackman’s sources tracked this social courtesy to Iran’s history of occupation.

Analyst after analyst said that after centuries of cloaking their true feelings, Iranians are often unsure whom they can trust when dealing with each other, let alone foreigners.

An Iranian social psychologist sourced by Slackman said taarof permeates Iranian public interactions including that between politicians and the public.

Dr. Sanati says:

In Iran, you praise people but you don’t mean it. You invite people for all sorts of things, and you don’t mean it. You promise things, and you don’t mean it. People who live here understand that.

Thank you to Jon from New York for your contriubution. If you have something you would like to contribute to the site, send your ideas to RealityCheck2008@gmail.com

If there’s one issue upon which Rudy Giuliani hasn’t really been accused of flip-flopping or distorting his record, it’s terrorism and national security — though some critics have suggested that Giuliani’s shifts on immigration represent waffling on a national security issue.  Considering that Rudy’s reputation as the tough and decisive ‘America’s Mayor’ following the events of 9/11 is the foundation of his presidential campaign, the Giuliani camp has been more than willing to aggressively play the terrorism card.

In the first Republican debate, for instance, Giuliani tore into fellow candidate Ron Paul (R-Tx) for suggesting the U.S. claim a portion of the ultimate responsibility for 9/11.

Ron Paul: ‘”Have you ever read the reasons they attacked us?  They attack us because we’ve been over there; we’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years and we’ve been in the Middle East.  I think Reagan was right: we don’t understand the irrationality of middle eastern politics… We need to look at what we do from the perspective from the perspective of what would happen if somebody else did it to us.”

Moderator: “Are you suggesting we brought on the 9/11 attacks, sir?”

Ron Paul: “I’m suggesting that we listen to the people that attacked us and the reason they did it, and they are delighted that we’re over there because Osama Bin Laden has said ‘I am glad you’re over on our sand because we can target you so much easier.’  They’ve already now since that time have killed 3400 of our men and I don’t think it was necessary.”

Giuliani: “Would you allow me to comment on that?  That’s an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived though the attack of September 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard that before and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th.”

[APPLAUSE]

Giuliani: “And I would ask the Congressman to withdraw that comment and tell us that he didn’t really mean that.”

Moderator: “Congressman?”

Ron Paul: “I believe very sincerely that the CIA is correct when they teach and talk about ‘blowback.’  When we went into Iran in 1953 and installed the Shah, yes there was blowback.  The reaction to that was the taking of our hostages.  And that persists.  And if we ignore that, we ignore that at our own risk.  If we think that we can do what we want around the world and not incite hatred, then we have a problem.  They don’t come here to attack us because we’re rich and we’re free, they attack us because we’re over there.  I mean, what would we think if other countries were doing that to us?”

According to most media pundits, Giuliani won the debate, though Ron Paul’s popularity on the internet and conservative talk radio skyrocketed.  The Giuliani campaign has reiterated its position again recently in response to John Edwards’ characterization of the ‘War on Terror’ as a “bumper sticker” term with no real content.  Like Hillary Clinton, Rudy out of conviction or determination to appear tough has decided to maintain that the ‘War on Terror’ has been at least philosophically successful so far, with problems emerging purely from logistics.  Clinton and Giuliani’s gamble assumes that not very many voters in either party have decided otherwise.

So Giuliani is endorsing a stance of steely offensive resolve and swift and decisive forceful action against terrorists over seeking to understand the enemy and their grievances.  If candidate consistency were only based on their rhetoric, then Rudy would be in the clear.  But is his rhetoric consistent with fact?

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The New York Times ran a piece the other day about how all the ’08 presidential candidates have been “white-washing” their personal histories, ignoring or obfuscating whole sections of their biographies. Campaigns have always told selective truths and emphasized some things above others but this batch of candidates has a surprising number of elephants in the room.

“There’s always a tension between what can be said, what should be said and what must be said,” said Edward Widmer, a historian at Brown University who worked as a speechwriter for Mr. Clinton (and also, incidentally endorsed our website). “The first candidate to calibrate this tension may move to the head of the pack.”

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flip-flop.jpg ???

The Politico has a provocative must-read exposé of Giuliani’s history as a progressive — information that has the potential to seriously undermine Giuliani‘s candidacy as it becomes more well-known and if it’s accurate.  He might be able to get away with being pro-choice, but not with public perception that many of his conservative statements on the campaign trail could be what he calls a “political thing.”  Some of the more shocking statements in this story are not sourced and surely the author doesn’t meet Reality Check neutrality standards.  Still, it’s a valuable part of the debate and surely a sign of talking points we’ll see in the future as the other candidates seek to tear Giuliani down.

‘In college, Rudy attacked senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, the 1964 GOP presidential nominee, as an “incompetent, confused and sometimes idiotic man,” and he urged Republicans to “find men who will adequately address themselves to the problems of discrimination, of poverty, of education, of public housing and the many more problems that Sen. Goldwater and company throw aside in the name of small laissez-faire government.”

‘Former New York governor Mario Cuomo, a liberal icon, put it this way: “(Giuliani’s) basically very pragmatic. And he’s progressive. He is not a Neanderthal, a primitive conservative. But look, he’s a clever human being. He can shave and draw fine distinctions when he needs to.” […]

‘Rudy first switched from Democrat to Independent, and then to Republican, not because he embraced the tenets of conservatism but in order to move up the U.S. Justice Department ladder.

‘”He only became a Republican after he began to get all these (Justice Department) jobs,” Rudy’s mother, Helen Giuliani, told Barrett. “He’s definitely not a conservative Republican. He thinks he is, but he isn’t. He still feels very sorry for the poor.”

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John Edwards has had an unfortunate relationship with YouTube. The current most viewed video of him is of set to the tune “I Feel Pretty” from West Side Story and shows him fixing his hair for 2 minutes.

John Edwards has spent the past week creating an emergency commercial to be aired in Washington D.C. and on YouTube. The commercial features the “peoples’ voice” against the Iraq War. In addition to being his strongest plea against the Iraq War to date, it is also a convenient use of YouTube to try to compete with his fluffy image as an expensively coiffured aristocrat. So, which John Edwards will the people respond to? The serious, globally minded populist or the aristicratic comic “pretty” boy? It will be hard for him to shed the image, that West Side Story song choice is just so catchy!

Senator John McCain’s joke that we should bomb Iran (to the tune of the Beach Boy’s “Barbara Ann”) has gotten a great deal of attention in the mainstream press and particularly in the blogosphere. With that said, does McCain want to bomb Iran or not? On February 20, 2005 he told Meet the Press:

“I think we have to first convince our European allies of the magnitude of this threat and the necessity to take action. The Europeans, at least to a large degree, are only interested in carrots and no sticks. So we have to convince them of that. Then we have to go to the United Nations for diplomatic and economic sanctions if necessary.

We cannot rule out completely the military option if it’s absolutely the absolute last resort, but there’s a lot of things we can do in between time. Look, a nuclear-capable Iran in this part of the world is incredibly unsettling, including to the state of Israel. So it’s a serious challenge, but I would exhaust every possible measure before considering the military option. But you cannot completely rule it out. First step, let’s get united with the Europeans or have them unite with us as we go for sanctions if it’s necessary.”

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