Mitt Romney’s embrace of the Republican Party’s call for a federal ban on abortion stands in stark contrast to his record as Massachusetts governor, one of his many shifting stances over the years in his bid for the party’s nomination. Romney’s wife, Ann Romney — the featured speaker at the Republican National Convention Tuesday night — has also shifted her public views. We discuss the move from “moderation” to extremism with someone who knew Ann and Mitt Romney well: former Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson. Mitt Romney and Anderson worked together on the 2002 Olympics and later endorsed each other for their respective state bids. Anderson is now running for U.S. president on the Justice Party ticket. We’re also joined by Megan Carpentier, executive editor of the news site The Raw Story. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: “I Want You to Want Me,” that was one of the songs that was played last night at the first night of the Republican convention here in Tampa, Florida. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh. We are “Breaking With Convention.” This is “War, Peace and the Presidency,” looking at the convention from the inside and out. Nermeen?
NERMEEN SHAIKH: The major television networks are broadcasting just one hour each night of the Republican National Convention, beginning at 10:00 p.m. In their first hour of coverage Tuesday, Republicans highlighted women. Speakers included Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann Romney. Amy, you were there on the convention floor when South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley took the stage just before 10:00 p.m.
GOV. NIKKI HALEY: A few months ago, I sat on the tarmac at the Boeing facility in North Charleston and watched as a new mack-daddy plane rolled onto the runway, sporting a “Made with Pride in South Carolina” decal and surrounded by—get ready for it—6,000 non-union employees cheering, smiling and so proud of what they had built.
AMY GOODMAN: I’m Amy Goodman. This is Democracy Now! And we’re at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. Actually, we’re on the fourth floor of the Republican convention, overlooking the first night. The first night, Monday, was canceled. Tonight, now, Ann Romney will be speaking, followed by the keynote address of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
Now, the networks have said they will only do an hour of coverage each night. And that started at 10:00. And clearly, tonight, they are featuring women. First, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley came out. And she, like many of the speakers before her, repeated the mantra “We Built It,” as they mock President Obama saying that no matter how much you put into your own business, no matter how much you built your dream, government contributed to that. Well, here, it’s the mantra. It’s the posters. It’s all over the convention center, the words “We Built It.”
Now, behind me is a debt clock, that started when the Republicans gaveled in the convention on Monday. And as that debt increases, and on this floor the corporate high-rollers are, down the road, for example, down the hallway, Sheldon Adelson is rumored to have his corporate suite. I can only think about that debt clock ever-increasing and the corporations like Boeing, that Governor Haley talked about, getting the government subsidies they have. Yes, it’s appropriate, when looking at that debt clock and then looking at the mantra, to put them together. “We Built It,” we built that debt. Right now, Ann Romney is about to address the convention.
ANN ROMNEY: Not about politics and not about party. And while there are many important issues we’ll hear discussed in this convention and throughout this campaign, tonight I want to talk to you from my heart about our hearts. I want to talk not about what divides us, but what holds us together as an American family. I want to talk to you tonight about that one great thing that unites us, that one great thing that brings us our greatest joy when times are good and the deepest solace in our dark hours. Tonight, I want to talk to you about love. I want to talk to you about the deep and abiding love I have for a man I met at a dance many years ago.
AMY GOODMAN: Ann Romney speaking at the Republican National Convention Tuesday night. She ended her address with the same theme.
ANN ROMNEY: I said tonight I wanted to talk to you about love. Look into your hearts. This is our country. This is our future. These are our children and grandchildren. You can trust Mitt. He loves America. He will take us to a better place, just as he took me home safely from that dance.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re joined now by someone who knew Ann and Mitt Romney well. Rocky Anderson is the former mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah, where he worked with Mitt Romney on the 2002 Olympics, former Democrat who once endorsed Romney for governor of Massachusetts. Now Rocky Anderson is running for president on the Justice Party ticket.
We’re also joined here in Tampa by Megan Carpentier, executive editor of the news site, The Raw Story. She live-blogged the speeches on Tuesday night.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Ann Romney—
ROCKY ANDERSON: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Rocky Anderson, you have known the Romneys for years. You cross-endorsed each other in commercials when he was running as a Republican for the governor of Massachusetts. You were running as a Democrat for Salt Lake City mayor. Now you’re running against each other. He may not know that, but you definitely do, and we’ll talk about that in a moment. But talk about who the Romneys are, their changing positions, who Ann Romney is.
ROCKY ANDERSON: Well, I supported Mitt Romney because he was a very moderate, reasonable person running for governor of Massachusetts. He never could have won that race had he not been that kind of a moderate. And I saw him as somebody who might be able to bring the Republican Party back to a far saner middle course. And instead, he has gone completely the opposite direction. You know, when you hear Ann Romney say you can trust Mitt Romney, who can trust a man who changes his position on fundamental issues on a dime, who decides to run for president of the United States, and all of a sudden he goes from pro-choice to anti-choice, whose wife has MS and objects to stem cell research? These are the results of handlers telling him what he needs to do to get the Republican nomination, and I’m very disappointed. They were great friends. It pains me to say this, actually, because I really enjoyed working with Mitt. I think he did a great job on the Olympics. I think that they have an amazing relationship between the two of them. But I think they’re not being honest with the American people about who Mitt Romney is. Either they’re not being honest now or he was being completely dishonest in the lead-up to this.
AMY GOODMAN: I mean, on choice, Mitt Romney, Ann Romney were fiercely pro-choice, right?
ROCKY ANDERSON: They were.
AMY GOODMAN: But now they simply say they’ve changed their position. They don’t say they didn’t have that position before.
ROCKY ANDERSON: Well, he could barely say that. But look at all the issues. I mean, he was clearly on the side of climate protection. He knew climate change was happening. He was an advocate of the cap-and-trade system among the Northeastern states, the RGGI cap-and-trade program, and then he backed out of it the last minute. I mean, he’s been all over the map on these issues, on equal rights for gays and lesbians. These go to the fundamentals of who a person is, what their view of the world is of fairness, of justice. And we’ve seen completely different positions and, I think, personality. You know, people talk about his likability factor. He was very likable, very charismatic, had great rapport with people of all kinds when he was running the Olympics. I’ve heard journalists say this. They are just astounded at the difference they’re seeing. He’s become this elitist. He seems to care only about the very wealthy, talks about corporations being people, my friend. He’s so out of touch now. And I think a lot of it is because he has had to come off as a very different human being in order to get this Republican nomination.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Megan Carpentier, I want to ask you—you were monitoring the speeches very carefully last night, and polls suggest that Romney is in fact far behind Obama as far as women voters are concerned. So, what do you make of Ann Romney’s attempt to reverse that trend?
MEGAN CARPENTIER: I think Ann Romney’s speech about love and Mitt as a family man was clearly designed to appeal to a certain kind of stereotype of women, you know, the soccer mom, the soft, you know, it’s not really about the issues, it’s about the man himself. And I’m sure there are women voters for whom that’s important, but we’re talking about an election cycle and a two-year period where everything from women’s contraceptive access to reproductive rights to equal pay has sort of been put on the table by the Republican Party, and women don’t just care if Mitt Romney is a good father. Women care what he’s going to do to those issues, to their ability to access the economy. And to have sort of Ann Romney get up and say, “Well, as a woman speaking to women, I don’t need to talk about policy or politics or what sort of president he would be; I can talk about what kind of husband he is,” and that’s the appeal, was kind of off-putting. I mean, obviously, she didn’t write the speech, and obviously that’s what his advisers think women want to hear, is that he’s a nice guy. And, you know, that’s, I think, kind of insulting.
AMY GOODMAN: Very strong message from the floor, when speaking to people when talking about the economy, not about issues of abortion. Now, I actually bumped into someone who’s very significant in the Republican Party around abortion and choice. It was 20 years ago this month, at the Republican National Convention in Houston, Texas, when the pro-choice Republican Governor William Weld of Massachusetts, right, the predecessor of Mitt Romney, took a stand for reproductive rights. Weld drew a mixture of boos and cheers. This is 20 years ago, when he addressed the convention saying he believed individual freedoms should include a woman’s right to choose. I want to play a clip of that 1992 Republican National Convention address.
GOV. WILLIAM WELD: What brings us together as Republicans, indeed what defines our party, is an enduring faith in individual freedom. We are tough on crime, because unless our families are free to walk the streets in safety, no other freedoms really matter. We are tough on taxes, because excessive taxation stifles individual initiative and economic enterprise. On these fundamental Republican themes, I can safely say we agree. There are also issues where we do not agree. I happen to think that individual freedom should extend to a woman’s right to choose. [cheers and boos] I want the government out of your pocketbook and your bedroom. But this disagreement is not unhealthy. Unlike the Democrats, George Bush and the Republican Party are not afraid of a little disagreement. My appearance before you here tonight proves it. We should not let this issue divide us. We should focus on uniting and on winning in November.
AMY GOODMAN: That was then-Massachusetts Governor William Weld speaking 20 years ago this month at the Republican National Convention in Houston. Well, on Tuesday, last night, I spotted William Weld on the floor of the convention here in Tampa, Florida, where he’s serving as a delegate from New York City.
AMY GOODMAN: Today, here on the convention floor, a very different atmosphere than when you gave a speech in 1992 for choice in the country. Your thoughts today?
WILLIAM WELD: Yeah, no, I think the atmosphere is different. I think the party, frankly, is psyched behind the ticket. I know the standard-bearer awfully well. He and I were the bookend governors in Massachusetts. And I think he’s the most decent guy I’ve ever met. So, I’m not worried about what’s going to happen with the social issues in this country under a President Romney, even though his stated and formal positions are pro-life, and they’re as they are. But he’s not going to allow anybody to be marginalized, so I feel good about the ticket. I feel good about the campaign.
AMY GOODMAN: But in 1992, you were willing to launch a floor fight in support of women’s right to choose.
WILLIAM WELD: I did. Yeah, no, I thought we were going to get a floor fight, because we needed six states and we had eight or 10 pro-choice Republican governors, but we only came up with two: Jock McKernan from Maine and myself. And that’s how—that’s how the votes fell. And the—you know, the speech I gave that year was I want the government out of your pocketbook and out of your bedroom. And I still feel that way very strongly. So I’m a member of the libertarian wing of the Republican Party, and I’m very comfortable with Mitt Romney because I know him so well personally.
AMY GOODMAN: Are you saying that perhaps he is for choice?
WILLIAM WELD: Oh, no. Oh, no. I think what you see is what you get with the governor’s stated positions. But at the end of the day, I think the essence of democracy is that the individual shall not be thrust in a corner. And I don’t think a President Romney would ever permit that to happen.
AMY GOODMAN: His running mate, Paul Ryan, sponsoring the Sanctity of Life Act, which says that a fertilized egg is a person.
WILLIAM WELD: Yeah, no, I mean, there’s no question—based on what I read, I understand that the vice president—vice-president nominee is a—you know, he’s a committed pro-life person. I’m a committed pro-choice person. And I think the bottom line is that we’ve got to be able to work together for the Republican Party.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you see there’s any reaching out on this issue? I mean, sponsoring a bill that says a fertilized—
AMY GOODMAN: You’ve just been listening to a bit of a conversation with William Weld, now a delegate, was Massachusetts governor, who wanted to launch a floor fight on the issue of choice in 1992, 20 years ago, at the Republican convention in Houston. Megan Carpentier, a very different climate today.
MEGAN CARPENTIER: Absolutely. I think you heard Rick Santorum with the only specific abortion reference last night, sort of talking about the fundamental liberty of zygotes and fetuses. I think it’s interesting that, you know, former Governor Weld said, “Just trust Mitt Romney,” as though, you know, don’t worry about it, just sit back, he’s not going to really do what he says he’s going to do, he’s not going to take away or do anything on reproductive choice, so don’t worry. That seems to me to be like, don’t trust what he says, just trust that it’ll be cool. That’s not really like an—that’s not really an answer to the question.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and come back to this discussion—we’re talking to Megan Carpentier of The Raw Story and Rocky Anderson—and find out what he’s doing as he travels this country running for president on a third-party ticket. Stay with us.