I really like the idea of a president who is willing to look closely at all the data before making decisions, and who is willing to reevaluate his positions if more information suggests that he was wrong. From the interview:
Mr. Romney's data-driven world-view . . . really stands out when he starts talking foreign policy. In a debate last month, he responded to a question about the president's legal authority to attack Iran by saying, "you sit down with your attorneys" and figure out what authority you have.And a bit more:
But this was not merely a dodge -- if it had been, it would have been a clumsy one at best. It was a glimpse into the workings of Mr. Romney's mind. At his meeting in our offices this week, he was asked how Candidate Romney would respond upon learning that President Bush had launched an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.
"I would hope that the president would have outlined a great deal of information," was Mr. Romney's response. "I have very little information, for instance, on: How many nuclear facilities are there? Where are they? Can we take them out? Can we not? What is the capacity of the Iranian military to respond? Are our 160,000 troops in Iraq safe, or are they going to get hit?" Coming from someone else, it might sound like evasion.
But given Mr. Romney's habits of mind, it sounded, instead, perfectly natural. He continued: "It's such a wide array of information I'd need to know whether something is a good idea or a bad idea. . . . So it depends."
The impression he gives in person is not . . . that of a salesman tailoring his message to his audience. It is, instead, precisely the person he described in the opening moments of our meeting: A man who goes first to the data, who refers to what some would call their "core beliefs" as "concepts."
At any rate, his response to a question about his former disdain for "Reagan-Bush" is consistent with that version of the man. "Reagan gets a lot smarter the older I get," he allows. He then explains what bothered him then: "I was concerned about what seemed to be looming deficits and inability to rein in spending in those days. And as time has gone on, I've recognized that he was brilliant and did the right thing for our economy. And so I may not have been entirely in sync with Reagan-Bush back at the time, but as time has gone on, I think what they proposed was smarter and smarter."
Framed in that way, what was a flip-flop becomes an openness to reconsider former positions. That may not do much to mollify those who worry about his ideological reliability -- he's changed his views before, so what's to stop him from changing them again? But it is a kind of Romneyian consistency -- belief in what works, belief in praxis over abstract theory or ideology.