As the details of the OPM hack continue to get worse, finally claiming the job of the office's beleaguered director, one man has emerged as the hero of the hour: Mitt Romney.
The 2012 Republican presidential nominee predicted that U.S. data was at risk due to Chinese hackers. Liberals scoffed. Now Romney appears to have been vindicated. Conservatives on social media retweeted old criticisms of Romney's debate lines about hacking, which no longer seem so farfetched.
Maybe those liberals should now tell him they're sorry. But do conservatives owe Romney an apology too? During the 2008 and 2012 primaries, the former Massachusetts governor was hit for inconsistent positions on many issues.
Romney flip-flopped on abortion, conservatives complained. He flip-flopped on gun control, immigration, taxes and gay rights. His big-government health care plan included an individual mandate and helped inspire Obamacare.
Most, if not all, of these criticisms were true. The way Romney dealt with them by appearing to deny any change in his positions insulted conservatives' intelligence. But it is hard to get too upset about all that now that conservatives of the kind who were angriest about Romney have embraced Donald Trump.
Trump is currently running for president as a Tea Party conservative, but he once left the GOP to move further to the left. "The Republican Party has moved too far to the extreme right," Trump complained in 1999, announcing he was signing up with Ross Perot and Jesse Ventura to form "a true centrist party."
The real estate mogul and casino owner dismissed conservative commentator Patrick Buchanan, then the most recent winner of the New Hampshire Republican primary, as owning the "really staunch right wacko vote." That was one of the nicer things Trump said about Buchanan, though he seems to have changed his tune.
At the time, Trump's big idea was a 14.25 percent wealth tax. "By my calculations, 1 percent of Americans, who control 90 percent of the wealth in this country, would be affected by my plan," he said, years before Elizabeth Warren or Occupy Wall Street. Vox described it as a "more left-wing tax plan than Bernie Sanders."
Trump's health care plans were certainly more left-wing than Romneycare or Obamacare. "I would put forward a comprehensive health care program and fund it with an increase in corporate taxes," he told The Advocate. He praised the Canadian health care system in his 2000 book, writing "we need, as a nation, to reexamine the single-payer plan, as many individual states are doing." (The last individual state to do so, Vermont, ended up reexamining single-payer so thoroughly that it was forced to repeal the program as an unsustainable disaster.)
While already a self-described conservative on some issues, Trump told Larry King at the time that he was "getting much more liberal on health care and other things" This included a basic entitlement to health care.
"If you can't take care of your sick in the country, forget it, it's all over. I mean, it's no good," he declared. "So I'm very liberal when it comes to health care. I believe in universal health care."
Around this time, Trump said he was "totally for choice" on abortion. "I'm very pro-choice," he told Tim Russert in 1999. Asked if he would ban partial-birth abortion, he said no, adding, "I am pro-choice in every respect, as far as it goes." And that was going farther than Democrats like Joe Biden and Harry Reid were willing to go.
Like Romney, Trump clearly had moral qualms about abortion even back when he thought it should be legal. In the same interview with Russert where he defended his pro-choice bona fides, he also repeatedly said, "I hate the concept of abortion." He continued, "I hate it, I hate everything it stands for. I cringe when I hear people debate the subject."
Generally, you are more likely to see in left-leaning publications like BuzzFeed than outlets serving conservative populists address Trump's political evolution, including his history of donations to Democrats such as Hillary Clinton, while Romney's conversions attracted far greater scrutiny on the right.
Nobody attends conservative gatherings dressed like a dolphin in order to pillory Trump's flips, as they did to Romney. The sincerity of milquetoast Mitt was regularly questioned, less so the blustery Donald. You seldom hear Trump described as a RINO.
Sorry for all the RINO-hunting, Mitt. Some wealthy candidates can flip to the right easier than others.
On Chinese hackers and becoming a conservative on the fly, Mitt Romney looks like a man ahead of his time.