Authenticity is perhaps the most essential personal attribute a politician can possess. It enables voters to make informed judgments about a candidate’s values, character, trustworthiness, and ultimately about the legitimacy of his candidacy and performance in office.

Gov. LePage, whether you like him or not, is an authentic politician. He says what he means, means what he says and is, by and large, ideologically consistent.

LePage, however, stands in sharp contrast to Mitt Romney, who has elevated ideological shape-shifting to new heights by modern political standards, aggressively making and remaking himself.

Romney’s lack of authenticity has left voters — even those inclined to support him — unable to discern if he possesses a core set of values and beliefs that shapes a genuine moral compass or if he is simply willing to say whatever is necessary to win the most powerful elected office in the world.

Romney began his presidential campaign describing himself as “severely conservative” despite that characterization flying in the face of many of his espoused beliefs and actions as the former governor of deeply Democratic Massachusetts.

Gov. Romney was the architect of the sweeping Massachusetts health care reforms that largely formed the model for President Obama’s national Affordable Care Act. Abandoning his own signature achievement, Romney now says he would repeal and replace ‘Obamacare.’

Romney currently campaigns as a champion of the coal industry (there are a lot of votes in coal country) but as governor of Massachusetts he moved to shut down a local coal-burning power plant because, he said, it “kills people.”

He even once claimed to be to the left of liberal lion Ted Kennedy on gay-rights issues.

But Romney’s flip-flops aren’t limited to his time as governor or even his losing Senate campaign. Instead, he has audaciously and shamelessly taken positions that contradict himself within the sweep of this election cycle and sometimes within a period of days.

Even the Salt Lake City Tribune, the largest newspaper in the Republican bastion of Utah (which is also home to the Mormon Church and the 2002 Olympics Mitt Romney helped save), endorsed Obama, asking of Mitt, “Who is this guy, really, and what in the world does he truly believe?”

Romney’s flip-flops run the gamut from domestic policy to foreign policy and much in between.

Romney says he supports equal pay for equal work for women but has refused to publicly support the Fair Pay Act that Obama signed into law. He previously claimed to be “pro-choice” but more recently labeled himself pro-life and called for the overturn of Roe v. Wade.

Not long ago, he rejected any timetable to withdraw from Afghanistan but in last week’s presidential debate supported a 2014 withdrawal deadline, while also embracing several other of Obama’s key foreign policy initiatives.

Romney claims to preserve and protect Medicare but advocates for fundamental alterations that will turn it into a voucher program unable to keep pace with rising health care costs.

He says he will balance the budget, reduce the national debt, increase military spending and cut taxes but doggedly refuses to give any specifics about his plan to accomplish it all.

He has at times both acknowledged and rejected a human cause for global warming.

Most galling of all, he publicly feigns concern for all Americans but privately conceded that there are 47 percent of Americans who consider themselves victims, are dependent upon government, and will never take personal responsibility for their own lives. “My job is not to worry about those people,” Romney said. Fittingly, after the comments became public, Romney self-assessed that they were “just completely wrong.”

In short, either Mitt Romney is making a deliberate and cynical bet that voters will forget his earlier positions and vote for the Mitt of the Moment, or he lacks a moral compass that will inform his presidency. Neither is worthy of the Oval Office or the trust of the American people.

By contrast, Barack Obama has proven a principled and authentic leader, unafraid to follow his instincts, make tough decisions, and let the values and commitments on which he publicly campaigned guide his presidency.

The president ended the war in Iraq, prevented an economy teetering on the brink from collapsing, hunted down and killed Osama bin Laden, saved the auto industry, cut taxes for small businesses and 95 percent of working families, and passed historic healthcare reforms that had eluded every president since Nixon.

Some of these decisions were either unpopular or politically inexpedient, but there was never any question where the president stood or the values moving him.

In the Oval Office, the president’s desk is called the Resolute. The strong, steady leader who should remain behind it is Barack Obama.

 

Michael Cuzzi is a former campaign aide to President Obama, U.S. Sen. John Kerry and Congressman Tom Allen. He manages the Portland office for VOX Global, a strategic communications and public affairs company with headquarters in Washington, D.C.