A kid in my elementary school — let’s call him Alex — would do just about anything for attention. Like so many kids his age, Alex was desperate to be the center of attention — whether it was eating worms or jumping off playground equipment.

He was always the first to succumb to peer pressure. One day when climbing the monkey bars, someone dared him to do a back flip off of the bars onto the ground. Alex made the leap and proceeded to crack his head open on the ground. After a few stitches Alex was okay, but the kids that walked away from the playground that day learned a valuable lesson.

More than a decade later, I find myself confronted with a modern-day Alex figure. Although I don’t know him personally, I can spot similar personality traits from a mile away. This figure is Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

Sure, Romney’s definition of “cool” is a little different than Alex’s. Nevertheless, whether eating a worm to prove that you’re one of the cool kids or renouncing your previous position on a woman’s right to choose to prove your conservatism, in the end, you’re just someone desperate for approval.

Be it the auto industry, healthcare or Iraq, it seems like Romney has changed his stance on just about all of his views during the course of his long candidacy for president. The man has even changed his stance on Reagan, a crime punishable by Tea Partier death. When running for Massachusetts Senate in 1994, Romney once bragged that he “was an independent during the time of Reagan-Bush” and that he was “not trying to return to Reagan-Bush” anytime soon. Now, Romney proudly proclaims his undying love for the conservative demigod and his desire to return to those “Reagan Principles.”

Although the Reagan example is somewhat comical, some of Romney’s other “political evolutions” are nothing to joke about. What is most bizarre about Romney’s unprecedented sliminess is that he hasn’t just done it once or even twice, he has completely altered some of his views an astonishing three times.

The GOP primary favors extreme conservatism, especially during this cycle. Rarely do we see a Republican candidate come out with all of his or her core beliefs intact.

Romney was no exception to that. Pundits understood that Romney would have to convince the conservative base that he was “Reagan” enough for the “Grand Ol’ Party,” but few foresaw the transition that unfolded throughout the last year and a half.

After all, how can the same man who once said, “I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country,” later say he would be delighted to sign a bill that banned abortion and would support the Personhood Amendment.

Now, this would be enough of a flip flop on its own, but Romney somehow managed to change his stance again once the general election began, stating that he supports abortion in the cases of rape, incest or the threat of the mother’s life. He has even run ads bragging to independent female voters that he is “not as against abortion,” as the left makes him out to be.

While some view these changes as massive stance shifts, I believe that term does not nearly do these maneuvers justice. These complete 360s are a sign of a man with little regard for what his personal stances truly are — someone who’s willing to sacrifice his integrity to win. These types of people are among the most dangerous people in the world because they allow themselves to be changed by those around them.

We have already seen the horrors of a president who was controlled by diabolical thinkers (Cheney, Rove and Rumsfeld). The last time we elected a president who was unwilling to say no to the radicals around him, we became involved in two wars, opened Guantanamo and began fully institutionalizing torture as a national security strategy. The last thing America needs is a president who doesn’t know how to say no.

Romney could very well be our next president. I hope people are as worried as I am about which Romney we will be getting, and if he will entirely allow himself to be controlled by ultraconservative interests.

I haven’t spoken to Alex in nearly a decade. I hope he has learned that desperately seeking acceptance is no way to live one’s life. Perhaps he also learned something that day on the playground. Unfortunately, I fear that if Romney wins, he’ll sell himself out and attempt to do a back flip as president. It will take a whole lot more than a few stitches to repair America.

Patrick Maillet can be reached at maillet@umich.edu.

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