Romney Faces a Credibility Gap

First it was the abortion issue; now there are questions about his Olympian claims.

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Watching Iowa straw poll winner and would-be Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney squirm on Fox News Sunday was a bit discomfiting as the former Massachusetts governor tried to explain away his now infamous 180-degree flip-flop on abortion rights to host Chris Wallace.

He essentially said (to paraphrase former Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry), "I was never really for it, but I pretended to be for it before I was against it" (meaning a woman's right to choose). Check out the transcript of the show, and decide for yourself.

But dig a bit deeper, and there's an even more serious indictment of Romney's credibility floating out there in cyberspace. The Salt Lake Tribune has evidence that Romney has produced a Gore-like gaffe by taking claim for the success for turning around the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Olympics. Al Gore, you will recall, sort of claimed credit for inventing the Internet. But the turnaround credit for the Salt Lake games may in fact be due to those who laid the groundwork for financial success well before Romney stepped in as chief executive of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee. Romney made a calculated gamble to redeem himself in politics (after losing a Massachusetts Senate race to incumbent Ted Kennedy) by turning around the Salt Lake games, whose organizing committee had embarrassed itself by lavishing gifts on international Olympics executives to get the games.

Romney has since staked his presidential bid on "leadership" abilities proven in that turnaround effort.

But the Tribune reports that the former publisher of that paper, John W. "Jack" Gallivan, says Romney had little to do with erasing a $379 million operating deficit, or organizing the 23,000 volunteers for the event, or galvanizing the supposedly dispirited community, which Romney now claims credit for doing in fundraising letters. The paper reports in an op-ed piece: "Gallivan was a pioneer of Salt Lake City's Olympics efforts, traveling to Rome with other business leaders bearing the state's first bid in 1966. He watched Utah's Olympics aspirations grow over the years and his son, Mickey, volunteered to do communications work for the bid that ultimately landed the Winter Games for Utah.

Mickey Gallivan says the television contracts, which formed the revenue base, had already been negotiated before Romney took over. The volunteers would have been there no matter what (remember the floods of '83?), and morale in the city was never low.

Now, if that story gains legs, Romney could be in big-time trouble. If his conservative, religious, Republican base begins to view him as a shyster, it's not as if he could do yet another 180-degree turn and try to re-engage progressive, pro-abortion-rights voters.