Sad. Amid all the knocks on Obama about not being ready for primetime, how is it that Mitt still can’t get his story straight on an issue that’s central to his social-con credentials and about which his convictions are already notoriously suspect? Simply as a matter of message discipline, shouldn’t the Romney camp have their position on this nailed down?

This story’s actually a week old but I missed it when it first broke on ABC. Here are two clips, both cribbed from Liz Mair; the first is from February 18 and shows Mitt endorsing the Thompson-esque federalist approach and the second is from August 6 on GMA, in which he embraces the Human Life Amendment:

Each position is defensible but they can’t happily co-exist: if you support a federal constitutional amendment to extend due process rights to fetuses then you’re obviously not willing to let each state decide for itself. ABC asked Romney’s spokesman about the contradiction and he solved the dilemma this way:

Asked to reconcile the seeming discrepancy between Romney’s GMA interview and his National Journal interview, Romney spokesman Kevin Madden provided ABC News with a description of Romney’s position, which says that overturning Roe v. Wade and “putting the decision back in the states” is what Romney supports “in the meantime.”

“Gov. Romney supports the Republican Party’s platform protecting the sanctity of life,” Madden told ABC News. “He believes that Roe v. Wade should be overturned so that the life issue can be returned to the Democratic process through the people and their elected representatives. Gov. Romney’s support for the Republican Party’s pro-life platform and overturning Roe v. Wade are complementary goals and beliefs.”

What I guess he’s suggesting is democracy in “stages” while the electorate theoretically shifts towards being pro-life. The first move would be to repeal Roe so that the pro-life states can ban abortion in their own yards; then, in a few decades, ideally there’d be the requisite three-quarters consensus needed to pass an amendment that would ban it (or effectively ban it by extending due process rights to fetuses) everywhere. But go watch the first clip again. If he’s really in favor of states making their own decisions on this knotty moral conundrum then he shouldn’t support an amendment at any point, regardless of whether there’s a consensus or not, lest the few remaining pro-choice states be forced to follow the supermajority. That’s a true federalist line, not federalist means towards an anti-federalist end. Nothing wrong with being anti-federalist either, especially on issues which inspire a strong moral conviction: the Thirteenth Amendment is as anti-federalist as they come and we’re all better for it. Just pick a side, though. Federalist or no? Strong moral conviction or no?

There’s also plenty of, shall we say, nuance in supporting a Human Life Amendment while also supporting stacking the Court with anti-Roe judges to have that decision overturned. If you believe abortion policy warrants an amendment, then why eschew that approach when it comes to overturning Roe? If you don’t believe it warrants an amendment, then why stop at stacking the Court with anti-Roe judges? Stack it with judges who want to grant fetuses due process rights by judicial fiat. What’s it all about, Alfie?