As we enter the final days of the 2012 presidential campaign, let’s take a moment to consider a quality that Americans have valued in our leaders since the birth of our great nation: Integrity.

President George Washington summed up the importance of integrity when he wrote that “the character of an honest man” is “the most enviable of all titles.”

Our greatest president, Abraham Lincoln, likewise drew strength from his honest character. “I have never tried to conceal my opinions, nor tried to deceive anyone in reference to them,” the Great Emancipator wrote. “I am glad of all the support I can get anywhere, if I can get it without practicing any deception to obtain it.”

Sadly, we have come a long way from the high standards of Washington and Lincoln.

In Mitt Romney, Americans have a candidate who refuses to tell the truth because it might get in the way of his ambition. Many politicians modify their views in the course of their careers. But what Mitt Romney does is far different.

In the course of the last month, for example, he changed his public stance on so many issues that attentive voters are right to question whether he is motivated by anything other than his relentless desire to sit in the Oval Office:

  • He once opposed “moving heaven and earth” to find Osama bin Laden. Now, he claims he always backed that goal.
  • He ran for the GOP nomination calling for tax cuts, even for the top 1 percent. Now, he says the rich won’t see a tax cut.
  • He claimed to support the Blount Amendment which eased women’s access to contraception. Now he says he opposes the whole idea.

Romney says he worked in a bipartisan way when he was governor of Massachusetts, but fails to mention that he vetoed more than 800 bills. He says he loves teachers, but just a month ago claimed that hiring more teachers was a mistake. He also claims he turned around the Salt Lake Olympics, but never mentions the $2.7 billion taxpayers paid to cover the deficit he left behind. He said he supported government help for the automobile industry while they went through the bankruptcy process, but at the time of the rescue, he said if President Obama’s plan went through “you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye.”

And then there is the now-infamous tape in which, behind closed doors, he disparages 47 percent of the country, including senior citizens, veterans and college students. Onstage now, in front of the network cameras, he says he is deeply concerned about all Americans.

Here’s the logical conclusion one draws from watching Mitt Romney run for President: He changes positions repeatedly and without shame. When confronted with past positions, he simply denies them. He seems constitutionally incapable of being honest about himself, his record and the proposals he supports.

That’s why voters should not be asked to take it on faith that he hasn’t cheated on his taxes or that he’s come up with a way to pay for his budget plan without slashing indispensable programs such as Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. For Romney, this is the Big Con.

By contrast, America now has a President who believes we need to pull together to find real solutions for the challenges we face. President Obama took bold action to keep America from descending into a second Great Depression. He saved millions of jobs, enacted historic health care reform to protect America’s families from predatory insurance companies and won approval for the toughest Wall Street regulation since the 1930s. He ended the Iraq War and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Even now, he is working to end our involvement in Afghanistan and use the savings to cut the deficit and create new jobs. He strongly supports rebuilding our infrastructure, investing in education and training, and protecting the middle class. He believes in America and trusts our people.

When asked earlier this year if he thought Romney was a liar, Newt Gingrich replied point blank: “Yes.” Gingrich said Romney was running for office as “a poll-driven, consultant-guided” candidate. Gingrich joins a long line of Republicans – from John McCain and Rudolph Giuliani, to Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee – who have gone on record questioning Romney’s character.

At this stage of the campaign, with mere days before Election Day, it no longer even makes sense to try judging Romney’s candidacy by his views. He has too many irreconcilable differences with the truth for that – and it’s those differences that disqualify him from holding the highest elected office in the land.

Lee Saunders

Lee Saunders

Lee Saunders is the President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, which represents 1.6 million members. He was elected at the union’s 40th International Convention in June 2012.

Saunders was previously elected Secretary-Treasurer at the union’s 39th International Convention in July 2010.

Saunders grew up in a union household in Cleveland, Ohio. This inspired him to join the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA) when he began working for the Ohio Bureau of Employment Services in 1975. His father was a bus driver and a member of the Amalgamated Transit Union. His mother was a community organizer and, after raising two sons, returned to college and became a community college professor and a member of the American Association of University Professors.

Saunders began his career with AFSCME in 1978 as a labor economist. He has served in the capacities of Assistant Director of Research and Collective Bargaining Services, Director of Community Action and Deputy Director of Organizing and Field Services. Saunders also served as Executive Assistant to the President of AFSCME and was responsible for managing what is acknowledged to be one of the most effective political and legislative operations in the history of the American labor movement. AFSCME’s clout in fundraising and member mobilization, and its lobbying expertise are unmatched in the ranks of the AFL-CIO and beyond.

Building on ideas generated by local unions, Saunders has championed AFSCME’s Next Wave initiative to encourage and develop the next generation of union leadership. He has also developed and supported programs that foster diversity and promote increased member participation within the union.

He has served as administrator of a number of AFSCME councils and large local unions across the country. For nearly four years, he served as Administrator of AFSCME District Council 37, New York City’s largest public employee union, representing 125,000 members. In that capacity, he was successful in restoring the fiscal health, integrity and good name of the council and its 56 affiliated local unions.

Saunders serves as a Vice President of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, which guides the daily work of the labor federation. He is an at-large member of the Democratic National Committee, Treasurer of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and a member of the Executive Committee of the Congressional Black Caucus Institute’s 21st Century Committee. He also serves on the Board of the National Action Network.

He received a Master of Arts degree from Ohio State University in 1974, a year after earning his Bachelor of Arts degree from Ohio University. In 2002, the College of New Rochelle awarded him an honorary doctorate degree in Humane Letters.

Saunders and his wife Lynne live in Washington, DC, and have two sons, Lee, Jr. and Ryan.