Progressive Writers Bloc

Let's Talk Flip-Flops

Uncle Bill Warner

One of the prime tools of a propagandist is to pick on a negative slogan made up to smear a person or idea. One that you are going to hear over and over ad nauseum until the November election is that Senator Kerry "flip-flops" on issues. Just a minute here...it seems there are two things to consider. The first is that any intelligent human being is constantly willing to revise their position in light of new evidence. Doctrinaire narrow- mindedness is not necessarily a quality we want in our leaders, right? Of course a "know-it-all" candidate doggedly frozen in his righteousness would never consider changing in light of new information. Look how long it took the Catholic Church to admit that the earth was not the center of the Universe. Slow flip-flop, but warranted considering the overwhelming pile of evidence against their position.

The second thing we have to consider is how far the Bush supporters are willing to push this "flip-flop" thing as a negative smear. I would hope not too much farther, for the simple reason that our present President seems to be a master of flip-flopping, and the Democrats might just use that to their advantage, one the right wing succeeds in putting negative connotations on the practice of changing one's mind. Is it a case of Bush flip-flops OK, Kerry flip flops bad? Can we elevate the dialogue?

What would you call it when the President pledges not to touch the Social Security surplus, and then a year later using that very surplus ( $1.4 trillion dollars) for general spending? Sounds like a flip-flop to me.

Then there was the time President Bush praised the right of Texas patients to sue their HMO's, and then four months later vetoed a bill giving patients that right?

And then there was the issue of the quota system for tobacco farmers, which the President said didn't need to be changed, and then a month later the White House flip-flopped and said they were open to a change, namely a federal buyout of the quota system.

Remember the time Bush said he favored leaving the decision of abortion to the woman and her doctor and then four months later stating he was "pro life" ( opposed to abortion in any form, as I read it.)

One of my personal favorite was his rhetoric about getting tough with OPEC , saying the President should get on the phone to them and dictate how much oil they should produce, and then later refusing to do exactly that in face of soaring oil prices.

Regarding North Korea, he was dead set against offering them incentives to disarm in '02, but all in favor of offering then incentives to disarm in '
04. Should we be charitable and credit him with wisdom for flip-flopping in the light of new developments?

He also stated emphatically that Condoleeza Rice would not testify publicly "as a matter of principle" on March 4 and then he announced that he was ordering her to testify on March 30. A minor flip-flop, perhaps, but still worthy of the term?

In 2000 he stated that federal agencies should be guided by high scientific standards and not by what "feels good". Then, in 2004, we find 60 leading scientists including Nobel laureates issuing a blast at the these agencies being so guided, claimed that the Bush administration had suppressed and distorted scientific analysis and had taken actions which undermined the quality of scientific advisory panels. So much for supporting high standards.

On Homeland Security, he opposed creating a cabinet office to deal with homeland security, saying that it would not solve anything. Less than three months later, he requested that Congress set up such an office.

And then remember Bush's strong support of Ahmad Chalabi, the Iranian golden boy who gave us all that false information and was prepped to be the leader of a post-Saddam Iraq? He even invited him to the State of the Union Address. Then four months later, evidently acting on some new information, Bush flip-flopped and we raided Chalabi's house and seized his computers and documents.

And he said he would not ask for any more funs in 2004 to support the Iraq War, and then he asked for $25 billion more. I can hear the sound of flip-flopping all the way across the cash-strapped country.

Then there was the time when he stated that capturing Bin Laden was out number one priority...then, as time dragged on with no capture, he changed to a "who cares about Bin Laden" stance.

Then he said we'd found the weapons of mass destruction, and then we hadn't. He resisted, then supported an outside investigation on WMD intelligence failures. Then he ignored the UN when going to war, but came to them begging to get involved after we'd messed things up in Iraq. And he supported free trade, and then supported heavy tariffs on imported steel. His position that we limit ( cap) carbon dioxide production in '00 and then opposed limiting it in '03. Then he said states' should make their own policies about gay marriage, later changing that to supporting a Constitutional amendment to ban it everywhere. He opposed nation-building, then supported nation-building. He opposed summits, then supported summits. He opposed McFCain-Feingold and then signed it into law.

Now I'm sure that many of President Bush's flip-flops ( the far right's term, not mine) were honest attempts to revise a bad position call. Others, like allowing bad science to reign after supporting good science are not so easily -forgiven. The name-calling just gets in the way of the issues.

I think that we need to judge any candidate by the good or bad he does, not the fact that he has exchanged bad ideas for good or vice-versa. The next time you hear someone use that term "flip-flop" just roll your eyes skyward and sigh. Surely they can find something better to do with their time.

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