I watched a good chunk of the Republican and Democratic debates this weekend. When the Republicans paused from accusing each other of supporting immigration amnesty, and the Democrats caught their breath between declarations of being the very changiest change bringers of all change time (infinity change PLUS one!), there was a single common theme between the candidates of the two parties. They all hate flip floppers!
Anyone within sniffing distance of the lead in either party immediately got accused by their most desperate rivals of being a flip flopper. Obama is a flip flopper, McCain is a flippityfloppinator, Clinton likes to flip her floppers, and Romney might as well have just sashayed across the stage in flip flops. A large portion of the debate was lost to sound bites of flip-flopping accusations and then indignant denials. Oh, how the low have fallen.
Now, I understand that this tennis match of finger pointing is how we pick our President in this fine nation of ours. What I don't understand is why we get our undies in such a bunch about flip flopping. Who cares?
Most of the time the "flip flopping" can be attributed to something changing in the interim. If Candidate X votes for Jolly Puppy Sunshine Clean Water Bill 1 and then against Jolly Puppy Sunshine Clean Water Bill 2, it's probably because those two bills were different. This does not mean that Candidate X is a waffler or is against jolly puppies.
Let's say, however, that those two bills really were the same. Let's assume that Candidate X really did change his position on puppies. What would happen if Candidate X was accused of flip flopping and then responded by saying, "You know, jolly puppies sure sounded good to me at the time, but then I spoke to a series of dog trainers and learned that jolliness isn't really the goal with puppies. We want them to be happy, but we also need to focus on training them and establishing a healthy relationship with them." ?
Wouldn't that be ok? In fact, wouldn't it be BETTER if a candidate admitted to changing his mind about an issue? Shouldn't we all change our minds on issues as we learn more about them? Are politicians supposed to have appeared on the political stage fully-formed and then remained in stasis ever since then?
Romney routinely gets excoriated for liberal positions he took when he was governor of Massachusetts. Now, I'm not a big Romney fan, but it seems pretty reasonable to me that he would have adopted a more liberal stance when HE WAS GOVERNOR OF ONE OF OUR MOST LIBERAL STATES.
I'm not saying that politicians shouldn't be decisive. I think we all get a little comfort from hearing clear declarations of positions. "Terrorism bad!" Ok! I agree! John Kerry, for example, was a terrible Presidential candidate because he was incapable of making simple declarations. Everything was nuanced and measured beyond sound bite comprehension. To this day I don't know if he was pro or anti puppy.
I'm not sure who I'm voting for this year, but I'm leaning towards supporting whomever gets accused of waffling the most, while denying it the least. That person will probably end up being the most reasonable candidate.