Thursday, July 31, 2008


The quadrennial accusations that the Democrat running for president is a "flip-flopper" are usually incorrect. When they come from someone like John McCain they are also the very definition of chutzpah. As Jonathan Chait tells it, once upon a time McCain was:
" opponent, on moral and fiscal grounds, of tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefited the rich. He was also a fierce opponent of the extreme elements of the religious right. He was a proponent of global-warming legislation, the Law of the Sea Treaty, a moderate immigration bill, expanded public financing of elections, a tobacco tax, and many other liberal reforms. Today, he is none of these things."
Why did he change? Political expediency, of course. A liberal-minded reformer can't succeed in today's Republican party, and McCain would rather be president that stick with his principles.

Update: Ok. It's true you can't get to the point of running for president without changing your mind a few times. It's also true that some positions have a limited shelf life (for instance, Obama's three-year old position on the Iraq war. Changing facts on the ground have made that opinion obsolete.) So why is it always the Democrat who gets labled a "flip-flopper" by the too-cooperative media? As Chait argues here this is because Democrats campaign on issues like
" care, the minimum wage, education, Medicare, or Social Security, [while the Republican campaigns] on themes like Trust, Courage, and so forth. The details of the Republican character narrative vary a bit from campaign to campaign. (In 1992, 1996, and 2008, Republicans waxed rhapsodic about the moral virtues inherent in military service; in 2000 and 2004, they played them down.) The alleged flip-floppiness of the Democratic nominee, though, is a hardy perennial. Flip-flopping is a simple accusation that campaign reporters can sink their teeth into. And, so, whatever two or three issues the Democratic nominee has changed his emphasis on are inevitably blown up into a devastating character indictment. The Charles Krauthammers and Sean Hannitys of the world can be counted on to whip themselves into a moralistic frenzy against the feckless Democrat. And news reporters will stroke their chins and ponder, because the question is being asked: Just who is Obama (Kerry/Gore/Clinton), anyway? Yes, he may have a detailed platform on domestic and foreign policy, but do we really know anything about this man?"

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