Tuesday, August 10, 2004

The Issue of Flip-Flops

The line of attack by Bush against Kerry appears to be that he is a flip-flopper, that he is indecisive and cannot be counted on to have a consistent opinion.

There are two important things to consider about such a charge. The first would be whether or not the facts changed in between the flip-flops. Let’s say for instance that Kerry supported the war in Iraq. He announces that he will vote to support the President in attacking Iraq because the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq are a threat to us. We invade Iraq. We do not find any weapons of mass destruction. Kerry then announces that the war was a mistake.

That is not a flip-flop. In fact, that is a consistent viewpoint from day one until the end. If Iraq has WMD, Iraq is a threat and must be disarmed. If Iraq does not have WMD, Iraq is not a threat and should not be attacked. There is absolutely no inconsistency there at all.

The media thinks there is. They seem to be of the firm opinion that this is an inconsistent position on the part of John Kerry. That is untrue. John Kerry supported the war based on lies told by the Bush administration, lies which millions of Americans (myself included) believed to be true. The problem is not indecisiveness; it is lying.

The second issue is that George Bush has an issue with inconsistency. Let’s have a look at the record. In 2000 he campaigned on a platform of fiscal responsibility. The result: he has spent us into record deficits, eliminating a budget surplus he inherited upon coming into office. He opposed the formation of the 9-11 commission. After public outcry, he supported forming the 9-11 commission. He opposed having Condi Rice testify before the 9-11 commission. After public outcry he supported having Condi Rice testify. He opposed extending the 9-11 commission. After public outcry he supported extending the 9-11 commission. He opposed extending unemployment benefits. After public outcry he supported extending unemployment benefits.

Do you see a theme here?

One final point on the issue of flip-flops: if a person believes, says and acts as though something were true (for instance, insisting there are ties between Al-Quada and Saddam Hussein’s administration in Iraq) there is nothing wrong with that. However, if after a careful examination of the evidence reveals that the idea in question is in fact not true, that there is no evidence to support it, is it inconsistent to change one’s viewpoint to match the evidence? Of course not. In fact, it would be stupid to deny the facts and insist on believing the incorrect ideas. There is nothing inconsistent about admitting to a mistake.

It is a lot easier to excuse a mistake than to excuse a mistake which is then covered up with lies.