Romney on abortion. Obama on same sex marriage. George W. Bush on taxes. And right here at home: Lieberman on health care, and Dodd on AIG bonuses.
All together, now: Flip-floppers!
But I am here to advance the notion that there are two kinds of flip-flopping. The first—the worst sort—is pandering and is the worst form of power-grabbing.
The second is not only better; it’s preferable to a lifetime of unyielding, dogmatic stubbornness. And when a turn from dogma means compromise and progress for all, then I say, flip-flop away.
And while every politician would have the voting public believe that every flip-flop is the result of a newly-formed principled stand, we know better, don’t we? Do you really believe that Mitt Romney is pro-life, or do you think he changed his tune to appeal to a large and vocal social conservative faction to secure the presidential nomination?
And did President Obama not conveniently change his views on marriage in a timely fashion (thanks, Vice President Biden!), thus securing the vocal support of the social liberals who really have no choice but to support his candidacy anyway?
Yet there are undoubtedly principled flip-flops. One must certainly suspect that Obama, who promised to close the Guantanamo prison camp after taking office, discovered exactly why he couldn’t once he did. Funny how Guantanamo as an issue all but disappeared once February 2009 rolled around.
But we must applaud that decision, no? Clearly Obama discovered why shutting Guantanamo would be a huge mistake. For that, he deserves credit.
Imagine a world in which no one ever changed their mind or admitted they were wrong. Do you hold the same views today as you did 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago? Is not acknowledging that the other side maybe, just maybe, has a point the lifeblood of compromise? And do we not, as a nation, need bipartisan compromise desperately?
This past Sunday evening, I watched with interest as Mitt Romney spoke with Scott Pelley on 60 Minutes. Romney appeared relaxed, confident and quite presidential (although a bit orange, truth be told, but perhaps that was just my television) as he described his policy plans should he win in November.
Pelley pressed him on his economic policies, repeating the oft-heard criticism that Romney had not offered any specifics on how he planned to achieve sustainable economic growth. The devil’s in the details, said he.
Romney smiled and noted the country’s need, not just a desire, for a workable bipartisan plan. I paraphrase here, but the gist is that he would not approach Democrats with a preordained list of must-haves; instead, he would develop his policy together with the Democrats so that everyone can leave the deal table feeling like they contributed.
Real leadership—and ultimately, progress—means working together, he finished.
As I imagine what the next four years under President Obama would look like if he wins the election, I can’t help but shudder. Gridlock, higher taxes, stubborn rhetoric from both sides and, ultimately, little accomplished.
Governor Romney observed that while he led Massachusetts he worked with a vast Democratic majority (87 percent!) in an overwhelmingly liberal state. Yet under his leadership, the Massachusetts economy improved, largely as a result of increased revenues (fees, not taxes) and reduced state aid.
All together, now: Compromise.