Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Thoughts on Flip-Flopping

Probably the most devastating line of attack against John Kerry is that he is a "flip-flopper" who is seemingly incapable of taking clear, principled positions on issues. Rudy Giuliani used this theme to great effect in his terrific speech last night. Kerry defenders haver responded to the "flip-flop" argument by noting that all politicians change their mind about certain issues. A DNC radio spot, for example, accurately points out that George W. Bush initially opposed creating the Department of Homeland Security before he changed his mind and embraced the concept.

The problem with this defense is that Kerry's flip-flops go well beyond simply changing his mind on certain issues. Instead, all too often, Senator Kerry has taken positions that are mind boggling in their "nuance", that try so hard to cover every possible side of an issue that only a word for word parsing can adequately decipher the Senator's meaning, and even then it is still open to interpretation. Other times, Kerry is blatant in his attempt to have things both ways. Several days ago, National Review Online's Corner Blog provided a textbook example of this, as reported by the Miami Herald:

John Kerry had just pumped up a huge crowd in downtown West Palm Beach, promising to make the state a battleground for his quest to oust President Bush, when a local television journalist posed the question that any candidate with Florida ambitions should expect:

What will you do about Cuba?

As the presumptive Democratic nominee, Kerry was ready with the bravado appropriate for a challenger who knows that every answer carries magnified importance in the state that put President Bush into office by just 537 votes.

''I'm pretty tough on Castro, because I think he's running one of the last vestiges of a Stalinist secret police government in the world,'' Kerry told WPLG-ABC 10 reporter Michael Putney in an interview to be aired at 11:30 this morning.

Then, reaching back eight years to one of the more significant efforts to toughen sanctions on the communist island, Kerry volunteered: ``And I voted for the Helms-Burton legislation to be tough on companies that deal with him.''

It seemed the correct answer in a year in which Democratic strategists think they can make a play for at least a portion of the important Cuban-American vote -- as they did in 1996 when more than three in 10 backed President Clinton's reelection after he signed the sanctions measure written by Sen. Jesse Helms and Rep. Dan Burton.

There is only one problem: Kerry voted against it.

Asked Friday to explain the discrepancy, Kerry aides said the senator cast one of the 22 nays that day in 1996 because he disagreed with some of the final technical aspects. But, said spokesman David Wade, Kerry supported the legislation in its purer form -- and voted for it months earlier.

So, Kerry voted for the Helms-Burton Act before he voted against it. Gee, that sure sounds familiar...


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