Friday, September 10, 2004

Selection 2004: Thongs, Sandals, and Pool Slippers

I’m not especially concerned about Kerry’s alleged “flip-flops”.  By and large, the claims of such boil down to two things: change and context.

First is the idea that politicians are not allowed to change their position on issues over time.  Kerry spent nearly 20 years in the United States Senate.  Think about the ways the world (and American society) has changed in the past twenty years.  Think about the ways you have changed in that time.  (Myself, I’ve gone from 18, a single virgin, and on my way into college to be a Physics major, to being 38, a kinky gay leatherman with a partner and two step-children, and a home-owning software tester.)  I see my own attitudes having changed over that period, reflecting both the changing mores of society and my personal educational and economic growth.  I have no problem believing that a politician might have held some views twenty years ago — and made votes on behalf of his constituents’ needs at the time — but would vote differently today due to those views or the needs of those constituents having shifted over the decades.

Second is that complaints about such “flip-flops” are taken largely out of context.  In isolation, it may appear that Kerry voted one way at one time, but the opposite way later on.  But with many of these votes, you have to go a level deeper.  What was it that drove his vote?  Odds are that the details are not identical.  Was one vote on procedural grounds?  Was another to curtail a budget out of control?  Was there an unrelated rider amendment attached to the bill, making it more important to stop the rider than to pass the main bill?

But the ultimate reason I’m not concerned about “flip-flops” from Kerry is because Clinton — perhaps the best overall President we’ve had in my lifetime — was himself accused of “waffling”.  (You may recall that a waffle was used as Clinton’s stand-in in the Doonesbury strips of the time.)  In fact, even “flip-flop” was used on Clinton, such as from an article I read once from The Daily Texan (no archives there, and the original reprinted link I had is defunct).  If they want to put Kerry’s governing style in the same class as Clinton’s, hey, no problem.

Updated on April 20, 2011

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