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In Defense of the Flip-Flopper and Compromise

Does changing your mind - like Mitt Romney and other politicians have done - mean you lack the courage of your convictions?

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.

Bravo!

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.

Big Family September 30, 2012 at 02:54 PM
If 8.3% (with their math) unemployment, 16 trillion national debt and terrorists on the attack is moving forward I'm for moving in any other direction.
Mike Jones September 30, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Right. Terrorists on the attack? Right......l. Like 2 wars that weren't paid for and tax cuts for the rich that weren't needed. The middle class is what is under attack. There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. ... My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives." -Mitt Romney, in leaked comments from a fundraiser in May 2012
Mike Jones September 30, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Romney's about on target - 46 percent of U.S. households paid no federal income tax last year, according to a study by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. Most do pay other federal taxes, including Medicare and Social Security withholding. And they're not all poor. Some middle-income and wealthy families escape income tax because of deductions, credits and investment tax preferences. Why these people don't pay: -About half don't earn enough money for a household of their size to owe income tax. For example, a family of four earning less than $26,400 wouldn't pay. -About 22 percent get tax breaks for senior citizens that offset their income. -About 15 percent get tax breaks for the working poor or low-income parents. -Almost 3 percent get tax breaks for college tuition or other education expenses.
Mike Jones September 30, 2012 at 03:44 PM
Go tell those people above to take some responsibility!
Big Family September 30, 2012 at 04:05 PM
"Its the economy stupid" James Carville

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