Kerry or Bush: Who’s the Flip-Flopper?

By Gus Tyler

Published August 06, 2004, issue of August 06, 2004.
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President Bush has charged his Democratic opponent, John Kerry, with being one great big flip-flopper who cannot make up his mind. He points to two cases. As a U.S. Senator, Kerry voted to give the president authority to go to war against Iraq. Now he declares that the war was a great mistake. He also served and served well in the U.S. armed service in Vietnam and then came home and denounced the very same war as an error.

Kerry can explain both seeming contradictions. When he voted to back the war, he based his decision on the faulty information dished out by the intelligence agencies. When the truth did out, Kerry was big enough to admit he made a mistake. After observing firsthand what the story was in Vietnam, he concluded that the venture was an error. He was not alone. Many men who held high government posts at the time later admitted errors in judgment. Put plainly, Kerry learned from his firsthand experience. Which means that he is a thinking — and courageous — man.

Meanwhile, Kerry and his crew have been pursuing a campaign of avoiding any mention of Bush’s flip-flop record because, it seems, that the Kerry campaign is intent not to further divide a dangerously divided nation by negative campaigning.

But in a country with freedom of the press, sooner or later, folks with access to the media were bound to start noticing some of Bush’s inconsistencies. A cartoonist who signs himself “RILEY?” ran a cartoon in the Pelican Press of Sarasota, Florida. Part of the text reads:

Mr. President, you say that John Kerry is a flip-flopper on issues. But you said in 10/02 that capturing Osama bin Laden is “our number-one priority.” But in 4/02 you said, ”I don’t know where he is. I have no idea. I really don’t care, he’s not that important.In 10/02 you were dead set against the need for a Department of Homeland Security. Seven months later, you thought it was a great idea. In 5/02, you were opposed to the creation of the 9/11 Commission. Just four months later you then supported it.

And so Riley goes on, covering issues from gay marriage, to tariffs, to nation building.

All of which does not mean that Bush is not doing the right thing when he changes his mind. An initial judgment may have been formed on faulty information. When Bush got the right information, he did what in his opinion was the right thing to do. Bush, like Kerry, may have the capacity to learn from experience — and, as a result, change his mind.

But where in the Constitution does it say that the president may change his mind any time he pleases to do so but no opponent may do so, on pain of his being vilified by the president using his “bully pulpit” to accuse his rival of being a “flip-flopper”?






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