Face it: Every politician flip-flops

In leaving for my vacation, I left my flip-flop indicator behind. Truth to tell, I've become a little weary of the flip-flop accusation, which is the political form of "Gotcha." And just about as meaningful.

Sen. John Kerry, before he was a presidential candidate, voted with almost everybody in Congress to authorize President Bush's use of force in Iraq. One could hardly do otherwise when the president said he had information about an imminent threat.

I'm reminded of 1964, when only two Democratic senators - Ernest Gruening of Alaska and Wayne Morse of Oregon - voted against the Tonkin Gulf resolution, which took America into the Vietnam War. And they were called traitors by many at the time.

Mr. Bush accuses Senator Kerry of flip-flopping when he voted against the funding bill for the war that he voted to authorize. Sure, but how about Bush's nation-building in Afghanistan and Iraq, having campaigned against nation-building? Or praising the report of the 9/11 commission, whose formation he opposed? Or negotiating with North Korea, which he promised not to do?

Let's face it: Every politician at one time or another will have to change his announced position to meet a changed situation. My favorite flip-flopper was Franklin Roosevelt, who campaigned for a balanced budget, then launched a series of budget-busting New Deal programs, trying to spend his way out of the Great Depression. Full disclosure: I benefited from one program, the National Youth Administration, which helped me through college with 50 cents an hour for sorting library slips.

The answer to the flip-flop accusation: Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds. Show me a politician who has stuck to his position through thick and thin, and I will show you a politician who cannot be trusted to represent our interests in a changing world.

Daniel Schorr is the senior news analyst at National Public Radio.

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