Both presidential candidates spent the weekend trying to explain away recent policy reversals. The predominant question for voters this November may well become: Whose list of flip-flops is longer and more egregious?
Days after both men reversed course on major issues, the presidential campaigns of Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain spent much of Sunday's talk-show circuit working to ensure accusations of "flip-flopping" don't stick.
From where I sit, flip-flopping is an unbeatable addiction for Obama. For McCain, by comparison, it's an occasional foible.
The flip-flops preoccupying them right now are on acceptance of public financing for Obama and on offshore oil drilling for McCain.
McCain's policy change makes sense given changed circumstances. Obama's is based purely on greed. McCain opposed offshore oil drilling before but now says it should be pursued off the Florida coast. I don't support his new position. America should be promoting alternative energy sources, not drilling for more oil. But given the run-up in oil prices, one can understand McCain's change of heart.
Obama's flip-flop, on the other hand, is purely about self-interest. He promised to accept public financing before he knew he could raise more money from donors. Now that he can raise twice as much from donors as Uncle Sam would give him if he forswore private donations, of course he's pursuing the bigger bucks. What's more troubling is Obama's list of flip-flops is so limitless, he's beginning to sound like he tailors his position to whichever audience he's addressing at the moment. When he spoke to an AIPAC meeting a couple of weeks back, he said he supports Israeli control of Jerusalem. The next day, trying to placate angry Arab supporters, Obama said "negotiators" should work out the contentious Jerusalem issue.
As a New York Post editorial observed:
• He [Obama] ripped Hillary Clinton for months for voting to list Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. Days after Clinton conceded, Obama flipped and said he supported the definition.
• Obama repeatedly vowed to meet with various heads of terror states—most notably Ahmadinejad of Iran—"without preconditions." Then, with the nomination in sight, he zigzagged: "There's no reason why we would necessarily meet with Ahmadinejad. He's not the most powerful person in Iran."
• In October, he supported NAFTA expansion. In March, campaigning in the Ohio primary, he called for a "reopening" of the trade pact's terms. This week, he called his own primary rhetoric "overheated" and said NAFTA has had a positive effect on the US economy.
• Yesterday, after signaling opposition to nuclear power, he told Democratic governors he's open to expanding it."
There are many, many other examples, some of which I've noted in prior posts. Change we can believe in? No, change we can count on, because as soon as he takes a position, we can count on the fact he's going to change it in front of the next audience.