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The Texas Blue
Advancing Progressive Ideas

It’s Bad — No, Wait — It’s Okay to Flip-Flop Now

"His flip-flops don't bother me," said my Republican friend at lunch last week. He was talking about Mitt Romney. In a most sarcastic manner, I replied, "We're only talking about issues like abortion. Who can be expected to have a set belief about something like that?"

I’m fascinated by what seems to be a rather widespread acceptance of flip-flopping these days. It used to be that if a candidate for political office were to dramatically alter a position, there was a significant price to be paid. The integrity of the candidate would be called into question and all sorts of trust issues would emerge.

Perhaps the criticism was a tad bit harsh in the past. Obviously, there are sometimes justifiable reasons for changing a position: new facts about an issue emerge, a candidate goes through some type of life changing experience that causes him to reanalyze or the times in our country simply change.

I certainly don't believe that when justified, a candidate should be penalized. In fact, I’ve lauded John Edwards for changing his position on Iraq and admitting he made a mistake when he supported the war.

However, when it's pure political expediency, that's a different story, and it's the acceptance of that kind of conduct that baffles the mind.

For example, whether pro-choice or anti-choice, most people have a rather clear idea where they stand on abortion. Both Mitt Romney and Shelley Sekula Gibbs, a Republican candidate for congress hoping to challenge Nick Lampson, were well aware of the facts and controversy surrounding the issue when they said years ago they were pro-choice. But that's when Romney was running for governor in pro-choice Massachusetts and when Sekula Gibbs was running for City Council in pro-choice Houston. Now they're both trying to get a Republican nomination and doing so while being pro-choice is roughly comparable to trying to snow ski in Houston.

The reasons they offer for the big flip-flop are rather comical — even though she's a medical doctor, Sekula Gibbs apparently wasn't aware of the abilities of ultrasound until just recently — but the reactions of many individuals are even more interesting.

To many in this day and age, such a flip-flop is obviously just fine. I recently watched a very politically savvy individual describe the Romney strategy. Although a Democrat, he explained it in a very matter-of-fact fashion without the slightest degree of disdain. It was more like, "That's perfectly okay; that's just what people do."

While I'm not a big fan, I have to sort of admire Rudy Giuliani for not completely backing away from his stands on abortion, guns and gay marriage even though he knew those positions could easily cost him the Republican nomination.

I also admire Mikal Watts, who before ending his bid for the U.S. Senate here in Texas was willing to defend his position as a pro-life Democrat. I certainly didn't agree with his position but appreciated his integrity.

Integrity seems to be what’s missing in this day and age and sadly, people hold politicians in such low esteem that they simply expect and accept the worst.

Next week, I think I'll write about why flip-flopping is good. It seems like very few people would mind.

(Originally published by Examiner Newspaper Group)

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