Measured Against Reality

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Obama's flip flops

For some reason, our political culture disdains the so-called "flip-flop", as though changing one's mind on an issue were the worst thing ever. Labeling a true change of mind brought about by new evidence as a "flip-flop" is both asinine and counterproductive, as demagogues are made into saints by their consistency, while the thoughtful are smeared.

That being said, when a politician changes their position on an issue because of simple political expediency, there's something wrong. Those issues need to be addressed, and the politician needs to be called out on them.

So that's what I'm doing. But first, I want to say a couple of things.

Obama did not flip-flop on the recent Supreme Course child rape case. He came out in favor of the death penalty for child rapists in The Audacity of Hope (from here, as I don't have access to my copy):

"While the evidence tells me that the death penalty does little to deter crime, I believe there are some crimes — mass murder, the rape and murder of a child — so heinous, so beyond the pale, that the community is justified in expressing the full measure of its outrage by meting out the ultimate punishment."

The other flip-flop he's been accused of is on Iraq, which is absolutely absurd. Here's the argument:

Only weeks ago, the Democrat was calling for an immediate and rapid U.S. withdrawal. When General David Petraeus first testified about the surge in September 2007, Mr. Obama was dismissive and skeptical. But with the surge having worked wonders in Iraq, this week Mr. Obama went out of his way to defend General Petraeus against's attacks in 2007 that he was "General Betray Us." Perhaps he had a late epiphany.

This might just be me, but I think that condemning MoveOn for an add isn't showing support for the person they condemn, simply a distaste for MoveOn's actions (which I think Obama shares with many people). The article continues to say that, due to the surge, the situation has changed enough that Obama will modify his withdrawal proposal. Fair enough, it may happen (although I doubt it, for several reasons beyond the scope here), but citing a possibility for the future as evidence of his flip-flopiness is absolutely inane. I wonder if the Editorial board at the WSJ has had their brains removed recently, as that's the only explanation I can see (as for The New Republic employing a guy who fails to see through this charade, I can only hope his previous work was better).

Now, the real change of mind (I'm not going to bother arguing about the gun-rights stance, as I totally agree with both Heller and Obama's tepid take). Obama has completely reversed his opinion on the FISA compromise, which he voted against previously, but now would support this virtually unchanged bill. To be fair to Obama, due to its support from the leadership in the House and Senate, it makes opposition difficult. Difficult, but still right. It's incredibly disappointing that he can't use his new-found eminence in the Democratic party to take a stand against Republican fear mongering. With telecom immunity, we will almost certainly never find out the sordid details of Bush's spying program. Making them pay for their complicity is a secondary concern, and to many (including myself) not a priority at all. The American people deserve answers about what happened.

In the meantime, the President is perfectly capable of conducting all the surveillance he needs to in order to prevent terrorist attacks. If you don't think so, just look at the 911 Commission's findings, of which I was totally unaware until recently. It's simply a matter of fact that the Bush administration's incompetence allowed the 9/11 attacks to happen (see, for example, under the "Criticisms" section of the Wikipedia article). The new FISA bill is nothing more than a power-grab, it's entirely unnecessary, and we need some Democrats to grow spines and explain this to the American people and the fear mongering Republicans.

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