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The Courage to Change One's Mind

September 17, 2004
By Dan Gougherty

Flip-flopping. Waffling. Regardless of what you call it, can somebody tell me what is wrong with having the courage and ability to change one's mind?

As best as I can recall, we first saw this tactic in the 1992 presidential election when George H.W. Bush visited a Waffle House restaurant in a feeble attempt to paint Bill Clinton as "waffling" on several issues.

Although voters didn't buy the shuck and jive that time, our political lexicon gained a new word for conservatives to attempt to portray liberals as weak, ineffective, and, dare I say it, "limp-wristed."

And if liberals were weak, conservatives were self-anointed as consistent, masculine, strong and most importantly, resolute and unbending. In reality, rigid is the most appropriate term.

This type of attack seems to be appealing to the homophobic proclivities of conservatives while at the same time calling an opponent a liar without actually having to come right out and say it.

Either way, this tactic has become a favorite for every self respecting Donald Segretti, Lee Atwater and Karl Rove wannabe.

So what does this type of unbending resolve get us? Perhaps the best example lies with the last President - up until the current one that is - to have had a job loss during their term. I am of course referring to the big-hearted guy himself, Herbert Hoover.

Just in case you slept through high school history, even as people were standing in soup lines desperate for food Hoover resolutely stood by his principle that the government should not provide relief.

Although the government had the means to feed starving people, Hoover stood firm in his belief that if the government helped these people it would set a bad precedent.

Damn the starving people! Stand strong and resolute! Principles over people!

More recently Bush's rigidity over the quickly deteriorating situation in Iraq is resulting in the continued deaths of American servicemen and innocent Iraqi civilians.

Perhaps if Bush and the neo-cons had not been so resolute in their unilateral approach to diplomacy we could get help from some of our friends, if we have any left. And I'm not talking about those "Coalition of the Willing" super-powers like Costa Rica or the Solomon Islands either.

Perhaps a change of mind is just what is needed.

If you will recall, the previous two Republican presidents performed some flip-flops of their own. Perhaps the neo-cons should be reminded of some of these.

After the Lebanon barracks bombing that killed 241 Marines, Ronald Reagan vowed not to give in to terrorism. A few days later even The Gipper realized we were in a no-win situation, flip-flopped and withdrew troops post-haste.

Of course the ultimate flip-flop was none other than the infamous "read my lips" proclamation by Bush Sr. Ironically, many economists in part credit the 1990 tax deal as an ingredient that helped fuel the Clinton-era economic boom.

So while conservatives run around talking about flip-flopping, it might serve them well to do a little themselves, particularly as it relates to Iraq. Maybe then, we might get our troops home before we reach another unfortunate casualty milestone.

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