August 9, 2004


Who's the Flip-Flopper? (Richard Cohen, August 5, 2004, Washington Post)

As a presidential candidate, he declared himself implacably opposed to nation-building. Now we are engaged in building Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq, the cost has been not merely a ton of money, as it was in Haiti and other places Bush said he wouldn't go, but nearly a thousand American lives lost and countless more ruined. Mind you, with weapons of mass destruction all but declared a mirage in the desert, the new -- and sole -- justification for the war is not anything approaching self-defense but getting rid of Saddam Hussein and his regime. This is nation-replacement and nation-building, a total rehab project.

Bush also declared himself a determined unilateralist, kissing off treaties and understandings and even spurning NATO's help in Afghanistan. Now, though, the unilateralist of old is sending Colin Powell around the world, seeking alms and arms for Iraq. Flip-flop.

Bush would not negotiate with North Korea. He did. Flip-flop.

Bush told the United Nations to butt out of Iraq. Now he wants it in. Flip-flop.

The president opposed creating the Department of Homeland Security. Soon after, his strong opposition apparently slipped his mind and he flip-flopped his way to an embrace. Bush later opposed the creation of the Sept. 11 commission, but now he cannot thank it enough. He did not want his chief aides -- Condoleezza Rice, for instance -- to testify publicly before it but relented in the face of popular opposition. Flip-flop. He himself would not testify for all sorts of hallowed constitutional reasons and then, of course, did. Flip-flop. He insisted, though, on taking Dick Cheney with him, the functional equivalent of bringing the textbook to the exam -- not exactly a flip-flop, I grant you, but such a blatant admission of ineptitude that I am moved to include it nonetheless. Look, it's my column.

Finally, of course, we get Bush's recent call for the creation of the post of national intelligence director, a position he once opposed. This prompted James P. Rubin, a Kerry adviser, to ask, "Why did President Bush flip-flop?" It is indeed a vexing question. The answer, of course, is that Bush flip-flops all the time. If he had been in public life as long as Kerry has, his flip-flops would be as legion as the fish in the sea.

But it is the areas in which Bush's convictions have not changed that are the most troubling, and this includes a religiosity that comforts him in his intellectual inertness and granite-like beliefs that are impervious to logic, such as his tax policy and his relentless march to war in Iraq.

So the President never flip-flops on his principles but does on mere tactical matters, while Mr. Kerry--who hasn't ever had to make a tactical decision, having never governed--routinely flip-flops his "principles." You'd think even Mr. Cohen could figure out the difference.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 9, 2004 3:46 PM

On the question of the 9-11 Commission, he should not have flip flopped. He thought it was going to be a farce and it was. On Homeland security, I still haven't figured out the point of it so probably he shouldn't have flip flopped on that either. All he had to do was get rid of the Gorelicker doctrine.

Posted by: h-man at August 9, 2004 4:07 PM


They're boxes on organizational charts--how they're arranged means pretty little. That there are far too many boxes for any of them to be effective is a function of bureaucracy.

Posted by: oj at August 9, 2004 5:10 PM

Nah Nah Nah Nah Boo Boo. Soak Your Head in Doo Do.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at August 9, 2004 6:19 PM

It always ticks me off when people like Cohen claim Bush flip-flopped on nation-building: well, duh, something major happened between the 2000 campaign and the nation-building in Iraq and Afghanistan. I'm sure Cohen will remember that event if he thinks hard enough.

Posted by: PapayaSF at August 9, 2004 6:23 PM

Of course, if Bush had "flip-floped" into supporting ~nation building~ because the Left favored it, then that would be called "growing in office".

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at August 9, 2004 6:44 PM

Isn't it just a matter of : we broke it we'll fix it?

Posted by: oj at August 9, 2004 7:00 PM

Cohen and his ilk act is if Sept. 11th never happened.

Posted by: BJW at August 9, 2004 7:01 PM

" beliefs that are impervious to logic, such as his tax policy ..."

Do the time series on the Democrats idea of tax policy.

Impervious to logic, and heedless of math.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at August 9, 2004 8:52 PM

I consider Cohen the Post's .250 columnist -- about one out of every four columns he writes makes sense, and then he either feels guilty about it or gets lambasted by his friend and co-workers for giving aid and comfort to the enemy and writes about three straight columns like this one.

However, that still puts him ahead of folks like Paul Krugman or Maureen Dowd, who are so far below the Mendoza Line they'll never come close to Richard's success rate.

Posted by: John at August 9, 2004 11:09 PM

I agree with John on Cohen's occasional good column, though I think his batting average is no longer as high as .250. For example, he did have, a year or two ago, a column noting the nasty appeals Gore made to blacks in 2000.

That said, it is also clear that Cohen is a victim of Bush Derangement Syndrome. Did you know Cohen call Bush "America's Ayatollah" a couple of months ago? Which makes this latest -- that Bush is a flip flopper -- especially humorous. (Ayatollahs have their faults, but flip flopping is usually not among them.)

Posted by: Jim Miller at August 10, 2004 8:20 AM