August 9, 2004
ENDS VS. MEANS:
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