No matter how effective the strategy has been, a part of me wishes that the Bush campaign weren’t attacking John Kerry as a flip-flopper. After all, the fundamental problem with Kerry isn’t that he changes his mind, but that he’s too liberal. What’s more, it’s not like Bush hasn’t ever changed his mind about something (which is a nice way of say he has flip-flopped): He promised to veto campaign-finance reform, but signed McCain-Feingold; he promised to be a free-trade president, but enacted steel tariffs and so far seems have done less for free trade than Bill Clinton did; and so on.
But then I read this story in today’s Washington Post, which tries to make the case that Bush is a bigger offender than Kerry when it comes to flip flops. It’s an exceedingly weak case, especially when we get to the paragraph (near the bottom) about Kerry’s inconstancy on Iraq, which is arguably the most important issue in this election: “In September 2003, [Kerry] said at a Democratic debate, ‘We should not send more American troops” to Iraq. “That would be the worst thing.’ In April, he said on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ that ‘if it requires more troops . . . that’s what you have to do.’ In August, he told ABC’s ‘This Week’ that if elected, ‘I will have significant, enormous reduction in the level of troops.’ This week, he said that, as president, he would not have launched an invasion if he had known that there was not clear evidence of weapons of mass destruction or ties to al Qaeda, though last month he said, knowing these things, he still would have voted to give Bush congressional authority to wage the Iraq war.”
The public’s view that Kerry can’t make up his mind about vital issues isn’t the result of manipulative campaign ads, as the Post suggests, but the result of Kerry’s own statements and his voting record. The Democrats have no one to blame for this problem but the man they’ve nominated.