The subject of flip-flopping arises every election cycle. This time around, most of the heat has been directed at GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who has elevated position change to a kind of performance art.
In 2002, Romney pledged to "preserve and protect" a woman's right to choose. He is also on record as favoring gay rights, stricter gun control, and campaign finance reform. He once believed in global warming, and he supported an immigration reform proposal that would have given some illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.
Romney has since done a 180-degree turn on all those issues. Is this the story of a man who's found his conscience and seen the true conservative light? Or is it the story of a man who sticks his toe in the river and goes with the prevailing flow? I tend to think it's the latter, but I'm a cynic.
The irony is that the earlier version of Mitt Romney would probably have a much better chance of beating President Obama in a general election. Unfortunately, the road to the Republican nomination runs through Tea Town these days. In order to win the primaries, you have to talk the Tea Party talk. The problem is that all the red-meat rhetoric is stored on video and will be used as ammo against the candidate in the general election.
Video — and its prime dealer, YouTube — has become the ultimate political weapon. It's not so much "gotcha journalism" that candidates have to fear these days; it's "gotcha cinema verite." Rick Perry rambles and smirks like George Bush on Vicodin at a speech in New Hampshire, and it's all over the Internet the next day. Herman Cain goes in one day from not having any recall of two sexual harassment incidents in the 1990s to remembering a pay-off to the victims of "approximately three months' salary." And it's all recorded on video.
Times are tough for those with convenient amnesia. Speaking of which, I was amused to receive a press release from the Tennessee GOP this week condemning state Democrats for supporting the Occupy Nashville folks.
How easily they forget the fervid and open Republican support for the Nashville anti-tax protesters, who in 2001 battered down the doors of the capitol, broke windows, blockaded streets with honking vehicles, and even roughed up some legislators. Those folks make the Occupy Nashville people look like, well, conscientious, peaceful, concerned citizens exercising their First Amendment rights.
Talk about flip-flops.