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The Mostly Irrelevant Flip-Flopping Charges against Gov. Mitt Romney in the 2012 Presidential Election

–Richard E. Vatz
     What’s that you say?  You don’t hear much about President Barack Obama’s flip-flopping?
     How about these: 1. the Obama reversal regarding child farm-labor regulations; 2. the president’s, as put by The New York Times, “…revers[ing] his two-year-old order halting new military charges against detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, permitting military trials to resume with revamped procedures but implicitly admitting the failure of his pledge to close the prison camp” [March 7, 2011]; 3. the President’s support of Hosni Mubarak, followed by his throwing him under the bus?
     There are plenty more examples, but the inescapable truth is that there is much more mainstream news media coverage of Gov. Mitt Romney’s alleged flip-flopping on health care, abortion, taking “no-tax” pledges, etc.
     This article is not intended to assert that Romney doesn’t change positions; it is to point out that almost all politicians do so, and they should.  In addition it is argued here that oftentimes the honing of positions does not constitute a major reversal or a flip-flop.  Also, let me point out that it is impossible for anyone to be perfectly consistent.  From Walt Whitman: Walt Whitman’s “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself…”” [I think he later reconsidered.]
     If a politician changes his position, but not the philosophy behind it, it may simply be an evolution of thought.  People can and should grow…Lord, I hope that one of my least favorite politicians, West Virginia Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd, changed his positions from when he created a wing of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940’s.
     The question is, does an office-holder or an aspiring office-holder change his/her positions due to political expedience, and how often?
     Gov. Romney changed his position on abortion, but it seems that genuine reflection and study led him to different conclusions (see Kathleen Parker’s defense).  Romneycare contains too much insuring of non-medical phenomena (his coverage of everything psychiatric is as bad as Obamacare), but his policy is, indeed, not a national mandate.  He changed his position on whether to sign a “no-tax” pledge.  Why?  I can find no explanation except political expediency. 
     President Obama’s change of position on President Mubarak seemed to be guided reasonably enough by the exigencies of Egypt’s sort-of revolution.  How about his (Obama’s) positions opposing Labor Department regulations on children working with farm equipment?  About as many fatalities occur now as before.  Political expediency, clear and simple.  And how about his Guantánamo turn-around?  Well, the proposed change in policy posed a threat to the United States, so it’s acceptable; but it would have been nice to hear a confession to the effect that Republicans were correct.
     The taunting of “flip-flopping” predominantly against Mitt Romney appears to reflect political bias in reporting. 
     It is an exaggerated issue, though not irrelevant.

     Still, the differential between the two key presidential candidates is not reasonably dispositive in determining anyone’s vote.

     Dr. Vatz teaches Persuasion at Towson University and specializes in political persuasion.  He is the author of The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion (Kendall Hunt, 2012)





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