Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Comment se dit le «flip-flop» en français?

Robert Steinback in the Miami Herald on how it’s now okay to be a flip-flopper…if you’re a Republican.

Darn it! I must have missed the memo. When did it become OK to be nice to Europeans again?

Wasn’t it just two years ago that the French and Germans were targets of the meanest scorn among President Bush’s supporters for refusing to endorse his plan to invade Iraq? Conservative pundits dusted off 60-year-old insults about France succumbing to the Nazi war machine in World War II. We poured French wine down drains and called them “cheese-eating surrender monkeys.” We depicted them as jaded champions of an “Old Europe” teetering on the edge of irrelevancy. Even fried potatoes lost their Gallic prénom in a show of patriotic defiance.

But there was newly minted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week in Paris describing how much the United States and France have in common.

“The history of the United States and that of France are intertwined,” Rice said during her speech at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris. “Our history is a history of shared values, of shared sacrifice and of shared successes. So, too, will be our shared future.”

But what about . . . . aren’t they cheese-eating . . . . what do you mean you don’t serve Freedom Fries?


Conservatives in the 1990s told us balancing the federal budget was so important, they included it in the very first principle of the 1994 “Contract with America” — and we accepted that. Now, the conservative government is running the largest deficits in history, and we’ve accepted that. And Bush now wants to sell us a plan to overhaul Social Security that could force America to borrow another $2 trillion — and he’s counting on us to accept this as well.

Contradictions — even outright, 180-degree reversals of position — now glide by the American consciousness without provoking even the faintest suspicion of irony, never mind hypocrisy. Conservatives crowed three months ago that Democrats lost the election because the Left didn’t address issues of religion and morality. I tuned in to conservative pundit Sean Hannity’s radio program this week and heard a segment entitled, “Are Democrats using religion for political expediency?” I wonder if his audience noticed that this would make Democrats fools if they don’t talk about religion and insincere if they do.

A conservative friend of mine has long railed about liberal bias in the mainstream media. Since learning that the Bush administration paid conservative talk-show hosts, gave credentials to phony White House journalists and circulated bogus newscasts for air as legitimate news, he now argues that only mainstream journalists have an obligation to be ethical, and that it’s OK for “personalities and pundits” to “lie and spin.”

It’s hard to reason with people for whom grounded, unyielding truth can change so swiftly. But I figure I’d better go grab an order of French fries and a good Chablis while the coast is clear.

Mr. Steinback is learning the fine art of IOKIYAR. Welcome to the club.