Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Change Can Be Risky

The meme from the McCain campaign — and dutifully lapped up by the chattering class — is that Barack Obama is a “flip-flopper” and will change his position to get elected. But as Steve Benen at The Carpetbagger Report details, such accusations of change can come back to bite you on the ass.

The irony, of course, is that the McCain campaign couldn’t have picked a more hypocritical line of attack. For John McCain to accuse anyone of excessively changing policy positions is a bit like George W. Bush of attacking someone’s grammar. Or Dick Cheney whining about a political figure being overly secretive.

But if this is the game the McCain campaign wants to play, so be it. Let’s play. As the self-designated keeper of the Official List of McCain Flip-Flops, I’m pleased to report, thanks to reader contributions, we now have a whopping 61 policy reversals from the Republican nominee. If McCain wants to argue that flip-flops are an example of a political leader who can’t be trusted to keep his work or honor his commitments, McCain might as well drop out of the race now.

Based on some reader suggestions, we’re going to do things a little differently this time. Now, I’ve numbered the list and organized it by category for easier reference.

Remember, just two weeks ago, John McCain said, “This election is about trust and trusting people’s word.” Just a few days prior, the McCain campaign admonished Barack Obama for trying to “have it both ways” on issues.

It’s one thing to take a position and then, after careful study and consideration, to change it or even refine it. It’s another to completely reverse course with no explanation other than obvious political expediency and then, in a classic demonstration of irony, accuse your opponent of doing precisely what you’ve just done.

What’s interesting in reading through the list of 61 is that the majority of Mr. McCain’s reversals have been to align him closer with the Bush administration or hard-core conservative base of the Republican party. So it makes you wonder what happened to the “maverick” John McCain? Has he changed his position on that, too?