Two-faced and gutless candidates

Election 2004 | Building/Consensus
I ran into my streetcar lawyer again this past week, and he still buttonholes me on Kerry. “Why does he take two sides of every issue? Why can’t he stand for anything?”

This is page 1 of the GOP playbook, which was used (unsuccessfully) against Bill Clinton, and against Democrat. Even today Governor Romney decides to pick on Kerry for his stance on a gay marriage amendment. But I would ask– is it better to have an executive who works both sides of the issue… or one who doesn’t even recognize that issues have two sides? I’d pick two-face any day. Would you rather have someone his called “unprincipled” (ie., pragmatic), or one the one whose principles you don’t agree with?

Also, he asks, why doesn’t he have “the guts” to stand up for a full, nationalized health care system. Or, as my friend Alexis said, how come none of the major Democratic candidates have had “the guts” to stand up for gay marriage. Well simply put, maybe they don’t agree with these positions. Or maybe if they agree with them, they realize they can’t get there immediately when they step foot in the Oval Office.

Just remember what was said in the 1932 Presidential campaign about one of the major transformations society that would come, the New Deal: very little. I’d be curious to find a rough statistic of the number of radical transformations which were promised in Presidential campaigns.

Postscript, March 3rd: In Slate, Michael Grunwald presents a handy list of John Kerry’s Waffles: “Even so, the list is long, and it isn’t all-inclusive. Kerry’s supporters cite his reversals as evidence of the senator’s capacity for nuance and complexity, growth and change. His critics say they represent a fundamental lack of principles. Either way, we’ll be hearing a lot about them over the next eight months.”
Postscript, March 4th: Bush has now officially picked up this campaign line. The one soundbite form his California fundraising trip that every media outlet reported was this: “In fact, Senator Kerry has been in Washington long enough to take both sides on just about every issue.” Which is a pretty straightforward analysis. You’d think he’d sling some mud by making the case that Kerry is weak of character. Nope. It’s just a nature of being in Washington– and by the way, is the President trying to campaign as an outsider?. Also, while taking both sides of the issues, Kerry managed to rack up one of the highest liberal ratings in the Senate. Kerry takes both sides; Bush wants things both ways. I worry that we’re going to have this argument for eight months.
Postscript, July 14th: My Dad alerted me to this Arianna Huffington piece George W. Bush: Presidential or Pathological?, which fingers the President as the true waffler. She sources the Center for American Progress’s Flip-Flopper-In-Chief list of 25 such position changes, in the last four years.