The charges of flip-flopping get leveled too often in politics, and usually in the wrong context. John Kerry lived with the accusation after attempting to explain a reversal on a Iraq war supplemental by saying, "I was for the $87 billion before I was against it." People extended it for use whenever a politician changed his mind on any policy or any time frame, even over a period of years and even when moving in a preferred direction, as with Mitt Romney.
However, the monicker definitely applies when the reversal happens within the space of two minutes, especially when it gets televised for the nation to see:
McKinney said Clinton grew testy when pressed on whether she agrees with a proposal her home state governor has to give driver's licenses to illegal immigrants. She first expressed support for the idea. But when Dodd objected, Clinton grew defensive and said she wasn't saying it should be done, although she recognizes why the governor is trying to do it even though she doesn't think it's "the best thing for any governor to do."
Edwards pounced. "Unless I missed something, Senator Clinton said two different things in the course of about two minutes," he said. "America is looking for a president who will say the same thing, who will be consistent, who will be straight with them."
Obama piled on. "I can't tell whether she was for it or against it," he said. He said he supports the idea.
Hillary Clinton cannot have thought that the policy would go unremarked during the debate. In New York, it has created a firestorm of controversy for Governor Eliot Spitzer, who has seen his approval ratings plunge in the first months of his term of office, thanks to tone-deaf maneuverings such as this. With immigration policy on the forefront of both political parties this year -- and with MSNBC so desperate for new material that they started asking about UFOs (see below) -- Hillary should have prepared an answer for this question.
Clearly, she did not. And just as clearly, the result left her looking shifty, pandering, and unsure of herself. It also brought out her public personality problems -- showing her to be cranky and rather unlikable when on stage. Worse yet, it made her look indecisive, a quality no voter wants in a President, and the same quality that made Kerry such a lousy candidate.
That wasn't the only issue to highlight all of those problems. The other Democrats scolded Clinton for running on her "experience" as First Lady, but keeping her papers sealed from that period. She told the audience that she didn't make that decision, but failed to mention that her husband had made the request to keep them sealed until 2012.
The immigration answer will serve as the centerpiece for the Republican campaign against Hillary, assuming she wins the nomination. It will get as much play as the $87 billion mistake Kerry made, and not just for the flip-flop record Hillary set. Spitzer has over two-thirds of New York angry over the drivers-license policy. How does Hillary think that will play throughout the rest of the nation?
A few important points arise from this explanation. First, she tries mightily to blame George Bush for not accomplishing immigration reform as an excuse for Spitzer's efforts to issue drivers' licenses to illegals. George Bush, you will remember, was on Hillary's side on immigration reform -- so she has set up a completely false history as a way to evade her bad answer. Not only that, but Hillary blithely endorses a new system in New York that has three different classes of drivers licenses: one gets you on an airplane, another is a "regular" drivers license, and another ID's illegal immigrants.
If New York can do the latter, why can't they report illegals to ICE? No one apparently thought to ask Hillary (or Spitzer) that question. At all.
Chris Dodd had the best moment of his campaign on this response. He flatly told Hillary that a license is a privilege, and while he had a different opinion on health care, he thought it wrong for government to issue drivers licenses to people in the country illegally. Hillary then ignored the First Rule of Holes by asking Dodd what he'd do if he was hit by an illegal without a drivers license. Time did not allow the proper response -- would that make him any more or less injured?
If the argument for the licenses is that illegals will drive anyway, well, so will the impaired, the alcoholics, the underage, and so on. Why not just issue licenses to everyone and never suspend or cancel them? After all, the enormous bureaucracy handing out three flavors of licenses has to have something to do, right?
This was a disastrous answer from Hillary. She can expect to live with this YouTube for the next year.