February 25, 2008

Can The Dolphin Be Far Behind?

They call him Flipper, Flipper, faster than lightning,
No-one you see, is smarter than he....

When Mitt Romney first appeared at CPAC in 2007 as a presidential candidate, a man in a dolphin costume began following him to highlight his "flip-flops" on policy. Flipper made an appearance at this year's CPAC as well, but found himself out of a job on the first day when Romney withdrew from the presidential race. If he reads today's Washington Post, he might find new material to extend his gig by making appearances at Barack Obama rallies instead:

Top Obama Flip-Flops

1. Special interests In January, the Obama campaign described union contributions to the campaigns of Clinton and John Edwards as "special interest" money. Obama changed his tune as he began gathering his own union endorsements. He now refers respectfully to unions as the representatives of "working people" and says he is "thrilled" by their support.

2. Public financing Obama replied "yes" in September 2007 when asked if he would agree to public financing of the presidential election if his GOP opponent did the same. Obama has now attached several conditions to such an agreement, including regulating spending by outside groups. His spokesman says the candidate never committed himself on the matter.

3. The Cuba embargo In January 2004, Obama said it was time "to end the embargo with Cuba" because it had "utterly failed in the effort to overthrow Castro." Speaking to a Cuban American audience in Miami in August 2007, he said he would not "take off the embargo" as president because it is "an important inducement for change."

4. Illegal immigration In a March 2004 questionnaire, Obama was asked if the government should "crack down on businesses that hire illegal immigrants." He replied "Oppose." In a Jan. 31, 2008, televised debate, he said that "we do have to crack down on those employers that are taking advantage of the situation."

5. Decriminalization of marijuana While running for the U.S. Senate in January 2004, Obama told Illinois college students that he supported eliminating criminal penalties for marijuana use. In the Oct. 30, 2007, presidential debate, he joined other Democratic candidates in opposing the decriminalization of marijuana.

The Post, which does not have a byline for this article, also has a list of Hillary Clinton's flip-flops .... but who cares at this point? The Clintons have always triangulated; it's their main strategy in grabbing and holding power. Issuing a comprehensive list of their switchbacks could take months and more newsprint than the Post can afford.

It stings the Obama campaign more, and rightly so. Obama has made his new, non-pandering politics the central selling point for his election. This shows that Obama has no problem with adjusting his message when needed. The specifics of the changes are less interesting than the changes themselves. It also calls into question for what Obama really stands, other than platitudes about "hope" and "change".

Mitt Romney got bounced from the campaign for changing his mind on fewer policy issues over a much longer period of time. If people thought Romney had authenticity issues, what will they make from these more recent and more numerous Obama flip-flops? Will Flipper find a new lease on life out on the campaign trail?

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