As we’ve written before, some political flipflops are better than others. The ones that Mitt Romney commits, or might commit in the future, are often seen as being the good kind.
That argument was advanced once more this Sunday (4/29/12) on the Chris Matthews Show, by Time editor Rick Stengel and the host himself, who were engaged in a familiar Beltway media discussion where journalists pretend to be campaign strategists. In this case, the question was whether the Obama campaign should push the idea that Romney is a flipflopper, or the idea that he’s very conservative.
STENGEL: The thing that I want to praise is the Etch A Sketch line that the Romney adviser used. He said, you know, when the primaries are over, it’s like an Etch A Sketch, you start over. He’s exactly right. The scandal, of course, is that he’s speaking truth. Romney will set the table again and he will always campaign on the fact that he’s been consistent about, which is that I can fix the American economy.
MATTHEWS: Well, let’s see–you don’t think the Democrats have a better opportunity of nailing him with all these right wing positions.
STENGEL: You know, the fact that he is a flipflopper, to me that’s like saying, “You know what, I change my mind when circumstances change.”
MATTHEWS: Well, no, that’s what I…
STENGEL: “That’s the kind of guy I am.”
MATTHEWS: That’s what I… that makes the case, I think, for not doing it. Don’t make him a flipflopper, because a lot of middle-of-the-roaders will say, “Hey, I’m a flipflopper.” The actual voter will say that.
So on the one hand, Romney changes his mind when circumstances change. (When did this happen, one wonders?) On the other hand, “middle of the road” voters relate to flipflopping politicians. It’s hard to know which take is worse.
As I noted a few months back, Paul Krugman’s take on this question of Romney’s sincerity was refreshingly direct: “If he doesn’t dare disagree with economic nonsense now, why imagine that he would become willing to challenge that nonsense later?” Indeed.