Politics, Not Ideology, Rule for These 3 Lawmakers

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

“Flip-Floppers” in Washington D.C. are the political anti-unicorns. They’re the opposite of rare; if they were on Antique’s Road Show, experts wouldn’t be bothered to spit on them, much less offer a price estimate. They are so common, hipsters might start voting for them just to be ironic. They’re the McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Taco Bell of chains, the bell bottoms of the seventies, and the selfies of today. You see them everywhere.

Seeing a politician flip-flop on a major policy issue is like watching a monkey in AA eat a banana dipped in tequila — you aren’t surprised, just vaguely disappointed. The point, I think, is clear. Of course, there are times when it’s vital for leaders to have the freedom to reevaluate and change course.

Flexibility in decision-making must be allowed; after all, conditions change, information is constantly incoming, and even personal viewpoints change (politicians are human too, after all). But some politicians are guilty of reversing their position on major topics — especially controversial topics — more than others, as will soon be obvious with these top three.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

1. Rand Paul

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is not the first face on the hill to be spattered with criticism on the consistency of his politics, but he is the latest. In particular, he’s accused of watering down or reversing his stances in order to appeal to a wider votership with 2016 in mind. Unfortunately, one man’s political diplomacy is another man’s indecision, and there comes a time when it’s more important to be clear and concise.

His most recent wobble on ISIL, Iraq, and Obama’s strategy going forward can be tracked back to a long history of changing footing and swapping official positions. Prior to the beheading of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, Paul was hesitant on how to handle ISIL, the militant group calling itself the Islamic State. “I’m not so sure where the clear-cut American interest is,” he told NBC. “What’s going on now, I don’t blame on President Obama. Has he really got the solution? Maybe there is no solution.”

Soon after Foley and Sotloff’s deaths were published on video, he was more critical of Obama. “If I had been in President Obama’s shoes, I would have acted more decisively and strongly against ISIS,” he said in an op-ed for Time. Apparently, that doesn’t mean arming Syrian rebels, something he says would be a “mistake,” according to USA Today, because “most of the arms we’ve given to the so-called moderate rebels have wound up in the hands of ISIS because ISIS simply takes it from them.”

Yet he does support Obama view that “civilized Islam will have to step up,” as well as his decision to intervene. “Now this is an intervention — and I don’t always support intervention — but this is one I do support,” said Paul to Fox New.

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

2. John Kerry

John Kerry’s presidential campaign was badly damaged in 2004 with accusations of flip-flopping from former President George W. Bush. His reputation quickly spiraled downward with a few incautious comments. For example, during the fierce battle for the presidency, he took a great deal of flack for comments on a bill he had initially supported; “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.” For someone already taking abuse over inconsistent statements, the quote was a nightmare. The bill in question was on whether or not to send additional funds to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. He had supported one version of the bill that would have been funded by canceling certain tax cuts, but did not support the final version.

Stating that he had not supported the funds was an oversimplification or bad phrasing, but in the end it resulted in some quick backpedaling and bad press. “It just was a very inarticulate way of saying something, and I had one of those inarticulate moments late in the evening when I was dead tired in the primaries and I didn’t say something very clearly,” said Kerry, according to CNN. Bush’s people were quick to point out that it wasn’t evening, but rather early in the afternoon when Kerry made the comment.

Kerry’s reversals have ranged from foolish phrasings, to legitimate 360s, to understandable developments like his support of replacing the Patriot Act in 2004, after voting for its installment in 2003. Post-September 11 politics changed drastically for many politicians looking to strike the right balance against terrorism and public fear, a balance that changed with distance and time.

More recently this year, Kerry ran into a few more wording issues that fall more into the category of avoidance. Certain words have political implications for President Barack Obama, and war is one of them — specifically because if the U.S. is at war, Congress needs to play its role or the executive will face further criticism for overstepping than it already has. When asked whether or not the U.S. is at war with ISIL, Kerry jumped back and forth on the matter. “If people need to find a place to land, in terms of what we did in Iraq originally, this is not a war. This is not combat troops on the ground, it’s not hundreds of thousands of people … But in terms of al-Qaeda, which we have used the word “war” with, yeah, we went — we’re at war with al-Qaeda and its affiliates, and in the same context, if you want to use it, yes, we’re at war with ISIL in that sense,” said Kerry, in an answer about as clear as mud.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

3. Mitt Romney

Mitt Romney has earned enough of a flip-flopping reputation to have a pair of shoes made in his honor on Mock the Vote. Immigration has been one of the many issues Romney’s been targeted for dancing around on, specifically on whether or not he supports amnesty or a pathway to citizenship. As with many flip-floppers, the issue comes up when it gets down to specific terminology, how you define it, and that desperate desire not to be associated with some words — but not to be too far to the other side, either. “I think an amnesty program is what, which is all the illegal immigrants who are here are now citizens and a walk up and get your citizenship. What the president has proposed, and what Senator McCain and Cornyn have proposed, are quite different from that,” said Romney on NBC in a December interview on Meet the Press.

“They require people … registering and receiving, if you will, a number, a registration number, then working here for six years and paying taxes, not taking benefits — health, Medicaid, food stamps, and so forth — not taking benefits, and then at the end of that period, registering to become a citizen or applying to become a citizen and paying a fee … those are reasonable proposals.” Pathway to citizenship appeared to be given the thumbs up from Mr. Romney, who was careful to shoot down the idea of amnesty, and skirt around the exact wording.

This is, of course, a big reversal from his position in 2007 when he quite clearly told NBC that, The 12 million or so that are here illegally should be able to stay, sign up for permanent residency or citizenship, but they should not be given a special pathway, a special guarantee that all of them get to stay here for the rest of their lives merely by virtue of having come here illegally.” He said America should “welcome them to get in line with everyone else, but no special pathway.”

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