Friday, July 4, 2008

On Flip-Floppery

Much has recently been made on the upcoming Obama pivot on Iraq. Today, we have Krauthammer sneering at what he views as Obama's cynicism and Hilzoy, Publius, et al. trying to assert that there's been no change in position. To both, I respond: Why is changing your position on this bad?

Yeah, yeah, I know, it really is cynical to tell your base what they want to hear, then pivot so that, if you get elected, you can do whatever you want. My heart bleeds: who would have thought that politics required cynicism?

But a pivot on this issue is desperately needed by Obama. For Obama to say that there is no military solution in Iraq and to advocate unconditional withdrawal is about as realistic as Bushco saying in late 2005 that things were going swimmingly. Obama deserves to get seriously dinged for failing to support the surge and its attendant strategic changes. (Of course there is no purely solution in Iraq. But neither is there any solution that doesn't have a military component.) But he can repair a lot of that damaged by tacitly acknowledging his error and correcting it.

It is truly cynical--and unpleasant--to maintain a position for your left-wing base, only to abandon that position when it proves a liability in the general. There's some of that going on, but it's also true that the facts on the ground are changing to the US's benefit. I'm sure Obama knew that the change was occurring during primary season and hoped that the changed was temporary (for which he should get dinged for placing his political well-being about the national interest). However, the changes now obviously have some staying power. Not to acknowledge this will completely disqualify him from receiving my vote.

Of course, the problem with his Iraq position is it fits into a pattern of additional flip-floppery that is somewhat troublesome. At some point, this pattern will make him utterly untrustworthy and also disqualify him from receiving my vote. That point hasn't yet been reached, but it's out there.

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