When flip-flopping is a good thing

Tommy Thompson says employers shouldn't be able to fire gays. Hillary Clinton wants to deauthorize the Iraq war. The White House thinks it's OK to talk to Syria. A mind is a wonderful thing to change.


Joan Walsh
May 4, 2007 7:27PM (UTC)

I wanted to write about Sen. Hillary Clinton pushing to rescind the Iraq war authorization vote and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice meeting with her Syrian counterpart on Thursday night, but I got distracted by the GOP debate. I feel hung over after it today, and I didn't even drink. I still can't believe three candidates said they don't believe in evolution, and moderators Chris Matthews of MSNBC and John Harris of the Politico didn't stop the proceedings to zero in on it. I also think Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney got off way too easy for their flip-flopping on abortion, and the memory of Giuliani stammering out a weak defense of a woman's right to choose is bothering me more than it did at the time, when I felt some relief that he at least got the words out. What an awful sight: These guys have been beaten into submission by the Christian right. So Giuliani surrendered his manhood on the issue of federal abortion funding as well as defending Roe v. Wade, but finally bleated out his weak support of choice -- and it could well cost him the nomination, anyway. Against those profiles in cowardice, I guess I'm happy former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson corrected himself and said he doesn't think employers should be able to fire people for being gay.

A change of heart that I'm enjoying more sincerely is Clinton's decision to team up with Sen. Robert Byrd to rescind the Senate's October 2002 war-authorization vote. Yes, some on the left and right are trashing it as a political move, but all Democrats have are political moves right now, given a White House that refuses to work with war opponents to set timetables for troop withdrawal. I was surprised to see the joint press release from Clinton and Byrd when it came in last night; after all, when Salon was looking for ways to challenge Clinton's claim that "if we knew then what we know now, there wouldn't have been a vote, and I certainly wouldn't have voted that way," we included Byrd in the pantheon of people who knew enough to vote against the war back then. As Byrd said on the day combat began: "We cannot convince the world of the necessity of this war for one simple reason. This is a war of choice." I respect Clinton's steady if cautious movement into the camp of staunch war opponents. It's not yet enough to make me vote for her, but I'm losing my fixation with getting her to admit she made a mistake.

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Finally, I should also applaud the administration's reversing itself on talks with Syria, I suppose, but it just seems so cynical after the way they trashed Nancy Pelosi. Rice met with Foreign Minister Walid Moallem Thursday and asked that Syria work to help restrict the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq. The New York Times notes that this may already be happening; the number has dipped in the past month. Since Nancy Pelosi visited? Of course I have no evidence to make that kind of connection, but let's recall what Dana Perino said about Pelosi's visit, shall we? "Speaker Pelosi is a high-ranking United States official. Nothing changes -- nothing has changed in Syria's behavior over the years when high-ranking U.S. officials go to see them. We sent Secretary Powell early on; the behavior doesn't change. Syria uses these opportunities to flaunt photo opportunities around its country and around the region and around the world, to say that they aren't isolated, that they don't need to change their behavior, and it alleviates the pressure that we are trying to put on them to change their behavior."


Joan Walsh

Joan Walsh is the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America."

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