Let’s hear it for the flip-floppers — compared to the rigid ideologues, they are a breath of fresh air

My friend Bill Day in Memphis sent out this cartoon, which depicts the main rap on Mitt Romney — that he changes his mind.

To me, that’s the man’s saving grace, to the extent that he has one. It’s what made me able to settle for him after Jon Huntsman dropped out of the SC primary — I believe he’s free of slavish devotion to any man’s ideology. That makes him anathema to the extremists in his party, but that’s not the only think I like about this trait.

Whatever else you can say about a man who changes his mind, at least it proves that he’s thinking. Even if all he’s thinking is, “I need to change on this to get elected,” he’s at least thinking.

Here’s my take on Romney: He simply doesn’t care deeply about the kinds of things that left and right tend to get angriest about, such as the Kulturkampf issues that I wish would stay out of our elections. Basically, he sees himself as a manager — he wants to run the United States as he has run other enterprises in the past, no matter what burning issues happen to be at the fore when he’s in office. He believes his executive experience makes him better able to run the country than Barack Obama.

Set aside whether I believe he’s right, I appreciate that that’s the way he seems to approach this.

To some extent, this is akin to what appealed to me about “No-Drama Obama.” I saw him as essentially a pragmatist, particularly on the thing that matters most in picking a Commander in Chief — international affairs and security. His adoring supporters heard something that they liked in what he said on the stump about war and peace and international relations, but I listened a bit more closely than many of them did — it was (as always) the first thing I asked him about when he was sitting next to me in the editorial board room, and I was satisfied with his answers. And I was not surprised when he embraced continuity once in office (although I was surprised when he became even more aggressive than George Bush in prosecuting the War on Terror).

I get a certain amount of that same vibe from Romney, and that’s what reassures me when I think of the possibility (not a very strong possibility at this point, but still a possibility) that he could replace Obama. I don’t think we’d see any dangerous shifts in the policies that matter. And when faced with an unforeseen crisis, I think he’d approach it with sober deliberation.

I am not, however, convinced at this point that he would do a better job than the incumbent. But I’m still watching.

14 thoughts on “Let’s hear it for the flip-floppers — compared to the rigid ideologues, they are a breath of fresh air

  1. bud

    That’s kind of a milquetoast characterization of Mr. Romney. Personally I can’t stand the man. To paraphrase Rick Santorum, the sight of him makes me want to throw up. I have no doubt that he doesn’t give a damn about anyone who makes less than a $million/year. He talks big about increasing the size of the navy at a time when it should be dramatically scaled back. Then again, how do we know he really believes that? He changes his mind every 5 minutes. I don’t have a problem with a president who changes his mind based on new information but Romney changes his mind to fit his audience. That just isn’t what I want in a leader.

  2. Brad

    Think of it this way, Bud: Can you imagine Rick Santorum changing his mind on an issue with which you disagree with him?

    Wouldn’t you like him to?

  3. Brad

    By the way, in Hawaii we called them zoris, not flip-flops. Right, Burl?

    I have yet to hear a politician being referred to as a “zori,” though…

  4. bud

    Let me clarify. I don’t have a problem with a conscientious change of mind by a politician. What is disturbing about Romney is the REASON he changes his mind. Apparently he’s doing so with the express purpose of winning the election at hand. He governed MA as a moderate, even slightly liberal man. Now he runs from the marquee accomplishment of his tenure there, healthcare reform. I find that kind of opportunistic “flip-flopping” unbecoming.

    As for Santorum, for whatever reason he is becoming even MORE of an extremist. The “throwing up” comment about JFK was astonishing. What possible hope does he have in the general even if he does get the nomination. There is just no chance he can beat Obama. That’s why I’ll be pulling for him to tonight in MI.

  5. `Kathryn Fenner

    Back in the 70s, we used to call the ones with the velvet straps and straw insoles zoris–the Japanese kind. The rubber kind are flip flops, and the chic brand is Havaianas….Portuguese, I think, for Hawaiians.

  6. Juan Caruso

    Must agree with your point regarding any rigid ideologues, Brad. Unfortunately for the Obama administration, however, our view is widespread and impressively bipartisan!

  7. Bob Amundson

    I believe Romney does care about low income America; he just has a difficult time connecting because he has never experienced poverty. I also believe Romney is “flip flopping” in what he says publicly, because he must to secure the Republican nomination. He will become moderate if elected, just as President Obama did. I lived in Utah when Romney took over the leadership of the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. He righted a sinking ship and did what needed to be done, including securing millions of federal earmarked dollars for Olympic infrastructure. Visit Salt Lake now and you’ll find a vibrant, progressive city with modern mass transit (light rail). I am so glad I still own property and a home in the area.

  8. Bob Amundson

    BTW, I did not vote for Romney in the South Carolina Primary. Besides, my vote in November won’t matter because the Republican nominee will take the South Carolina Electoral votes. I see strengths and weakness in both President Obama and Mr. Romney. I am optimistic that either can, and will, lead our wonderful country forward.

  9. Tim

    That will be a great talking point for him in the General, the part about using federal money to bail out the city of Salt Lake’s massively corrupt Olympics. I guess that’s the safety net he likes, the one that helped all those impoverished Olympic Games corporate sponsors.

  10. Phillip

    It’s hard to tell with Romney, because I do think he is trying to sell himself in all respects as more conservative (and hawkish in foreign policy) than he may really be at heart, in order to win the GOP nomination. But it also may be overly optimistic to say that should he win we wouldn’t “see any dangerous shifts in the policies that matter.”

    The most obviously dangerous shift would be on Iran. Much depends on what advisors a President Romney would surround himself with, but given his recent statements, it’s hard to imagine him resisting the hawkish blandishments of Lindsey Graham et al. Indications are that Obama is holding steady to the course with pressure coming from all sides on Iran. I have no confidence that Romney would do the same.

  11. Tim

    He and Orrin got Uncle to spring for almost half a billion for the Olympics, and another full billion for the infrastructure improvements necessary to hold the games, which gave them the light rail. Mitt’s not a flip flopper with 2 positions on everything: he has every issue surrounded with a dozen custom made Gucci slippers.

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