What do you say to a grown man wearing a giant, bright green, foam sandal costume with the words “flip-flop” on it? Normally, if you saw the man in September or October you would say “Happy Halloween” or “Four more years.” Well, unless you happen to be a Democrat.
So why are Republicans playing dress up? One of their central claims about Sen. John Kerry is that he flip-flops on issues. Bush’s campaign Web site even has a game called “John Kerry’s Flip-Flop Olympics,” where you guess his change of position on various issues, though if you get one wrong you have to appeal to the French judge.
Throughout the campaign, President Bush has accused Kerry of being inconsistent, especially on Kerry’s supposed flip-flopping on the war in Iraq. I will admit he changed his mind after the war started, but I do not think this makes him the inconsistent weakling Republicans would have us believe.
Before U.S. forces entered Iraq, I attended a debate focusing on whether the war was a good idea. One of the debaters asked the audience to raise their hands if they supported an invasion. Only two raised their hands and I was one of them. But this was not representative of the American people.
Initially, Secretary of State Colin Powell strongly opposed taking military action in Iraq.
When he changed his mind and met with the United Nations to discuss the intelligence they received on Iraq’s WMDs, I trusted him. A majority of Americans trusted him. Is it so wrong for a senator to do the same?
No. Kerry made his decisions based on the same information as the rest of us. Even if the administration had conflicting reports on whether Saddam Hussein posed a legitimate threat, they would not share it, especially with a democratic senator and potential presidential candidate. In any case, Kerry was not the only person in America who changed his mind.
According to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, in April 2003, 73 percent of the public believed it was worth going into Iraq. Another poll conducted by the same group found that a staggering 86 percent thought the war was going well in early May 2003. At the end of May the number dropped to 70 percent, and by June it was only 56 percent.
These figures are much different today. Reports have shown Iraq has not had WMDs for years, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said they have not seen any real evidence there was a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda. It is no wonder support for the war has dropped significantly, and many, including Kerry, now have a different opinion of the situation in Iraq.
Another series of CNN/USA Today/Gallup polls conducted this year found the percentage of those who felt Iraq was a mistake in constant flux. While 42 percent thought it was a mistake in April 2004, the number was up to 54 percent in June, then back down to 38 percent in September. The first few days in October found 48 percent of people opposing the war.
I respect Colin Powell and did not believe he would lead the American people astray.
As the months passed and the casualty count rose, I began to have doubts. When we did not find any WMDs, I had more doubts. Call me a fool, but remember that 73 percent of Americans were just as foolish.
John Kerry is a senator and soon he may even be president. But he is also human. He made a decision based on the information the Bush administration provided, as we all did.
When someone takes a stand on an issue, be it political, personal, or professional, your decision is only as strong as the information it is based on. Unfortunately in this case, the information turned out to be wrong.
In criticizing Kerry for “flip-flopping” on Iraq, Bush is criticizing all of us who realized the reasons for the war were inaccurate.
Before any of us judge Kerry, we should remember our own change of heart.
Torin Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.