September 21st, 2009 09:15 EST
George Will or Maybe George Won't
I must admit, straightaway, that I am a fan of George Will. For me, he belongs in a pantheon of journalists whom I can enjoy and respect even when I totally disagree with them. I have a similar love for the late Mike Rooko and Sam Donaldson. In Will`s case, his wit, his self-deprecation, and his tendency to slip into a neutral subject like baseball from time to time, make his columns must-reads to me.
Being a journalist and especially being a columnist, an editorialist, means ruffling feathers and getting attacked at times. Following a recent article in which he challenged global warming, he received quite a lot of incoming invective. He responded, accurately, that "Al Gore can defend himself. And so can me."
Nonetheless, I feel I must do my part following his recent articles calling for an exit from Afghanistan. This following not so long after a call for withdrawal from Iraq. I am not going to argue the issue one way or the other and I do not necessarily endorse or subscribe to Will`s point of view or share his conclusions. My beef is the way he was attacked in the media for "flip-flopping".
After all, in the run up to the Afghanistan War (and the Iraqi one, as well), he wrote any number of pieces in support of the military campaign, discussed how he believed it would brief and with a minimum of casualties, went into detail on how it was essential to American "national security". Now, he declares that, for a number of reasons, the US should get troops out of both countries and rely instead on precision strikes from offshore. Media pundits pounced on this dramatic change as "flip-flopping" with several op-ed pieces detailing the inconsistencies of his stances and suggesting that, perhaps, he supported wars with a Republican president and opposed the same ones under a Democrat.
My concern is that "flip flopping" has become an anathema. Presidential candidate John Kerry was labeled a "serial flip flopper". Former President George "Read My Lips" Bush got the same treatment for a change in tax policy. Candidate Hillary Clinton was given a dose of the same medicine for supporting the Iraq War early on and opposing it later. George Will is the latest but surely not the last victim. If President Obama decides at some point to remove troops from Afghanistan or leave them in Iraq, he will be labeled so as well.
Is flip flopping such an evil? I`m not talking about people who change opinions "six time before breakfast" as the saying goes, but people who after deep consideration of changing circumstances, realize that a previously held position was wrong or, at least, is no longer true, and change their minds. Flip flop has a nice ring to it but it just means "changing your mind", does it not? Do we not all do that every day? Should politicians become completely inflexible and never change their minds? Columnists? George Will has changed his view. He should have that right and no one should criticize him for it!
One politician who has never been called a flip flopper was previous President George W. Bush. Do we really want to create a next generation of politicians and op-ed columnists in his image?