by Pearl Hahn
A big problem with politics today is that our expectations of elected leaders have sunk far beneath any acceptable standard. Election promises are often made over the course of a campaign, and unfortunately they are often broken as well. While candidates openly abhor public scrutiny, I take no issue with the fact that public scrutiny holds accountable candidates who backpedal or turn a complete 180 on their positions.
Before there was John Kerry, George H.W. Bush reneged on his bold pledge of “no new taxes” when he later proposed the unpopular federal gasoline tax hike in the midst of a recession. In the subsequent 1992 presidential race, Bush’s opponents capitalized on his about-face, leaving the door wide open for Bill Clinton to claim the White House.
Although Bill Clinton is guilty of more than a handful of political turnarounds, Hillary Clinton’s vacillations continue to be a constant source of fascination. When it came to her support of the invasion of Iraq, in December 2003, she said, “I was the one who supported giving President Bush the authority, if necessary, to use force . . . we have no option but to stay involved and committed”.
Upon realizing that American sentiment was turning against support for the war, Clinton managed to find another option, “I don’t know that the American people or the Congress at this point believe this mission can work.”
By January 2007, Clinton was boldly issuing proclamations that President Bush “extricate our country from this before he leaves office.” Never mind the fact that Clinton had recently promised to keep troops in Iraq until at least 2013.
Fellow brazen opportunist Mitt Romney became the GOP’s John Kerry during the 2008 presidential race. In 1994, he railed against the National Rifle Association, saying, “We do have tough gun laws in Massachusetts; I support them.”
He promptly changed his tune while courting the Republican nomination years later, boasting, “I have a gun of my own. I go hunting myself. I’m a member of the NRA . . .”
Romney’s position on abortion was even more erratic. In a debate against Senator Edward Kennedy in 1994, Romney affirmed, “I believe abortion should be safe and legal in this country.”
Eight years later while running for governor, Romney appeared to be sticking to his story, stating, “Women should be free to choose based on their own beliefs.” In fact, as revealed by a questionnaire he completed and signed for Planned Parenthood that year, Romney even went as far as to support state funding of abortions through Medicaid and increased access to emergency contraception. He declared “Let me make this very clear: I will preserve and protect a woman’s right to choose.”
The funny thing is, his position soon became not-so-clear. According to Romney, he underwent a near-religious “conversion” after meeting with a Harvard stem cell researcher in 2004 and abandoned the pro-choice camp. By the time he was gunning for the GOP nomination in 2008, he denounced Roe v. Wade for having gone to such an extent “that we’ve cheapened the value of human life”.
The conversion story seems watery considering that Romney established abortion with a mere $50 co-pay following his transforming epiphany. His appointment of a Planned Parenthood representative on a healthcare advisory board also, coincidentally, occurred after the “epiphany”. Romney’s website currently states (very clearly) that he is pro-life.
Today, Governor Lingle has joined the ranks of prominent politician flip-floppers as she considers raiding hurricane relief funds to relieve the state deficit, which now stands at $786 million.
In 2003, Lingle promised she “would not raid this fund under any circumstances.”
‘Any circumstances’ of course, excludes the present day when she could really use the hurricane relief funds.
“We may have to agree to changes that we didn’t expect we ever would because the circumstances have changed so drastically,” she said.