- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 26, 2004

Ironically, the greatest beneficiary of John Kerry’s reputation for flip-flopping is Mr. Kerry himself, because he’s not so much a flip-flopper as a fundamentally dishonest person, which his reputation for flip-flopping tends to conceal.

Of course, Democrats and the partisan media prefer to euphemize Mr. Kerry’s frenetic policy changes, citing them as evidence of his mental acuity. He’s not a flipper, but a genius. But if they really believed his flips were something to celebrate, they wouldn’t have made such a colossal deal of his recent Iraq speech in New York.

Mr. Kerry made major news that day simply for stating his position on Iraq less equivocally than he’s been willing to do in the past. All his supporters expressed a collective sigh of relief that he had finally arrived at a position that would substantively distinguish him from President Bush on Iraq. The partisan media looked on wistfully as John Kerry finally said, “No, I wouldn’t have gone to Iraq. … America is not safer than it was before Saddam’s removal. Bush is a lying scumbag … blah, blah, blah.”

Nevertheless, liberals continue the charade that Mr. Kerry’s customary refusal to stick with a position is a positive. Not long ago, a liberal elitist columnist spent his entire 700 words laboring to recast Mr. Kerry’s embarrassing self-contradictions as the product of an enlightened thinker poised for leadership. Another suggested Mr. Kerry’s 180-degree turnabouts show admirable flexibility in a man willing to examine new evidence and adapt to changing circumstances. Others have said Mr. Kerry’s flops flow from his sophistication, complexity and ability to appreciate “nuance.”

Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart told Katie Couric that efforts to paint Mr. Kerry as a flip-flopper are “silly” and “not really the case.” I agree with Mr. Stewart that these efforts to paint Mr. Kerry as a flip-flopper are silly, though not in the sense he surely means it, but rather because they trivialize a deeper flaw in Mr. Kerry. That is, when Republicans characterize Mr. Kerry as a flip-flopper, they leave the impression he is merely wishy-washy, irresolute and indecisive.

While he certainly changes his positions almost as often as he takes a stance, I don’t think his flips result from changes of heart, but the cold political calculations of a dangerously opportunistic customer. (If he truly changed his mind as often as he changes his positions, we would have conclusive evidence he is mentally unstable.) Mr. Kerry knows exactly what he believes, but often can’t afford to be honest about it. But his real beliefs, more than his vintage vacillations, scare me most.

There’s a big difference between changing one’s mind to accommodate changed circumstances and reconsidering a position due to a change in the direction of the political winds. I don’t have the space or patience to rehash all of Mr. Kerry’s changed policies on Iraq, culminating in his confession to David Letterman that if he were president, we would not be in Iraq. But I am confident none of his flips were due to thoughtfulness, or even indecisiveness, but raw political expedience.

I have no idea if John Kerry truly ponders issues carefully and deliberately, Perhaps he does in contemplating his next checkers move. But frankly, on policy decisions, it is hard to envision him weighing anything other than their potential effect on his political fortunes, because, at his core, John Kerry is plainly a narcissist.

All indications are John Kerry is not a deliberative, thoughtful guy. Do you remember his reaction to the publication of the September 11 commission report? He was so anxious to use that report as a weapon against Mr. Bush that he advocated adopting all its recommendations before he had even had time to read them — heck, before Evelyn Wood would have had time to speed-read it.

I was struck by the sheer irresponsibility of Mr. Kerry’s precipitous pronouncement on the report. No serious person could claim his headlong “lurch” to embrace the commission’s recommendations was born of nuance, complexity, thoughtfulness, deliberation, flexibility or leadership. It was abject, reckless political posturing.

And when President Bush refused to uncritically and immediately ratify every syllable in the report, he was hardly hailed by the phony nuance idolaters for his thoughtfulness. Indeed Mr. Bush was under enormous political pressure to throw all caution and leadership to the wind, but he stood his ground.

The partisan media aren’t interested in thoughtfulness or nuance, but in portraying Mr. Kerry in the most favorable light. Given the man’s nature, they have their work cut out for them.

David Limbaugh is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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