To err is human. So is to flip-flop – especially when you’re a politician running for the White House. Although the public is likely to hear charges that a candidate is a “flip-flopper” routinely over the next 15 months of the 2016 presidential contest, here’s a dirty little secret in American politics: Almost everyone does it.
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Consider President Obama’s new-found support for gay marriage in 2012 after opposing it in the past. Or Mitt Romney’s one-time support for – and then later opposition to – abortion rights. Or John Kerry’s famous, “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it” in the 2004 presidential race.
So it shouldn’t be surprising that most – if not all – of the presidential candidates have flip-flopped on key issues. Sometimes, they’ve changed their minds; other times, their party’s rank-and-file voters have changed their minds for them.
But not all flip-flops are created equal.
There’s the Full Flip-Flop, where a candidate makes an unquestionable 180-degree reversal – sometimes admitting it. Some examples:
Scott Walker on immigration
- FLIP: Once supported McCain-Kennedy immigration reform bill, even appeared to support citizenship for undocumented immigrants back in 2013.
- FLOP: ”My view has changed. I’m flat out saying it.” (Fox News Sunday, 3/1/2015)
Jeb Bush on Iraq
- FLIP: ”I would have [authorized the invasion]” - knowing what he knows now. (5/10/2015)
- FLOP: If we’re all supposed to answer hypothetical questions, knowing what we know now, what would you have done, I would have not engaged. I would not have gone into Iraq.” (5/14/2015)
Rick Perry on reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank
- FLIP: As governor of America’s leading exporting state, I encourage you to reauthorize the U.S. Export-Import Bank. (Letter to congressional leaders, 6/25/2014)
- FLOP: ”Why I’m Changing My Mind and Opposing the Ex-Im Bank.” (WSJ op-ed, 5/5/2015)
Chris Christie on Common Core
- FLIP: ”We’re doing Common Core in New Jersey, and we are going to continue. This is one of those areas where I have agreed more with the president than not and with [Education] Secretary [Arne] Duncan.” (Christie at KIPP school summit in Las Vegas, 8/2013)
- FLOP: ”It’s now been five years since Common Core was adopted. And the truth is that it’s simply not working. It has brought only confusion and frustration to our parents. (Christie in New Hampshire, 5/28/2015)
In addition, there’s the I-Didn’t-Do-That Flip-Flop:
Rand Paul on Israel
- FLIP: ”While this budget proposal does eliminate foreign aid to Israel, it is not meant to hurt, negate, or single out one of America’s most important allies. This proposal eliminates all foreign aid to all countries.” (2011 Paul budget proposal)
- FLOP: ”I haven’t really proposed that in the past,” Paul told Yahoo News when asked if he still thought the U.S. should phase out aid to Israel. (8/4/2014)
There’s the Time-Is-No-Longer-Right Flip-Flop:
Hillary Clinton on the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement
- FLIP: Called the Trans-Pacific Partnership the “gold standard in trade agreements.” (As Secretary of State)
- FLOP: ”I have said I want to judge the final agreement” - on why she’s noncommittal. (Comments in Cedar Falls, IA, 5/19/15)
Ted Cruz on granting President Obama Trade Promotion Authority
- FLIP: ”Congress needs to strengthen the country’s bargaining position by establishing trade-promotion authority, also known as TPA.” (Wall Street Journal op-ed he wrote with Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis, 4/21/2015)
- FLOP: As a general matter, I agree (as did Ronald Reagan) that free trade is good for America… But TPA in this Congress has become enmeshed in corrupt Washington backroom deal-making, along with serious concerns that it would open up the potential for sweeping changes in our laws that trade agreements typically do not include.” (Breibart op-ed, 6/23/2015)
Marco Rubio on immigration
- FLIP: Co-author of “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill, which both spent money to fortify the U.S.-Mexico border and offered a pathway to citizenship. (June 2013)
- FLOP: No longer believes the time is right for a pathway to citizenship. “I continue to believe our system needs to be reformed and I’ve learned in the last year that because of such an incredible distrust of the federal government no matter who’s in charge, the only way you’re going to be able to deal with this issue is by first securing the border and ensuring that illegal immigration is under control.” (8/31/2014)
There’s the I’m-A-Different-Person-Now Flip-Flop:
Martin O’Malley on center-vs.-left politics
- FLIP: ”Our Chance to Capture the Center.” (Aug. 7, 2007 Washington Post op-ed with Harold Ford Jr.)
- FLOP: ”Our economic and political system is upside down and backwards and it is time to turn it around.” (O’Malley at May 30, 2015 presidential announcement)
Bernie Sanders on running as an independent vs. Democrat
- FLIP: ”If, by chance, I win the Democratic nomination I will respectfully decline. I am an independent and proud of it.” (1997 book)
- FLOP: He’s running for president as a Democrat.
And then there’s the instantaneous flip flop - performed by Donald Trump in a June interview.
Donald Trump on abortion
CNN: I know you’re opposed to abortion.
TRUMP: Right, I’m pro-choice. CNN: You’re pro-choice or pro-life?
TRUMP: I’m pro-life. I’m sorry.
Which just happens to be a flip-flop from what he said back in 1999: “I’m very pro-choice.”