Dick Morris explains that President Bush has changed tactics in his attacks on John Kerry. Bush got a lot of mileage out of the “flip-flop” charge, but has now transitioned to the more tried and true “Big Liberal” assault.
Morris attributes this to the Bush Campaign’s recognition that Kerry would approach the debates on domestic policy by trying to buy votes by “promising the moon.” Morris praises this decision, noting that the “flip-flop” charge became far less effective during the debates, where Kerry showed consistency and a firm commitment to his views.
I think there is some truth to Morris’ observations, but I disagree with him on several points. To begin with, while Kerry projected consistency and resolve during the debates, when you examine what he actually said the illusion quickly melts away.
For example, in the second debate Kerry said that he believed Iraq was a threat, and that he had always believed it was a threat. Yet a few minutes later, he attacked Bush for being preoccupied with Iraq “where there wasn’t a threat.” Dennis Prager wrote a column quoting several more “flip-flops,” all within the confines of a single 90-minute debate.
On the domestic side, some of Kerry’s statements during the debates can only be described as convoluted. In the third debate, He said, “My faith affects everything I do… everything you do in public life has to be guided by your faith.” He claimed that’s why he fights for equality, justice, the environment, and to end poverty. So presumably he relies on his faith to guide his votes in the Senate. Yet a few minutes earlier, he defended his consistently pro-choice voting record (while claiming to oppose abortion) by explaining that it wouldn’t be right to allow his faith to direct his vote. This is simply not credible, and his statements on issues like litmus tests for judicial nominations and same-sex marriage are equally tortured.
So, there is plenty of material, both from before and during the debates, to continue to highlight Kerry’s inconsistencies. I don’t know whether the Bush Camp has decided to abandon the “flip-flop” label in favor of the “Liberal label,” but there’s no reason why they have to. Morris and some of the other talking heads have been making the point that the two approaches are inconsistent—that you can’t accuse Kerry of being consistently liberal while at the same time calling him a “flip-flopper.” I don’t see why not. The case is easy enough to make:
Kerry is indeed a liberal, and his 20-year Senate record proves this quite clearly. He’s “flip-flopped” throughout the campaign in order to hide his liberal record. He will take any side of any issue in order to get elected, and once elected, he will revert to form and govern as the liberal he has proven himself to be.
This is the approach I think Bush should take.