Saturday, July 19, 2008

Dreaded disease is back among politicians

(Originally published 7/19/08)

Bad news, friends: That dreaded disease, flipflopitis, is back – and it's spreading.

Outbreaks of flipflopitis are common among politicians in election years. Notable recent cases include:

  • Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who had opposed oil drilling off the Gulf Coast – until he supported it;
  • President Bush, who had long insisted that his administration would not engage in diplomatic talks with Iran as long as it was pursuing development of its nuclear program – until he decided to send the No. 3 man in the State Department to multilateral talks with Iran in Geneva and establish a diplomatic presence in Tehran; and
  • Democratic presidential nominee-to-be Barack Obama, who had opposed FISA and telecom immunity last year – before he voted for them this week, and who had pledged to accept public financing for the general election – before he opted out.

    And then there’s GOP presidential nominee-to-be John McCain.

    For two years, McCain had been the face of “comprehensive immigration reform” and various proposals that would provide a “pathway to citizenship” for illegal immigrants already in the United States.

    Then came the primaries, and McCain had to win over Republican hard-liners who oppose amnesty in any form. He admitted that the country just wasn’t ready for “comprehensive immigration reform” and began talking about how nice it would be to have a border fence.

    Then he secured the nomination. Speaking this week to the National Council of La Raza, the largest Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the U.S., McCain didn’t back away from border security but was back to talking about “comprehensive immigration reform.”

    Maybe it's because candidates aren't sleeping much and don't remember their previous positions; perhaps it's because all that Red Bull clouds their judgment. But most cases are actually a side effect of another disorder: Panderosis, an insidious, underlying condition that predisposes politicians to doubletalk and manifests itself as candidates face cheering crowds of supporters during campaigns.

    Flipflopitis is highly contagious. It tends to spread among politicians especially when they are together, such as debates. It can also be triggered when they are faced with aggressive questioning from the media and/or evidence, such as polls, that a candidate’s previous position on an issue is no longer the prevailing one.

    There is no known cure for flipflopitis. Once stricken, the victim must live with the effects, which may include being categorized as a flip-flopper or being served waffles by hecklers at campaign breakfasts. Unfortunately, even if the patient is able to recover from the underlying psychological issues that drive him to seek approval even at the cost of his own dignity, the political distinction of “flip-flopper” will likely remain.

    But, there is good news: Voters can manage the symptoms of flipflopitis in their politicians by administering frequent doses of Don’tInsultOurIntelligencicillin. Think recovering surgery patient with a morphine pump – but voters hold the button. While initially embarrassing, and even painful, for politicians to receive, Don’tInsultOurIntelligencicillin is quite safe. Over time, it has a therapeutic effect that has even been known to blunt the effects of panderosis.

    Of course, the government doesn’t cover Don’tInsultOurIntelligencicillin, and it isn’t available in bulk from Canada. It’s up to voters to mix their own doses, with the raw materials of current events awareness, independent thinking and common sense.

    Judging from recent examples, Americans need to stock up – and soon.

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