June 20th, 2008
03:20 PM ET
14 years ago

Blitzer: What's wrong with a politician who changes views?

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/01/16/art.blitzeriowa.cnn.jpg caption="Blitzer: Obama, McCain are at odds over tax policy."] WASHINGTON (CNN) - There’s nothing wrong with people changing their minds. We all do it – all the time. But as Luke Russert reminded us at his father’s funeral this week, politicians have a hard time admitting that they ever change their minds. They are apparently afraid that they will be accused of flip-flopping, which supposedly is bad for a politician.

Luke said that Tim Russert would also point out that the Americans are a very forgiving people. They will certainly accept politicians changing their minds as long as they are up front about it. What’s wrong with political leaders simply saying they’ve had a change of heart? “I used to think one way, but now think another.”

I was reminded of this when Barack Obama announced this week that he was opting out of the public financing of his general election campaign despite earlier expressing support for the public finance system. His decision certainly made financial sense, given that he could probably raise at least $300 million for the campaign compared to the roughly $85 million available in public financing.

In explaining his decision, Obama insisted the current presidential general election finance system was “broken,” something Democratic Senator Russ Feingold, a leader in campaign finance reform, denied. Would it have been so bad politically for Obama if he would have just said: “The country needs me in the White House and this decision will help make that happen. We can’t take any chances. As a result, I changed my mind”?

Filed under: Wolf Blitzer
soundoff (168 Responses)
  1. Obama/Hillary 08

    Nothing is wrong with it.
    Read keating 5 about John McCain.

    June 20, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  2. rakesh

    No surprise that OBAMA flip-flops and this is not the first time.
    Obama is a bundle of confusion, cotradiction and chaos.

    June 20, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  3. Doug

    The current presidential general election finance system is, indeed, broken. Until the 527's are regulated, Republican candidates will have a definite advantage under public financing.

    One other note: Blitzer wonders why a candidate can't change his mind on an issue. As he himself said in 2004, " The problem that I saw that Kerry had, probably one of the biggest problems, if not the biggest problems, was the way he was positioned by the Republicans as a flip-flopper. That - that caused so many Americans to wonder who is this guy? Will he do anything just for political purposes?"

    June 20, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  4. Cathy

    I'm a true Obama supporter and I do agree that I wish Obama did say he changed his mind. Regardless...GO OBAMA!!!!

    June 20, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |


    June 20, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  6. Carol, San Luis Obispo, CA

    I do believe politicians should be able to change their mind ("view") as long as the politician gives believable reasons for the change. It's ok to say, "10 years ago I supported campaigns using public funds. Over time the system has broken down beginning with (1), then (2), then (3), so yes; I've changed my mind. I no longer support the program. In lieu of my former position I support [whatever] and this is why: (1), then (2), then (3).

    That's credible. That shows leadership. That's shows a dynamic politician who isn't stuck in "business as usual–avoid reform" ideology.

    To answer your question, "Would it have been so bad politically for Obama if he would have just said: "This country needs me in the White House and this decision will help make that happen. We can't take any chances. As a result, I changed my mind?" Absolutely yes: that reason is damaging.

    Mr. Blitzer, that is probably one of the most unbelievable, shallow, egotistical reasons for changing position on funding sources. Senator Obama did not cite that as a reason. Your question smacks of "money can buy the White House" and tends to cast the candidate as one who follows the money trail rather than citing facts.

    There is nothing wrong with a politician changing his or her mind as long as they can provide sensible, believable and credible reasons.

    There is also nothing wrong with a politician coming clean and saying, "My vote for the war was wrong." In that case her inability to say those simple words haunted her and hindered her campaign.

    June 20, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  7. ???

    Yeah, you are right. Obama should have been honest and up-front about this. At the same time McCain keeps changing positions and denies holding a conflicting position. Why CAN'T the candidates be more honest? Flip-flopping has gotten such a bum rap, especially since Bush symbolizes WHY we need someone in the White House that is willing to re-examine their policies.

    June 20, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  8. Kidamombi Raj

    I just watching your talk with Dona Brazille and Leslie Sanchez.I always that you guys are neutral, but the more and more I see lately once Barak Obama has been a presumptive Democratic Candidate, there seems to be more critical analysis of him compared to John McCain. You didn't question Leslie regarding Flip Flopping by John McCain, particularly on the Comprehensive Immigration. See at Ronald Reagan centre he categorically said no and now in a meeting with hundreds of Hispanic leaders changed his thing. You let Leslie off the hook. Regarding Fundraising Obama has clearly explained why he did what he did.
    On the Free Trade Accord, Obama never said he would change it unilaterally, but John McCain and his cronies twist what Obama said and say that he would change the pact unilaterally. You guys are on top of all the remarks made by boith candidates all the time, but still when it comes to McCaine whether he changes what Obama said or what Mccain fli-flops, you guys handle them with soft gloves.
    Thanks for your impartiality.
    Kidambi Raj

    June 20, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  9. Connie, Tennessee

    I thought McWar was going to do the same. Looks like he is the flip-flopper! Obama is going to represent the people.

    June 20, 2008 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  10. McBride, SLC, UT

    Yes, that is what he just said.... the system is broken and he changed his mind. START TALKING ABOUT THE ISSUES THAT MATTER TO EVERYDAY AMERICANS MEDIA PEOPLE!

    June 20, 2008 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  11. MD

    There is nothing wrong with that.

    Accusing politicians of flip-flopping every time they change their minds fosters a rigidness that will curtail creativity.

    I think those politicians who "stick to their guns–no matter what" are the core problem of our democracy. A fine example of a rigid politician is George Bush.

    June 20, 2008 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  12. Bill

    Mr. Blitzer: It seems you've retired as a journalist and emerged as a cheerleader. At last you're out of the closet.

    June 20, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  13. KE

    “Change we can believe in” otherwise “One’s constant change of stance we can believe in” Is anybody getting tired?

    June 20, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  14. Vote for Change

    Yeah, maybe Senator Obama should have said that if Senator McCain didn't accused him of lying. But he gotta defend himself from "flipfloping". If it is okay to change mind, then one should confront McCain on his "accusation" before criticizing Obama.

    June 20, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  15. ginger

    Well, let's see, so many main stream American's have expressed outrage over a black man becoming President they will do anything to stop him from being elected.

    The lies and smears is what caused this happen.

    Sen. Obama, as long its legal do your thing!

    McCain's only mad because he believed the White House was his. I guess he forgot what happened to him with the smears. The minute groups put out he had a black child (out of wedlock) white folks wouldn't support him. It was a lie easily debunked but some people are so stupid they believed it.

    McCain stop frontin like you don't understand the game.

    June 20, 2008 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  16. Mcshame

    if mccain can stop flip floping that will be great but he cant help it his a mastered liar.

    June 20, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  17. Don Colony14Author, Mt Prospect, IL

    There's a difference between changing one's mind based on new or corrected information, and changing one's mind for the sake of expediency or pure self-interest. If a convict is let out of prison because new DNA evidence clears him, that's a change of mind that is justificable and proper. If a Senator says, "I voted to send troops to Iraq because I thought it was the right thing to do at the time and I trusted the intelligence reports by the CIA and those of other nations, but I have now come to regert that decision and think we acted too quickly," then his change of mind is believable and logical. "I got tricked into voting for the war!" is the weasel's response.

    But Obama basically said, "I'm a new kind of politican and I'm going to limit myself to public funds to avoid owing favors to those who finance my campaign," and then saw he'd get more money from the private donors (and tens of millions in "free advertising" from forced union "contributions.") Obama's change of mindset was for purely selfish reasons. (And it broke an agreement made with the McCain campaign.) Obama's "change of mind" is akin to someone betting on red and then switching to black after the roulette wheel stops spinning, and is an illustration that he is, in fact, "just another politician."

    In this day and age of political correctness everyone is afraid of making judgments and being judged. But life doesn't work that way, and Obama will be judged as just another egotistical, power-mad, greedy politican by those who are not afraid of telling it like it is. A candidate who follows the polls rather than principle and breaks his own promises is a poltician, not a statesman.

    As for me, I only vote for statesmen (when I can find them on the ballot).

    June 20, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  18. RoRo

    You are right!! If he had said that you will be the first criticizing him by now. Saying he is arrogant and the country doesnot need him and blah blah blah.......

    June 20, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  19. Bj

    Wolf, it is because of you guys (The Press) that politicians find it hard to admit an honest mind change about an issue they have a stand on that shifted. Image how you guys have being beating this story since yesterday. As if Obama has committed robbery. McCain has changed his mind several times during this campaign period and you guys just gloss over it and move on. But for Obama, is a beat to death!

    Wolf, from my perspective you skewed coverage of Obama since the days of Hilary is still showing up in your show. You’re almost losing me as fan

    June 20, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  20. Francisco Onofre

    Barack needs to win the presidency and then can change the system
    This a very smart move from smart man

    June 20, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  21. saga for Obama

    oh Wolf, just finished watching your show...you seem very one sided, i don't know how good that is for one who is supposed to bring us the news. as far as i see it Mr. Obama is revolutionizing the public financing. i wait tables for a living. i am not wealthy, famous or a mover and shaker like many who support Mr. Mc Caine. i am just an average American who is tired of ALL The Republican Corruption...from the war to wire taps. we are in serious trouble here and i believe in Mr. Obama. did he change his mind...well i do not recall him ever definitively committing to PF. how ever Mr. Mc Caine has sure done a lot of oopsing i was wrong from off shore drilling to taxes to energy... Wolf maybe you should try to be more Objective. try reporting the news not your views.

    June 20, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  22. Acurious Onlooker

    BTW, I'm still laughing at people who continue to think the best way to support Hillary is by voting for McCain. Why don't you just hold up a sign that says, "I'm voting McCain because I'm a whiny wanker who didn't understand any of Hillary's views."

    June 20, 2008 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  23. aaron from minneapolis

    How about when Obama said he was against the tax break holiday because he tried in in Illionois, it failed, and HE SAID he changed his mind on the idea. How soon you forget Wolf. He could have said he changed his mind or he could point out the fact its (public financing system) broken. And obviously its a smarter decision to point out why he opted out. the fact he opted out tells you he changed his mind in the same sentence. Come on Wolf pull your head out of your arse.

    June 20, 2008 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  24. Michelle

    He changed his mind for his own ambition.

    And he LIED about why he changed his mind.

    And he tried to falsely place the blame elsewhere.

    He will change on a whim if it is politically expedient for him.

    June 20, 2008 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  25. David Goldman for OBAMA









    June 20, 2008 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
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