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. Venus

    Well... let's be honest shall we!

    Obama ran a different campaign during the primary and so now he is running a change campaign for the general election!

    I don't blame Obama for changing! If it was the other way – McSame would do the same thing... he's pissed because he is having problems getting money from his donors! That's not Obama fault!

    June 20, 2008 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  2. Preston of Denver

    Absolutely. There's nothing wrong with changing your views to fit the facts. The only times flip-flopping should really be applied as a negative term is when they legitimately flip-flop, like McCain claiming he never commented on Hillary Clinton's campaign when there's recordings that say the exact opposite. For example.

    June 20, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  3. Stooge

    So what. Obama flip-flopped on financing and gave a lame excuse. The political damage of flip-flopping is not in somebody's stating the fact but in flip-flopper's acknowledging it. It makes the flip-flopper look weak and un-commanderly-in-chief. Obama will lose a few supporters (maybe) but will find scores of new ones with his privately financed carrots. If he did not, there would not have been a reason to flip-flop to start with. It's all games.

    Since 2000 McCain flip-flopped on immigration, tax cuts, campaign financing, fiscal responsibility and practical measures against climate change. And he is still standing up. His supporters don't get disgusted well because they trust their gut feeling and think he's honest and decent despite his standings, and also surprise surprise they like tax cuts policies themselves.

    That is why neither Obama's or McCain's supporters will be in any major way affected by this flip-flop. And those who don't support either don't care. Like anything they can be bought through expensive campaigning. And this is Obama's bet in this game.

    June 20, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  4. Nic

    Flip flopping on campaign financing is not as huge as flip-flopping on oil drilling, or flip-flopping on abortion. Campaign finance isn't an issue the candidates will gain or lose votes over. When Obama all of a sudden decides to stay in Iraq, decides women don't have a right to choose, decides to give big corporations the better tax breaks, then we will have a problem.

    June 20, 2008 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  5. altapres

    Politicians like Obama are promising people. Full of promises that are to be broken. What else is new?

    June 20, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  6. Erica, ID

    You know what. When Reagan said it "was morning in America". I never saw the sunshine. That trickle down theory did not make it to my door. But with Barack, we are all in this together. Together we are taking our country back, and sittling down at the same table to fix our problems.

    It really will be morning in America when he is president. No, he won't be able to resolve all the problems at once because there are many, but he will be able to make a dent where it matters, like the war.

    America will ring that phone at 3:00am and Barack will be ready.

    Obama 08

    June 20, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  7. tr

    John McCain has flip flopped on almost every single issue.....He debates himself on a daily basis!! McCain himself flip flopped on public financing in the primary but took it one step further which was illegal

    June 20, 2008 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  8. Ric

    Clinton Democrats for Mc Cain '08

    June 20, 2008 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  9. dave

    Good luck with getting an ego like Obama's to admit to something everybody in this world sees so clearly!

    June 20, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  10. pam Eugene OR

    I think that is exactly what he did say. He just used different words. This great man stands behind what he says...just ask move on.org.
    Obama 08

    June 20, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  11. flip-flopper

    i guess it's easy to call a politician a flip-flopper, but hell i'd rather have someone do that then be a stubborn mule (i'm looking at you BUSH).

    McCain, however, freaking goes from anti-war to pro-war. what the hell?

    sometimes you should change your mind, sometimes you shouldn't. (HINT HINT)

    June 20, 2008 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  12. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia in CA

    Obama is not stupid. He can't control groups that independently put out garbage like the "Swiftboat for Truth" jerks.

    Money, unfortunately, is what got the creep we have in the White House elected and it's what going to get Senator Obama elected.

    What a bunch of republican't hypocrisy.

    But, could we expect anything less?

    June 20, 2008 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  13. Jenna

    Dear Wolfe, it means that they will say anything at any time to ensure votes. Just like Nafta and Public funding, Reverand Wright, etc....

    Voter in California

    June 20, 2008 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  14. anthony MO

    I was beginning to losinterest in The Situation Room since the end of dem primaries.
    But today,it bounced back with well coordinated set of reporting and good moderation from Wolf.Good job wolf.

    June 20, 2008 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  15. Phil, FL

    Did you ever change your mind after further investigation of something?

    June 20, 2008 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  16. Allie

    I don't understand why the media is making a huge deal about this. If Obama decided to go along with public financing, he's giving McCain a huge advantage and foregoing his own financial advantage. Obama has the potential to raise money and finance his campaign by small donors. Usually Republicans have the funding advantage (with big donations from corporate lobbyists) but Obama can probably raise $400 million by small donors. So it would be foolish for Obama to go for the $85 million. If McCain had Obama's fundraising advantage, he'd do the same thing. But he doesn't. So tough luck, McCain.

    June 20, 2008 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  17. WA

    McCain has flip-flopped-and-flipped on so many issues its difficult to know where he stands on issues. He was against drilling for oil in Florida, now he's for it. He was against Bush on torture, now he supports Bush on torture by opposing the rule of law and the Supreme Court ruling that simply states you cannot hold and torture other human beings for years without due process. He wants public financing of campaigns but has received millions of dollars from special interest lobbyists. Say NO to McCain!

    June 20, 2008 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
  18. CWatson

    Obama made a pledge that was conditional. The words below were a part of the pledge that he signed:
    "I have been a long-time advocate for public financing of campaigns combined with free television and radio time as a way to reduce the influence of moneyed special interests. I introduced public financing legislation in the Illinois State Senate, and am the only 2008 candidate to have sponsored Senator Russ Feingold’s (D-WI) bill to reform the presidential public financing system. In February 2007, I proposed a novel way to preserve the strength of the public financing system in the 2008 election. My plan requires both major party candidates to agree on a fundraising truce, return excess money from donors, and stay within the public financing system for the general election. My proposal followed announcements by some presidential candidates that they would forgo public financing so they could raise unlimited funds in the general election. The Federal Election Commission ruled the proposal legal, and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has already pledged to accept this fundraising pledge. If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election." Obama’s pledge, Oct 2007

    It would be helpful if the media gave that some consideration.

    McCain dodged investigate of his flip-flop on public financing during the primaries. McCain has said he won't referee the 527s somewhat contrary to the position he took in 2004. McCain was lame in responding to Rev. Wright and Michelle Obama ads. The history of what the Republicans swiftboating did to John Kerry remains as a concern. The FEC hasn't been fully staffed since January and is currently unable to perform it's function.

    Therefore, a firm, true, enforceable agreement – not lip service is what was required. McCains actions during the primary and his recently stated position on 527s basically provided the answer for Obama.

    It takes two to disagree. Some media has been deeply flawed ignoring the recent history of what the McCain camp has been up to that made such an agreement virtually impossible to reach. there was no display of good faith on their part.

    Obama pledged he would accept public financing if a genuine truce could be worked out. To pin all the blame on Obama for not being able to reach such an agreement is absurd.

    June 20, 2008 06:06 pm at 6:06 pm |
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