web analytics
January 28, 2015 / 8 Shevat, 5775
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Flip-Flop To Victory


Beginning with Kennedy and Nixon in 1960, major party nominations and presidential election campaigns have increasingly been subjected to forms of circus television we carelessly label “debates.”

With rough equality for all contestants regardless of their prospects, these productions have come to rival fund-raising in their importance to the candidates. Furnishing a free forum for pandering, televised debates can make or (more likely) break candidacies.

Examined from another vantage point, it’s fairly clear that the public interest to be served – civic education – has inevitably been compromised by television acting as its promotional medium. In the process (as Marshall McLuhan taught us would happen) the presentations have taken on the unmistakable traits of what television does best: quiz shows and sporting events. For proof, simply recall the serial face-offs of both political parties in 2008, or watch this cycle’s wrestling matches among Republicans.

Not surprisingly, given that television’s core is video, appearance was first to gain influence over discourse, and did so at the outset. What then-Vice President Nixon had to say about Quemoy and Matsu mattered little (and supposedly only to radio listeners) while his perspiring upper lip “lost” to then-Senator Kennedy.

Three decades and two wars later, the camera caught the first President Bush checking his wristwatch, unaware that viewers’ response to his apparent indifference would be “your time is up.”

The roots of what we have now can be seen in reruns of “What’s My Line?” “I’ve Got A Secret, “Jeopardy!” and in every post-game sports analysis program. With instant polling through Internet voting and texting, we now even have scorecards! No need to follow the flow of campaign contributions to gauge the winners and losers.

In effect, the debates have been absorbed by the culture of our television. Thus, 30-second commercials have trained us to accept sound bites for thoughtfulness, and the competitive elements of sport (especially football) have transformed argument into “gotcha” politics. For good and ill, that’s mostly what we have. You needn’t be a couch potato to be comfortable with what television delivers.

Who can say that this process is better or worse than the back door deals that brought us (albeit indirectly) a President Truman? Inarguably, television’s sponsorship of debates, together with its saturation coverage of the primaries, has (but for the campaign funds component) opened our election systems for 24/7 viewing. It does so, however, on its terms – and those terms often distort electoral politics. Take the matter of what has come to be labeled “flip-flopping.”

Under many circumstances, flip-flopping should be deemed a virtue. In respectable company it consists of revising your judgment after reconsidering an issue. Call it changing your mind.

Rather than promoting an understanding of issues, televised debates have conditioned us to reject an open mind by promoting the gotcha moments of the format; and the best of those are when the suspect is accused of flip-flopping and the pundits press the case ad nauseam. 

Just consider a few flip-flops of no small consequence: Jefferson stretching the Constitution with the Louisiana purchase; Wilson entering World War I despite his contrary promise; Nixon opening China after decades searching for who “lost” it. The benefits of those flips cannot seriously be disputed.

Yet hardly anything can doom a candidate more surely than being called a flip-flopper. A philanderer or alcoholic can be rehabilitated through counseling or rehab but there’s no forgiveness or reform for a flip-flopper exposed on live television.

To the candidate, it’s become a fault worse than indecision. When confronted, he or she can only retreat into alibis concocted of misunderstandings, or the missing context, or some other nonsense such as John Kerry’s explanation that he voted no before voting yes (or the other way around) about the Iraq war.

The electorate tolerates all forms of behavior that are inherently bad, but not so televised flip-flopping, which as conduct should carry no judgment. Yet rejection for flip-flopping is nearly always swift and severe for those unlucky or unable to dodge their past.

Would we not be better off if our president and others would admit to having been mistaken or to changing a position because of new or newly learned facts and circumstances? Of course that would be preferable to lying about or obfuscating a flip-flop, particularly on hot topics such as immigration reform, abortion and gun control.

There was a time when consistency was belittled as coming from small minds, but nowadays television prefers game-like action: any strikeout, tackle or slam-dunk will do.

So, then, let’s flip-flop and embrace flip-flopping, at least when it suits us. It surely makes no sense to condemn a candidate because he shifted his position to yours. A small cultural change of this sort might even refresh the otherwise stilted debates we suffer. Knee-jerk name-calling politics works for television, but the candidates aren’t auditioning for the Jerry Springer show.

Where we find it, let’s distinguish between the expedient and the courageous flip-flops, and recognize the maturity of the latter. Highlight films of gotcha politics are more fun to watch, but the function of televised debates is more serious than what they’ve become.

While we’re at it, let’s also enjoy the answers to the first question of the next debate: “Have you ever flip-flopped, and which one made you proudest?

Arnold Mazur is a retired attorney and international business executive who served in Robert Kennedy’s1968 presidential campaign.

About the Author: Arnold Mazur is a retired attorney and business executive who, defying the Arab boycott office, was first to establish in Israel a subsidiary of a major U.S. software company.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Flip-Flop To Victory”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
IDF soldiers evacuating wounded near northern border town of Ghajar.
Northern Golan Heights Declared Closed Military Zone
Latest Indepth Stories
Prophet Mohammed on Jan. 14, 2015 edition cover of  Charles Hebdo..

Many journalists are covertly blaming the Charlie Hebdo writers themselves through self-censorship.

New York Times

Why does the Times relay different motivations and narratives for jihadists in Europe and Israel?

syria_iran_map

To defeat parasites-the hosts of terrorists-we need to deny them new people, potential terrorists

game-figure-598036_1280-810x540

Combating Amalek doesn’t mean all who disagree with you is evil-rather whom to follow and to oppose

Desperate people take what they can, seizing opportunity to advance their main goal; the Arabs don’t

There was a glaring void in the President’s State of the Union speech: Israel.

Let’s focus not on becoming an ATM for that little bundle of joy, but on what you can save in taxes.

Since the passing of the Governance bill legislation on March 11, 2014, new alignments have become to appear in Israeli politics.

Israel has some wild places left; places to reflect and think, to get lost, to try to find ourselves

The British government assured Anglo-Jewry that it is attacking the rising levels of anti-Semitism.

Obama’s Syrian policy failures created the current situation in the Golan Heights.

Our journey begins by attempting to see things differently, only then can we be open to change.

Despite Western ‘Conventional Wisdom&PC,’ the Arab/Israeli conflict was never about the Palestinians

Confrontation & accountability, proven techniques, might also help dealing with religious terrorists

In fact, wherever you see soldiers in Paris today, you pretty much know you’re near Jewish site

Inspired by the Perek Shira pasuk for “small non-kosher animals” we named the bunny “Rebbetzin Tova”

More Articles from Arnold S. Mazur
Mazur-122112

It was the late Abba Eban who famously said that “the Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” In his time that was for the most part true, and it arguably worked for Israel’s benefit, particularly when Israel found itself in a tight diplomatic squeeze.

Beginning with Kennedy and Nixon in 1960, major party nominations and presidential election campaigns have increasingly been subjected to forms of circus television we carelessly label “debates.”

Now that we’ve suffered, yet again, through the annual United Nations circus, has it occurred to anyone (other than New York City police officers) to question why we continue to tolerate the hypocrisy and waste of it all?

Small things make a difference. For example, as an old folk tale has it, a pebble in your shoe can cause more pain than a rock in your pocket.

Opponents of President Obama do not lack for reasons to criticize him or his administration. Not justifiably among them, however, would be the contention that Obama the candidate had misled the country regarding his intentions.

We need to learn from history. Once upon a time (nearly forty years but not so long ago, really) American foreign policy was being stymied, on every issue and continent, by a duplicitous Soviet Union, Confounded by the Vietnam War, President Richard Nixon and his foreign policy czar, Henry Kissinger, faced not so much crises that threatened America as murky messes that wouldn’t yield to unilateral resolution. Soviet partnership was needed but at best absent.

Former president Jimmy Carter’s controversial twining of Israel and the “apartheid” epithet created quite the fuss, as has the Biden construction affair and its aftermath of bloodying the Israeli nose. Unsurprisingly, if leaky reports are true, lurking in the background of both stories is the second-rate theorist Zbigniew Brzezinski, still hoping somehow to overcome the frustration of not being Henry Kissinger.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/flip-flop-to-victory/2011/11/12/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: