Artful Flip-Flopping

Jaime Sneider counters me:

Andrew Sullivan says, "Sometimes a flip-flop is a sign of real maturity in a politician responding to new events or facts." That's only true however, when a candidate acknowledges and explains why he's changing. Principle plays no role when the pol instead self-righteously asserts that there has been no change at all. Principle doesn't play a role when a candidate claims that everyone simply misunderstood his previous position--as with the meaning of "negotiate with Iran without precondition"--even when the misperception was widely reported and the candidate did nothing to correct it for many months. Aside from charging the other side with flip-flopping, one other job typically assigned to a campaign's war-room is correcting media reports that mischaracterize their candidate's position. That Obama's staff was apparently sitting on its hands shows Obama either meant what he said or wanted people to believe that he did.

The strategy is to get out of Iraq completely and try and contain Iran diplomatically. The policy is what it was. The tactics shift, as they must. I'm not aware, for example, that the president has described the evolution of his own North Korea policy or his change of counter-insurgency tactics in Iraq as flip-flops. Nor should he. One thing I learned from the Iraq war debacle: we were far too focused on our own ideological positioning than on getting the reality of Iraq right. It's a good thing that since the last election both Bush and Obama have adjusted. We need more of this, not less.