Sunday, June 29, 2008

Flip-flopping or Tacking?

I have a friend (who shall go unnamed) who loves cats and Palestinians--but not Israel. Recently she was plunged into disillusionment with Barack Obama after hearing him offer wholehearted support to the Israeli lobby in a prominent speech after he claimed the nomination. Right on the heels of that came his change of heart regarding the public financing for his campaign--Obama rejected the flat amount of $86 million that would have put him and John McCain on an equal footing, which reportedly he had previously agreed to. Instead, Obama opted to let his supporters finance his campaign. NB: his supporters, but not lobbyists or corporate interests.

McCain and the media immediately went on the attack, wanting to brand Obama with that most dreaded of labels: flip-flopper. See, he's just another politician, they're quick to say; a panderer and an opportunist like all the others, not different.

I say, I think he's very different.

Okay, so when is a flip-flopper not a flip-flopper? Indeed, what is the difference between flip-flopping and changing your mind? I've been thinking a lot about this lately, trying to sort it out, because honestly, when I see John McCain flip-flopping all over the place--being wildly inconsistent, reversing positions-- I'm revolted. It comes off (to me) as tergiversation--that is to say, as back pedaling, untrustworthiness, opportunism, double-dealing, and an all-too-easy change of allegiance. Ideologues, however, have only two possible directions they can move in: forward and reverse. It's a style of thinking that does not allow for diagonals or subtler modes of gradation.

What I have concluded is that where McCain tergiversates, Obama navigates; like a good sailor, the man knows how to TACK. Tacking, it should be noted--a little to the left here, over a bit to the right there, in response to prevailing winds--is not at all the same as flip-flopping, or reversing a position. As I see it, Obama's various maneuvers are a skillful form of multi-directional steering; he is able to zigzag, bend, move sideways, scud, skim, swerve, deflect, or deviate in a roundabout way, in order to keep his boat from capsizing in choppy waters. Tacking is not recanting or switching allegiance. Rather, it is a well-pitched way of achieving passage through a (political) maze in which the adept must concentrate on the essence of everything he has learned in order to survive his ordeal--and win the presidency. And he does so with the same unerring spirit of integrity that has accompanied him on his wizardly journey thus far. Personally, I am more than pleasantly surprised at Obama's deftness in steering, and his ability never to project his shadow onto others. Imagine the metaphysical alembic being established when he tells the world, referring to his former rival Hillary Clinton, "She rocks!" Obama knows exactly what he is doing. I haven't seen him make a botch of anything yet. P.S. I'll be taking a break from blogging over the next month or two.

1 comment:

colleen said...

You took the words I couldn't put in words right out of my mouth