Is Kerry a flipper or a leaner?

Political ads dissected and explained.
May 28 2004 2:02 PM

Damned Spot

Is Kerry a flipper or a leaner?

(Continued from Page 2)

Call me a Kerry shill, but I don't see the contradiction. Kerry wants to measure inputs and outputs. Furthermore, on May 7, a month after chiding Kerry, Brownstein applauded the senator for encouraging states "to impose accountability measures that teacher unions have resisted. … Kerry's new proposal, following his release Tuesday of a plan to reduce school dropout rates, tilts his education agenda back toward the accountability themes Bush has stressed." Funny, but the Bush campaign doesn't mention this piece.

Anyway, Kerry's principal beef with NCLB, as he has often explained, is that Bush didn't budget the funds necessary to help schools meet the new standards. And that really is a Bush shift, not a Kerry shift.

Jake, I agree that Kerry has tried to have it both ways on NCLB and the Patriot Act. But you also seem to agree that these ads misrepresent Kerry: He didn't "change his mind" on NCLB or urge repeal of the cited parts of the Patriot Act. Kerry isn't a flipper; he's a leaner. He's got a "yes" foot and a "but" foot. He leans on one foot, then the other, depending on which way the wind blows. But he keeps both feet on the ground.

I prefer Kerry's flaw to Gore's. Gore oversimplified things. Kerry overcomplicates them. The latter may be cowardly, but I don't think it's dishonest.

Jacob Weisberg is chairman and editor-in-chief of The Slate Group and author of The Bush Tragedy. Follow him on Twitter.

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.

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