Some flip-flops can serve public interest

What others say

Posted: Friday, July 30, 2004

John Kerry has given flip-flopping a bad name, but there's nothing wrong with a flip-flop when it serves the public interest.

Initially, President Bush and the GOP-led Congress virtually stiff-armed the 9-11 Commission's report that came up with more than 40 recommendations to make America safer by improving the nation's ability to generate and interpret counterterrorist intelligence data.

Bush said he'd reflect on the recommendations for awhile, and House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., saw no reason to "rush" into anything. Why not wait until next year and then deal with the problem?

Because, as the bipartisan blue-ribbon panel that investigated the 9-11 attacks pointed out, al-Qaida and its terrorist allies aren't waiting until next year to plot their deadly schemes. There's not a moment to lose to make America safer enough time has been wasted already.

Thankfully, it didn't take long for this message to get through to the administration and Congress and for them to reverse field.

Some of the credit has to be given to Democrats and Kerry, who were at first more aggressive than the GOP in picking up on the commission's report and running with the ball. This is a situation where partisan election-year politics produced a desirable result.

When Republicans, who score much better on national security issues than Democrats, saw their opponents stealing their thunder, they quickly engineered a turnaround of their own.

President Bush, in his weekend radio address, said he'd use his executive authority to move on the recommendations where he could, and ask Congress to act where new legislation is required.

Key congressional committees also leaped into action this week, holding hearings to draw up plans to create a national intelligence director and counterterrorism

center, two of the major proposals developed by the commission. Now Hastert, the speaker who was in "no rush" to act at all, isn't ruling out the possibility of a

special session.

Whatever the reason for the GOP's change of mind, it is welcome. Instead of stubbornly sticking with a bad government decision, the party responded to criticism by making constructive changes. This isn't partisan politics so much as it is good politics.

Augusta Chronicle - July 28

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