Kathryn Lopez

Successful multimillionaire businessman Mitt Romney runs for governor of the Bay State to fix the economy there, a job he knows something about. Other issues, at the time, paled in comparison for him. Fast forward, he's in the statehouse. The legislature decides it's going to fund an unprecedented human cloning effort with Harvard University, his alma mater. So he seriously studies what's going on, he brings in experts. He didn't let himself get swept up by the snake oil salesmen (remember John Edwards announcing that Christopher Reeve would be alive if not for George Bush's refusal to fund embryonic stem-cell research?). He realizes that "Brave New World" is not just a novel, but something his state is about to budget for in a whole new way. When Romney actually took the time to figure this out, he changed his mind about abortion, cloning and other destruction of innocent human life. Ditto for gay marriage. Once forced to confront the issue, once realizing the lengths activists will go to make sanctified same-sex unions legal, once the supreme court of Massachusetts instituted same-sex marriage there, he changed his mind.

Good for him. They say it's hard to teach an old dog new tricks. Well, it's even harder for a grown man in public life to say "I was wrong." He has. Good for him.

It's not a disingenuous flip-flop for me to take that point of view. I did, in fact, refer to John Kerry now and again as a "flip-flopper," a waffler. But John Kerry believed two things about the Iraq war during the same campaign. John Kerry didn't know what he wanted his Iraq strategy to be, and so his elucidation of policy was nothing but a muddle in which he would manage to have two positions at once.

Some "flip-flops" aren't, in other words. As long as your core is clear -- as long as you have one -- a mature leader can learn. Both presidential candidates would be wise to do so here and there. At least one of them isn't going to take the beating Romney did during the primaries. And it helps that the other one's middle name with them is "maverick." So be one yourself, look at the facts and see if you don't agree. Can the rest of us throw out all the "flip-flops"? The shoes and the now-meaningless label?

Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.