Saturday, September 25, 2004

Foolish Consistency and the Flip Flop

Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his essay “Self-Reliance” stated “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall.” This has such relevance in this election that I just felt the need to bring it up.

His point is that establishing a position and sticking to that position regardless of circumstances is foolish and intellectually lazy. I contend that there are some great principles that are non-foolish consistencies (starting with “Thou shalt not kill”). What should not be consistent is your response to events. There is nothing wrong with giving a leader a strategic negotiating position that allows a diplomatic solution. When that leader then uses that position for reasons outside of the original intent and by the way bungles tactically, it is entirely appropriate to criticize the action. It would be unconscionable of John Kerry to do otherwise. The president on the other hand says that we need to stay the course and it was all the right thing to do, demonstrating that he is a man with not just a “little mind”, but also of small spirit.

No comments: