Our Just Desserts

Guest: Carol Darr, Director, Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet at The George Washington University So, RH, how would you brand Zell Miller? He's been called Zig Zag Miller in the past, and not without reason. It's interesting that a party that is attacking its opponent so vociferously for flip flopping proffers as its keynote speaker someone who started out as an aide to segregationist Georgia Governor Lester Maddox then led the fight when he himself was governor to remove the Confederate emblem from the Georgia state flag. Such political growth and maturity over time is to be applauded, it seems to me, not derided. Yet all politicians today fear -- and with good reason -- the consequences of changing their minds or misspeaking. After Mitt Romney's speech last night, Mark Shields reminisced about what a fine public servant his father, George Romney, was. Yet as Shields pointed out, George Romney's lifetime of public service was forgotten in an instant when he described being "brainwashed' by U.S. generals during the Viet Nam War. Romney was forced to drop out of the presidential primary, having been his party's frontrunner. We can blame the press all we want for such harsh treatment of citizens who put themselves forward for public office, but the fact is we ourselves are the ones responsible for driving good people from office, and worse yet, for tolerating a civic culture that dissuades good people from running for office in the first place. We complain about candidates who are too cautious, too scripted, and too poll-driven. Yet when candidates change their minds, mature from youthful extremism, evolve in their thinking, they leave themselves open to mocking insults, contempt and charges of flip flopping. We deserve what we get, and we are getting just what we deserve. CD