Covering Flip-Flops (A How-To)

Over at, Michael Scherer (who once worked here at CJR) observes:

Every day, flip-flop charges bang up against the political press like moths on a screen door. And we let some of them in, sometimes with the unexamined conceit that any shift in position is a window into the candidate’s lack of character, toughness or principle…

So how do we cull the moths to separate bogus flip-flop charge from valuable one?

With Scherer’s homemade moth repellant — in the form of “three questions that matter most” that, I presume, he believes he and his fellow campaign reporters should ask themselves when facing a flip-flop and a deadline. “Is the change substantial, or superficial? Was it done for political expediency? Was it done to fool the voting public?”

I am all for political reporters pausing to ask themselves a few questions before automatically writing up the flip-flop du jour, but the whole assigning of motives (why this flip? what motivated that flop?) can be tricky, mind-reading business.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.