The Dartmouth Observer

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Thursday, September 23, 2004
The hobgoblin of little minds, or why it's okay to change your mind

If you've taken the time to read John's lengthy posts from two to three months ago, you may have noticed that his positions on certain issues -- perhaps even his fundamental outlook on the world -- have changed. On Iraq, for instance, he now seems to appreciate the human rights factor more -- to the extent that he's agitating for intervention in Sudan. (I'm sure Professor Means was more persuasive on this point than I was!) Meanwhile, he's also gone from being a committed Republican to a self-described "center-leftist" who's critical of both Bush and Kerry (as I think most sensible people are). As the man himself writes, much to the surprise of others, "Antiracism, antidiscrimination, elitism, vegetarianism, a concern for injustice, and feminism are just a few of the values I have appropriated from my classes." (I've always wondered which class put him off meat, but that's a separate issue.) He's read more, thought about the issues in light of this extra reading, and has changed his mind here and there. That's fine, even admirable. Far too many people graduate from college not only thinking that they know everything, but believing that they know everything the proper way.

Now contrast John's intellectual evolution (John, please correct me if I've misrepresented you) with the approaches of both Presidential candidates. (It's an unfair comparison, of course -- most non-scientific comparisons are to an extent.) Kerry changes his mind too much, and seemingly without reason. I've tried tracing the development of his thinking on Iraq, but admit to being quite confused. Now it's okay for him to change his mind, but he should at least be honest about it, instead of pretending that he's been consistent all this while. I actually think that this will help his election chances among hawkish liberals in particular, many of whom, while unhappy about Bush's domestic policies, are prepared to prioritize the war on terrorism over gay marriage.

Bush by contrast comes across simply as stubborn. Things are not going swimmingly in Iraq. This need not count against Bush if he's willing to inject a little honesty into his public statements, and more importantly, ensure that the necessary changes are being made behind the scenes. I can't see the former happening -- especially with the elections six weeks away -- and I've no inside information on the latter. (But hey, Mark Steyn is comparing Iraq to Surrey: "In two-thirds of the country, municipal government has been rebuilt, business is good, restaurants are open, life is as jolly as it has been in living memory.")