In praise of Etch a Sketch

A spokesman for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney added to the campaign’s long list of gaffes Wednesday, but he raised a valid point on leadership.
Eric Fehrnstrom was asked whether the campaign was worried that the positions Romney has taken in the primaries would hurt him with moderate voters in the fall.
“Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign,” Fehrnstrom responded. “Everything changes. It’s almost like an Etch a Sketch. You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.”
The onslaught began almost immediately. Forevermore, Romney will be the Etch a Sketch candidate.
Voters of both parties place a high value on ideological purity.
We seem to want our chosen leader to be a robot that analyzes every decision within a narrow ideological framework. We want his leadership to demonstrate the glib certainty of Rush Limbaugh or Bill Maher, pundits with cookie-cutter solutions for every problem.
As a candidate, Barack Obama’s popularity was partly a result of his ideological certainty. He was no Etch a Sketch candidate. He cavalierly announced that the Guantanamo Bay facility had to go. We needed to quickly withdraw from Afghanistan and Iraq.
Reality set in with leadership. Gitmo is still there, we’re at least two years from withdrawing from Afghanistan and our presence in Iraq remains significant. He opted for national security over campaign rhetoric.
The Etch a Sketch approach does not work in a campaign, because it leaves voters with no way to evaluate the candidate’s core philosophy. In our leaders, though, we need flexibility.
We need a president — be it Obama or Romney or someone else — who is adept with the Etch a Sketch. If a catchy campaign promise is disastrous in application, we need him to return to the drawing board without ideological blinders.

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