Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Flip-flops demand their own footing

If you look at the Truth-O-Meter rulings we've published on (more than 500 since we launched the site a year ago), you'll see the same phrase popping up a lot: flip-flop.

Barack Obama was accused of flip-flopping on public financing, warrantless wiretaps and offshore drilling. John McCain supposedly flip-flopped on drilling and the Bush tax cuts. During the primary campaign, flipping charges were leveled against Hillary Rodham Clinton (torture policy), Bill Richardson (Iraq) and Mitt Romney (abortion).

We checked those accusations at the time and rated them on our trusty Truth-O-Meter. But after checking so many flip-flop allegations, especially lately, we realized they have become a major part of the campaign discourse.

We decided that PolitiFact needed a new device to tell readers when a candidate had truly flipped.

And so, the Flip-O-Meter is born.

When a candidate is accused of flipping, reporters and researchers from the St. Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly examine the candidates' statements and voting records. Have they hedged their words over time? Shifted their tone? Changed their voting patterns?

Then, we rate whether the candidate has truly flipped:

No Flip: No substantial change of position. The candidate has been consistent.

Half Flip: A partial change of position or inconsistent statements.

Full Flop: A major reversal of position; a complete flip-flop.

We are not making a value judgment about flip-flopping. Some people say it shows inconsistent principles and lack of backbone. Others say it's just pragmatism and willingness to compromise.

As we did with the Truth-O-Meter, our goal with the Flip-O-Meter is to provide you with a helpful tool so you can make a more informed decision when you vote. Here are our debut rulings.

Barack Obama

On using the oil reserves

As recently as a month ago, Obama balked at the idea of tapping into the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve to relieve gas prices. But on Monday, he proposed doing just that.

On offshore drilling

Obama has consistently opposed new drilling as a means for solving U.S. dependence on foreign oil and spoke clearly against lifting a federal moratorium on drilling off the Florida coast. Now, he's ready to support a compromise plan that calls for more drilling off Florida while at the same time spending more on alternative fuels.

John McCain

On the Bush tax cuts

In 2001 and 2003, McCain voted against President Bush's tax cuts, citing fiscal prudence and the cost of the war in Iraq. But in 2006, McCain voted in favor of extending the tax cuts.

On offshore drilling

In June, McCain announced an energy plan that included lifting a federal moratorium on coastal drilling so states could allow rigs off their shores. He always said states should decide for themselves, but until this summer he had never urged states to allow drilling.

Flip-flops demand their own footing 08/05/08 [Last modified: Monday, August 11, 2008 3:18pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa-based makeup artist disqualified from contest over pro-Trump post


    WICHITA, Kan. — A makeup artist who splits her time between Tampa and Kansas says she won a national contest sponsored by Kat Von D Beauty but was later disqualified because of an Instagram post supporting Donald Trump's presidential candidacy.

    Gypsy Freeman won the contest with this image posted to Instagram. [@facesofgypsy on Instagram]
  2. Flesh-eating bacteria nearly kills Florida man who thought he just had blisters from a hike


    Wayne Atkins thought little of the blisters he had gotten while hiking. He was trekking up and down the 4,500-foot-high Mount Garfield in New Hampshire - a 10-mile round trip - and blisters were no surprise.

    Wayne Atkins thought his blisters were from hiking, but the flesh eating bacteria nearly killed him. [YouTube]
  3. Yes, again: Rays blow late two-run lead, get swept by Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — As weekends go, this was a bad one for the Rays. In a word: brutal.

    Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Brad Boxberger, foreground, reacts after giving up a home run to Texas Rangers' Carlos Gomez during the eighth inning of a baseball game Sunday, July 23, 2017, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson) FLMC116
  4. White House offers muddled message on Russia sanctions legislation


    WASHINGTON - White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Sunday that the Trump administration supports new legislation to punish Russia for its meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its aggression toward Ukraine.

    President Donald Trump at the commissioning ceremony for the USS Gerald R. Ford  at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, July 22, 2017. [New York Times]
  5. 'Stranger Things' is coming back; here's the first trailer


    The nostalgia-heavy, small-screen blockbuster Stranger Things returns to Netflix with a new season on Oct. 27 - just in time for a pre-Halloween weekend binge session.

    A scene from the Stranger Things Season 2 trailer.