Flip Along with John


John "Who Cares Where I Stand, At Least I'm Not Bush" Kerry is going squishy when it comes to opposing the Patriot Act, which shouldn't be a surprise since he voted for the damn thing. From yesterday's L.A. Times:

After Bush used his weekend radio address recently to urge a continuation of the Patriot Act, Kerry issued a written statement listing ideas for "improving" and "fixing" the law by strengthening provisions on money laundering, cracking down on terrorists' assets, improving information-sharing policies and enhancing other sections that specifically target terrorists.

A Kerry spokesman insisted later that the candidate's message has not changed, arguing that it is the challenger, not the president, who brings the most muscular view of the Patriot Act to the race….

Some who agreed with Kerry's early tough stands against the law's potential intrusions on civil liberties now say they are not quite sure where the senator stands.

For those who came in late, here's a quick summary:

1. 9/11 happens, Congress panics at the thought of looking soft on terror, and John Kerry votes for the Patriot Act. He does not necessarily read it first.

2. Howard Dean happens, John Kerry panics at the thought of losing the Democratic base, and he suddenly discovers that the bill was filled with threats to our freedom. He starts to campaign against it.

3. Kerry clinches the nomination, the Patriot Act turns out to have some support among the general electorate, and Panicky John suddenly wants to make the law tougher.

Mickey Kaus mulls whether this is, technically speaking, a flip-flop:

What's striking about Kerry's December '03 speech is the weaselly way it anticipates this future shift to the right by heaping scorn on the Patriot Act while attempting to avoid an actual explicit attack on the law (as opposed to John Ashcroft's "abuse" of that statute). To the extent the speech succeeded at this, Kerry is dissembling and straddling, not flip-flopping. But I don't think the speech completely succeeded. For example, Kerry said, "If I'm elected President, we will put an end to 'sneak and peak' searches which permit law enforcement to conduct a secret search and seize evidence without notification." Is that still Kerry's position?