Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | August 2, 2005

It’s my fantasy: Politicians admitting to errors

Poker is a sport. Competitions are aired on ESPN. Participants prepare, practice, and then compete. They don’t wear special shoes. People win, people lose.

Billiards is a sport. Competitions are aired on ESPN. Participants prepare, practice, and then compete. They don’t wear special shoes. People win, people lose.

Bowling is a sport. Competitions are aired on ESPN. Participants prepare, practice, and then compete. They do wear special shoes. People win, people lose.

Fishing is a sport. Competitions are aired on ESPN. Participants prepare, practice, and then compete. I have no idea if they wear special shoes. People win, people lose.

If these things can be called sports with a straight face, if ESPN is willing to air them, then what’s all the fuss about whether or not cheerleading is a sport? This debate is not limited to the sports and opinion pages of this newspaper. Google “Is Cheerleading a Sport?” and you’ll get about 685,000 hits.

According to dictionary.com, a sport is “physical activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively.”

Clearly, cheerleading meets this definition more closely than poker does. I really can’t see shoving a stack of chips across felt qualifying as a physical activity, even if the player’s pulse is pounding and he leaps out of his chair to shout “All in!” (Yes, I’m addicted to televised poker.)

Cheerleading is a sport. Competitions are aired on ESPN. Participants prepare, practice, and then compete. Some wear special shoes. People win, people lose.

Speaking of the cheerleading-as-a-sport debate, (I’ll make the connection, really, I will) I was pleased that Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., has changed his mind and now supports expanded federal funding of embryonic stem cell research. I’m pleased not only because the powerful Senate majority leader is now on my side of this issue, but because it’s great to have an all-too-rare example of a politician changing his mind.

Like Sen. John McCain of Arizona, Frist’s another Republican and presidential hopeful who has changed his mind on this important issue. I wonder, if McCain or Frist is the Republican nominee in 2008, will President George Bush try to slap them with the “flip-flopper” flag he flung at Sen. John Kerry with such glee? Would their “flip-flopper” status so offend him that he might campaign for the Democratic ticket (currently Clinton-Obama is getting good odds) instead?

I never understood why politicians can’t change their minds. I think an open mind, willingness to listen to reason, and the ability to say “I was wrong” are assets, not flaws, in politicians and people in general.

If only Frist could have said, “I was wrong” after the Terri Schiavo autopsy results were released. Instead, when the medical examiner concluded that Schiavo had irreversible brain damage, Frist used the classic political denial technique. “I never, never, on the floor of the Senate, made a diagnosis, nor would I ever do that,” Frist said on the Today show.

The problem is that Frist is on videotape saying, on the floor of the Senate, that Schiavo was “not somebody in persistent vegetative state.” Those comments prompted 31 of his Harvard Medical School classmates to send him a letter “saying he had used his medical degree improperly,” according to the Washington Post.

Locally, wouldn’t it be nice to see our leaders admit to errors? Perhaps the Gilroy City Council could own up to overspending by roughly double on the police station currently under construction. Perhaps Morgan Hill City Council could admit that the best place for the city’s library is not buried in a residential neighborhood. Perhaps our county supervisors could see the folly in closing the animal shelter on Mondays.

I’m a big believer in the newspaper model – admit when you make a mistake and correct it, as quickly as possible. That practice increases credibility. I think politicians are afraid of losing respect and credibility if they change their minds.

Just like I embrace the ‘liberal’ label when people try to tar me with it, I hope that politicians will learn to love the ‘flip flopper’ flag when their opponents try to pin it on them. If you can change your position and admit “I was wrong,” you’ve got an open mind, listening skills, and likely not an oversize ego. If your opponent is reduced to calling you a flip-flopper, it probably means he doesn’t want voters looking too closely at his own record.

Embrace the ‘flip-flopper’ flag. It’s a compliment. And Sports Editor Damon Poeter, that’s good advice for you, too.

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