Imagine if a bride turns around, right after saying “I do”, and tells the startled gathering: “I don’t!” Incongruous? Well, not as much you think. Startling 180º turns are the very soul of public life. Few politicians could survive in that honourable calling if they weren’t able to twist and twirl their words around like a ballet dancer’s pirouette. Indeed, for all the bad press inconsistency gets, few court its prim, proper, virtuous sibling—beyond lip service (that’s the “I do” bit). As Swift’s blithe one-liner reminds us, “There is nothing constant in this world but inconsistency.” Often, being able to change your mind itself gets a moral coating. “No matter how far you have gone on the wrong road, turn back,” cautions an old Turkish proverb. (Don’t tell the bride, though.)
Borrowing from motoring parlance, this is called a “U-turn”. Politicians are masters at negotiating these sharp rhetorical curves. Those famous for being famous too are learning to whirl like a dervish after their 3 am tweets shake up the outragists. Americans call it a “flip-flop” while Aussies and Kiwis say “backflip”. All of it amounts to the same thing—talking Japan, going Peru.