THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Rabbi Ben Hecht Headshot

How Is 'You Changed Your Mind' A Criticism?

Posted: Updated:
DONALD TRUMP
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Print

I have found it most intriguing that criticism has recently been voiced against Donald Trump simply because he has changed his mind in regard to various policy positions. During the campaign, he said one thing in regard to certain matters; now he is saying, in regard to some of these same issues, the opposite. And, because of this change in viewpoint he is facing criticism. The very fact that he changed his mind is deemed to be a problem. Of greater concern to me, though, would be if he felt that he should change his viewpoint, that his previous position was wrong, and then did not do so because he already had voiced a divergent opinion. What you want from a person in a position of such power is actually an ability to think anew as he/she potentially gains fresh information on a matter. What you don't want is someone who feels bound by his/her previous thoughts...and possibly mistaken perspectives.

This is not to say, though, that Trump's malleability is still without problems. In certain ways, he has already also critiqued himself in stating that he had developed previous positions without a full recognition of the depth and breadth of the issue. In his statement that he had no idea how complex a matter health insurance was, you begin to wonder how he sees the world and what is his recognition of the challenge of governing. You would expect one wishing to govern to have recognized the complexity of an issue such as health insurance. Yet in the fact that he can change his opinion and also acknowledge such sloppiness - with, we hope, a decided commitment to correct it - he is also to be commended.

Too many people develop opinions without a full and proper analysis of all the facts. What is even more tragic is that they then lock themselves into these positions without ensuring themselves that they have maintained an allowance for further analysis and possible re-consideration of their viewpoints in response to an expansion of the knowledge of the facts. People seem to want to be right because they are already right and it has become almost a sin for one to change an opinion. People state with pride: I have always been a Liberal or a Conservative, a Democrat or a Republican without a consideration that, maybe, new understandings and new information should cause one to change his/her views. As a wise rabbi was once heard to say: why should the decision of the fool you were yesterday bind you to affect the action you should undertake today? To change your mind could be an indication that you are not a fool. To maintain a previous position because you thought it was right yesterday could be the greatest indication that you are a fool.

This, of course, is not to say that it is always appropriate to change one's viewpoints in the face of new facts, even if such a change would seem correct on the surface. All facts demand continuous, thoughtful, scrutiny and this also includes the questioning of new theories in the face of the substantial analysis of the past. The issue cannot be whether one has changed his/her mind or one has maintained a consistent opinion. The point must always be the promotion and insurance of a continuous thoughtful process of decision-making. To critique a person, newly assuming the office of President of the United States, for changing his views would seem especially problematic for one would expect this individual to now have new information which he previously did not have. Of course, this realization should also make a person outside this office somewhat cautious in the voicing of an opinion for maybe there is information this person does not have.

The substantial issue is really how we should properly determine whom to support in the electoral process. Should we vote based upon a conclusion a candidate has already reached or based upon how a candidate arrives at said conclusions? The world is a dynamic entity and information is always increasing and facts are always in motion. A proper leader must be one who can properly operate within such a dynamic environment. It cannot be one who is dogmatically committed to a certain viewpoint almost in defiance of the facts. A leader must always be committed to thought and open to new perspectives especially in response to growing knowledge. This must include an allowance for changing one's mind.

We cannot simply support a candidate because he/she maintains a conclusion with which we presently agree. The call must always be to support the thoughtful skills of a candidate as a person whom we believe can make the best and most meticulous decisions on our behalf. Not every decision comes with contingency or a safety net. The security is the man - a leader has to know how to fall and again stand.

Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook