Do you consider flip-flops cynical or sincere? Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty, for instance, recently considered global warming to be a significant threat and cap-and-trade an appealing response. Now, both of them flirt with climate denialism and both oppose cap-and-trade. Is this cynical? Did they decide that winning the Republican presidential primary was more important than saying what they know to be true? Or have they convinced themselves that this change, which just happens to be a necessary precondition for winning the Republican nomination, is an authentic response to new evidence? Similarly, does Mitt Romney really believe the individual mandate is an unconstitutional affront to the very idea of this country? Or does he believe he really wants to be president? What about all the Republicans who assailed the Affordable Care Act’s cuts as unsustainable and then voted to implement them in the GOP’s budget?

My answer, for what it’s worth, is that cynicism is overused as an explanation for political behavior and motivated skepticism is underused. But what do you think?