WASHINGTON — Republican Senate hopeful Linda Lingle says opponent Mazie Hirono can’t make up her mind.

Why’s that? Because, Lingle’s campaign says, Hirono has changed her tune — and then changed it again — on the across-the-board budget cuts facing the federal government if negotiators can’t strike a deficit-reduction deal before the end of the year.

“She voted for the budget cuts in the first place, then said in the first debate and in recent media interviews that she opposed the cuts, and then voted again last week to keep the cuts. Mazie has flip flopped twice on this important issue. So, what is Mazie Hirono’s position?” Lingle campaign manager Bob Lee said in a press release late Sunday.

The stakes for Hawaii are high, as Lee notes in the release. The cuts would hit Medicare, federal education funding, and, perhaps most important for the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii, defense spending. Civil Beat has explored what the automatic cuts would mean in the islands:

The sequence of events Lingle’s campaign outlines in the press release is right enough, but the interpretation of them as a double-flip-flop is a stretch. A little context is needed.

In the first instance, Hirono and 94 other Democrats joined with 174 House Republicans in a bipartisan vote to pass a version of the Budget Control Act containing the sequestration language last summer. Senators from both parties, including both Daniel K. Inouye and Daniel Akaka, also agreed to the language.

But that doesn’t mean everyone who voted to create sequestration actually wanted it to come to fruition. In fact, as many said at the time and have made clear since, the automatic cuts were never intended to take effect. They were instead designed specifically to motivate Super Committee negotiators to work out a better solution that presumably includes a combination of cuts to defense and non-defense programs and some tax increases to move the country closer to break-even.

The day President Barack Obama signed the bill into law in August 2011, ABC White House correspondent Jake Tapper described the sequestration provisions as a “Sword of Damocles” hanging over the Super Committee’s head because the trigger would implement cuts “in a draconian way no one wants.”

So if it’s not accurate to portray sequestration as a legitimate policy proposal, then it’s not accurate to say Hirono’s recent statements — “Sequestration’s meat-axe approach to cuts will have a serious impact on our national security and domestic prosperity,” for example — constitute a new tune.

That’s flip-flop No. 1. What about No. 2? If Hirono opposes the automatic cuts — and has always opposed them — then why did she vote last week to keep them?

The second example Lingle’s campaign cites was a vote Thursday on the “National Security and Job Protection Act” that went pretty much straight down party lines. The bill passed the House with just one Democrat joining 222 Republicans in support. It’s expected to be dead on arrival in the Senate.

The bill would eliminate the threat of sequestration for half of the programs on the chopping block — specifically, the defense cuts — while leaving $500 million in non-defense spending in harm’s way.

The Obama administration, according to the Federal Times, warned of a veto and said the bill “fails the test of fairness and shared responsibility.”

A cynic might even argue the House bill was designed specifically to give Republicans exactly this type of bludgeon to use against their Democratic opponents in the run-up to the election.

BOTTOM LINE: Linda Lingle’s campaign correctly cites the sequence of events: Mazie Hirono voted in favor of the automatic across-the-board budget cuts proposal last summer. Now, she says it’s a bad idea. Yet she voted against a proposal that would eliminate it for some important federal programs. But that leaves out crucial information — namely, that it’s not inconsistent to have voted for sequestration as a motivating mechanism in 2011 and oppose its implementation in 2013. That’s misleading, and undermines the credibility of the claim that Hirono has flip-flopped on the issue twice. Civil Beat finds Lingle’s statement to be MOSTLY FALSE.

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