Daniels out. Pawlenty in. Cain in. Gingrich in… pieces. Bachmann ready to jump. Christie hiding in New Jersey. Palin still on the fence. Romney still spinning. Huntsman still delusional. Johnson, Santorum, Thune, Fiddle and Faddle, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and would somebody please tell Ron Paul to sit down and shut up.
I think that about covers it.
Unfortunately, my boss would have my guts for garters if I handed in such a pithy but descriptive article on what’s happening with the Republican candidates for president as we swing into the last months of “the year before” the primaries and approach the “less than a year” designation. So, I guess I’m going to have to actually work for my bread and explain how the GOP is going to find a presidential candidate in this gaggle of ideologues, kooks, bomb throwers, party traitors, flip-floppers, and non-entities.
Way back when it was “two years before the election” there was a lot of conventional wisdom that said the GOP race would be among Romney, Huckabee, and Palin. Where are we now? Huckabee out. Palin a question mark. And Romney? If he ever stops doing back flips, handstands, and double somersaults to distract us from the fact that he embraces an individual mandate for health insurance, I’ll be sure to ask him.
So much for conventional wisdom.
The problem today is there’s no conventional wisdom to fall back on. There’s absolutely nothing conventional about the GOP field — and as for wisdom, well, that got off the bus years ago. Prudence, probity, frugality, truthfulness — all those civic virtues the Romans believed were necessary for the leadership of a republic are hard to discover when examining this bunch of Republicans.
Now don’t get me wrong. Some of the candidates have a lot on the ball. Herman Cain appears to be an immensely talented man, although why he would want to run for president is a mystery. Sarah Palin is a born politician, although why that would recommend her as chief executive, I am at a loss to say. Newt Gingrich is a very bright fellow who took a wrong turn in life 30 years ago and ended up on the hustings instead of in the classroom where people would have enjoyed his lectures rather than resent them.
There’s not much wrong with Tim Pawlenty. There’s not much right about him either. He is a colorless non-entity — a dollop of vanilla ice cream covered with vanilla frosting. If he ever wore a gray suit, he would blend in with the background. Presidential material he is not.
The Libertarian contingent of Ron Paul and Gary Johnson is the designated comedy relief for the campaign. Count on them to say something so outrageous that even ideologues in the Republican Party have to disavow it. Safe to say, they will be a non-factor except at debates where Paulbots and Johnson Zombies will try to stuff the online ballot boxes in order to give their man a “victory.”
Given the paucity of talent, experience, and ability, the GOP might do better holding a “cattle call” for candidates. They do the same thing on Broadway to cast musical comedies and it seems to work out OK for them. Send out a notice to every agent in the city or simply put an ad in Variety about an open audition and hundreds of starving actors show up with dreams of glory in their heads.
Something similar could be figured out to find a decent GOP presidential candidate. An ad in the National Enquirer ought to bring in a few hundred applicants at least.
Wanted: Candidate to Run for President on the Republican Ticket. Experience in government desirable, but not required. Ability to communicate a must. Should be sensitive to right-wing social issues, hate taxes, despise government spending, and not like Muslims very much. Establishment types need not apply.
Who knows what a “cattle call” like this might drag in. Perhaps a rustic Reagan or some other diamond in the rough that, with a little polishing, a few minutes learning how to use a teleprompter, and some fine tuning, we might get ourselves a winner.
That’s because the current occupant of the White House is running for re-election on a record that makes failure into a virtue and fiscal restraint into a vice. Even though President Obama is supposed to be raising a billion dollars for his re-election campaign, a pie-eyed prostitute would probably give him a run for his money.
Unfortunately, the GOP is fresh out of drink-addled women of the evening. And those candidates who are stepping forward are hardly an improvement. For when it comes to fixing what ails us, there is a paucity of new ideas to deal with the deficit, jobs, jihadists, and the deadening hand of government that is strangling liberty and commerce.
This year’s crop of GOP candidates will basically be running on the same platform that every Republican nominee since Reagan has embraced. The formula is tried and true: cut taxes, cut spending, cut regulation, maintain a strong defense, and use government to ban abortion and gay marriage.
But can you cut taxes with trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see.? Can you cut enough spending to make a dent in those deficits? Can you justify three quarters of a trillion dollars for defense? Deregulation as a theory is a fine thing, but which regs are to go? Which should stay?
The by-product of this agenda is supposed to be a growing economy that creates millions of jobs. But to achieve that, it is necessary to nominate a candidate who can not only talk a good game, but deliver in crunch time.
Can anyone really say that any of the declared or undeclared candidates have demonstrated the ability to make the hard, unpopular choices to get us out of this mess? Obama certainly didn’t have it in him. The hard choices the candidate promised on the campaign trail turned to mush once he got in office. Guantanamo, targeted stimulus, no more “Too Big to Fail” — on each of these choices and more, the president either punted or farmed out the task to Congress. Rather than choose spending priorities to address his massive deficits, the president has chosen to continue to spend money at a record rate. His “plan” to cut the deficit has less meat on it than a supermodel. He is not serious about deficit reduction and all of Washington knows it.
The next president — if he or she is a Republican — will not be granted the luxury of ignoring the problem. And the political unpopularity of doing what needs to be done probably means another one-term president. To fix what needs to be fixed will involve real pain. People who have depended on government for some things will have to get along without them. Any kind of entitlement reform will mean less money for some seniors to pay for their retirement and health care. Other sacrifices will no doubt be required, including raising taxes on somebody.
This is why the current crop of contenders worries me. And it probably is at the bottom of what worries Republicans who wish there was someone else in the race who could give people confidence that the next president can bring us back from the brink of fiscal Armageddon and navigate the ship of state to the safety of a welcoming harbor.
(Also watch what Alfonzo Rachel thinks about the 2012 GOP Presidential field.)