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Works and Days

The 2012 Election Circus — The Acts, The Players, The Hype

January 22nd, 2012 - 11:52 am

Ron Paul

For someone so savvy about the nature of the disaffected, why did Dr. Paul believe that in the South he could go on rants about U.S. foreign policy that centered around American culpability? Of course, South Carolinians would be receptive to arguments that U.S. expense abroad earned only ingratitude or was counter-productive; but when Paul suggests that we earned hostility on 9/11 by our foreign policy, did he not expect to be widely repudiated? (e.g., So the country that saved Muslims in Kuwait, fed them in Somalia, helped them against the Russians, and bombed a European Christian country to keep them alive in Bosnia and Kosovo had a worse record on Islam than China and Russia, who were not attacked on 9/11?)

Paul has an eerie ability to win over almost anyone on matters of debt and financial insolvency, and lose them in a nano-second when he turns to foreign policy, where he loses clarity and conflates American gullibility with American culpability. A conservative might think it is unwise right now to attack Iran, but he does not wish to be told to look at the situation through the creepy Iranian regime’s eyes.

One new development. I have followed Paul for years, but never noticed his crankiness. The more he is known to voters, the more he now appears crotchety, gratuitously negative, and surly — even if in small radio and print doses he once seemed merely eccentric, in a principled sort of way. Like Obama, the more we hear and see him, the less we find him personable. The suspicion never quite goes away, given his past writing and associates, that in private his views would be neo-Confederate, isolationist, and anti-Israel in ways that go beyond policy differences.

Barack Obama

While the Republican cannibals devour themselves, Obama took the last two months to slip through the most radical agendas of his presidency and all to media silence: slashing the defense budget, recess appointments in a non-recessed Congress, cancellation of the Keystone pipeline, borrowing up to a new $16 trillion ceiling, and playing the race card via Michelle (“angry black woman”), Holder (if you ask about Fast and Furious you are racist), and himself (the renewed “they won’t give you a fair shot because of the way you look” trope).

That all got no attention, but firmed up his base among greens, minorities, and big government recipients. Coupled with his near silence (one press conference, few public speeches) and Republican self-immolation, his fire-up-the-base strategy has earned Obama a surge in the polls and lots of money at his $30,000 a head, corporate-jet-owner fundraisers.

What a strange fellow: damning the 1% only to hire three-in-a-row multimillionaire “fat-cat” ex-Wall-streeters as his chiefs-of-staff, while he lives a life indistinguishable from those he caricatures. Obama brags of killing bin Laden, without the slightest concession that he employed protocols to do it that he once smeared, or that he got the troops home for Christmas, without a peep that he followed the Bush-Petraeus plan and not his own that once called for complete flight by March 2008. Poor conservatives: should they praise him for get-real flip-flops or damn him for his hypocrisy and the damage he once did as a critic of what kept us safe? He is a figure right out Aristophanes, a polypragmon scoundrel, a demagogic genius, who can bomb Libya without congressional authority, claim it was not military action — and all the while keep the Michael Moore left silent if not proud of their guy’s duplicity, while begging the right to dare argue that Libya is not better off without the nightmare of Gaddafi.

Will he win? It depends on the huge and ever-growing Obama ego. After three years, to hear and see Obama now is to be exhausted by him, to tire of his hope and change banalities, to be worn out by his mean-spirited racial and class divisiveness, to shrug at his hypocrisy about slurring great wealth while seeking to enjoy its fruits, to snore at the serial me/mine/my. Yet not to see or hear him is, apparently for many, to be satisfied in the abstract that a young, charismatic president who looks good and talks glibly is our postracial president. The idea of Obama is as fresh as the reality is stale. But can his godhead see all that and accept that he wins by quietude and loses by being himself?

He has no margin of error in the states that he most likely must win, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, and Virginia, where the majority of voters are just the sorts whom he and Michelle privately despise, and now have ample evidence of the Obama antipathy.

Prognosis

There is a wish to cut and paste the flawed Republican candidates’ strengths into a composite nominee: Romney’s sobriety, Santorum’s conviction, Paul’s sense of outrage over debt, and Gingrich’s glib lectures about civilization—while pruning away their unique defects: Santorum’s self-righteousness, Paul’s otherworldliness, Romney’s Tom Dewey/George H.W. Bush patrician woodenness, and Newt’s tom-foolery.

Santorum and Paul cannot beat Obama. Romney is still the most likely to make it a close race; Gingrich possibly to win by a wider margin — or, more likely, to lose by an even wider one.

I have no endorsements, or at least not complete endorsements: I cannot vote under any circumstances for Obama and would not vote for Paul, but, for now, would find any of the remaining three candidates far better than what we have in the White House.

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