The GOP debates are starting to feel like media enhanced waterboarding. If they go on much longer, I can see myself in the not-too-distant future screaming, “Stop! Stop! I’ll tell you anything you want, just call off Bachmann, Cain and Company!”
On the other hand, I have to grant that the torture has helped reveal the candidates’ characters and personal quirks. They haven’t really clarified much about policy differences, though, since all of the Republican candidates are slavish followers of the same handful of principles:
1. Barack Obama is unworthy to be president because he is (choose all that apply): socialistic, Muslim, Kenyan, wrong about EVERYthing, just plain evil.
2. “Obamacare” is a communist scheme designed to deprive us of all our customary liberties.
3. The government is the enemy of freedom. Only when we shrink the government and let Goldman Sachs, BP, ExxonMobil, R.J.Reynolds, and so on be themselves, will we be free once more.
4. The money we pay in taxes to the (evil, alien) government never does us any good (except when it pays for bombs to drop on Middle Eastern people).*
5. The economy was in great shape until Obama ruined it.
6. Abortion is murder and so are many forms of birth control. And so is Obamacare.
7. Ronald Reagan descended from Heaven to lead us to the Promised Land and if we keep saying his name over and over, we may get there yet.
But back to the candidates’ characters: for starters, Michele Bachmann is just plain dumb. Admittedly she does have a kind of cleverness, the kind that enables you to say things that appeal to the grossly ignorant, i.e., her base. But this won’t save her. What's truly amazing is that Bachmann believes that she can be president, even though she understands less about the world than a bright fifth grader does. How dumb is that?
Rick Perry, ditto. Although, to his credit, he seems to have proven that you can be Governor of Texas while understanding less about the world than a bright fifth grader does. Hmmm.
Herman Cain. Wow. The fact that he still commands a respectable following says something about the human capacity for self-deception. The self-deception I’m talking about is that of his followers, not Cain himself, who, I believe, knows what he did vis-à-vis the women who have complained about him. OK, there has been no trial, but the evidence made public so far, and his ever-changing explanations, are compelling enough that only an absolutely self-deluded fan could believe his claims of innocence. If he were to get on the GOP ticket (very, very unlikely), we could look forward to the pleasure of him on the campaign trail saying “I did not have sex with that woman. Or that one. Or that one either. Nor those two. Nor…”
Ron Paul, Mr. Ten Percent, has the most devoted coterie of followers in the GOP. I wish his unique foreign policy ideas could get more play in the media, but his economic notions are just as doctrinaire and irrational as those of his fellow Republicans. Like them, he claims that he wants to shrink government and thereby give Americans more freedom; he doesn't seem to understand, however, that the ones who will fill the power vacuum if our government is weakened will be those very undemocratic institutions that control the nation’s wealth: e.g., ExxonMobil, Citigroup, etc.
Newt Gingrich is, for me, the scariest of all the GOP candidates. He’s an intelligent man, but one who seems to think ethics are for wimps. I won’t take the time to go further into details about him here, but whenever I hear Gingrich’s words, I’m reminded of what Lily Tomlin once said: “No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up.”
Not with Newt, anyway.
Which brings us to John Huntsman, a smart and seemingly decent guy. He doesn’t have a chance.
Mitt Romney is almost certain to get the nomination. He does have problems, many of which stem from his having run for governor on a reasonable platform in Massachusetts, but now having to back away from its most sane principles in order to conform to the right-wing nuttiness that dominates the GOP primaries. This makes him look like a champion flip-flopper, a problem he could have avoided had he been smart enough to start his career in, say, Mississippi or Oklahoma, where right-wing nuttiness is the equivalent of comfort food.
Assuming Romney does get the nomination, he’s going to have to pick a right-winger for his running mate in order to secure the GOP base. He certainly will not pick Bachmann, Perry, or Cain, which means he just might go for Gingrich. Is America ready for such a ticket? A classical stuffed shirt that spins this way and that in the wind, backed up by a conniving schemer of Nixonian proportions? Time will tell.
*Ron Paul gets a pass on this parenthetic clause, which is probably why Republican voters aren’t going for him.