Wednesday, April 06, 2011
Maybe not "The One."
WHO CAN BE AS AWESOME AS OBAMA? I thought it was too early for this, but Pete leaped in (in the Comments section) with his candidate by candidate analysis of the last presidential post, and I thought maybe it is time to rate the field. There's no secret about where I disagree with Pete; he's an isolationist, a rabid libertarian, and a hot-button disqualifier. Republicans = reflexive cop lovers, tools of the U.S. military, and Christian maniacs. Fine. Like all of us, he's entitled to his own perspective, but mine is different.
I'm being more pragmatic than ideological. To me the most important thing is defeating Obama. Any Republican would be better. We simply can't afford four more years of a president who doesn't love his country more than his adopted race. That's what's driving this assessment. Thankfully, John McCain is not running this time; his tortured ego got its moment in the sun and is appeased. He can now go gently into that good night. Halleluiah.. Everyone else is a better candidate.
The bad news? The field is not exactly fertile. I have my own criteria, some of which may seem odd and some of which is strictly common sense. You'll learn about these as I examine them one by one.
Mitt Romney. He's the heir apparent to the Republican nomination, which habitually goes to the man who finished second in the previous cycle. Think McCain and Dole. No one can doubt that Romney's smart. He was in the joint program at Harvard that results in a combined JD/MBA degree from the law school and the business school. But he took his undergraduate degree at Brigham Young, which signifies the first of his two potentially crippling problems. He's a Mormon, which a lot of people on both sides of the aisle regard as icky. The second problem is that he was governor of Massachusetts when the state passed, under his leadership, a universal health care bill that became, according to some, a template for ObamaCare. The Massachusetts plan is in the process of bankrupting the state. He has therefore struggled to overcome his Massachusetts politics and positions to convince voters he really is a conservative. Maybe he is, but the suspicion lingers that he's more politician than man of principle. He's had many business and management successes, and yet he's an indifferent if handsome speaker, and it's hard to overcome the sense that he's lacking in spine. He has a bunch of sons who have never served in the military. Intangibles. He comes across as too smooth, maybe too nice, lacking the stomach for a real fight. He looks good at a podium but appears to have none of the killer instinct a successful national politician must have. C-minus.
Mike Huckabee. He did unexpectedly well in the 2008 primaries before McCain took the nomination via a war of attrition. He's personally likeable, articulate, and populist in his appeal. People like him, even some Democrats. But he has a list of electoral negatives a mile long. He's from Arkansas, Clinton's state, and while voters seem perpetually inclined to forgive sleazy Bill, Huckabee has some corruption charges of his own that will dog him in a national election. He's also an evangelistic born-again Christian (a preacher to boot), which manifests itself most alarmingly in his weekly Fox News show. Not because it's controversial. But because it's boring. Everything about his guest list suggests that he's the Lawrence Welk of politics, a hokey naif whose idea of American culture has more in common with "I Love Lucy" reruns than anything that's going on in contemporary America. Do not forget that Americans' greatest concern about aggressive Christians is that they will remove sex from music and tits from movies. We just don't want to be forced to conform to someone else's morality. This is a huge, huge unacknowledged issue facing every well-meaning fundamentalist in politics. Most people don't share their giddy smiles about the Lord. Especially not Roman Catholics and mainstream Protestants.The majority of Christians have complex views about the Bible that don''t involve trading in sex for covered dish suppers. Meanwhile, there are repeated rumors, backed by disturbing evidence, that Huckabee's not nearly as nice as he seems. He's perfectly capable of lashing out at his critics, but always in the back-door, underhanded way of an Arkansas politician. Intangibles. Smarmy, almost treacly, with way too many false-humble anecdotes. "I thought the only soap that got you clean was Lava." C-Minus.
Sarah Palin. The fantasy girl. All conservatives outside the beltway want to love her, maybe do love her. I've been there myself. It would be so great if she really were the new Reagan, and many of us try hard to squint and see her in just that way. But she just isn't. Things she won't overcome in any national election. Indifferent education. Yeah, Reagan went to Eureka College and got dissed for it, but by the time he won the Republican nomination, he'd been president of the Screen Actors' Guild and a two term governor of the biggest state in the union. The MSM still trashed him as a lightweight. Palin bailed on her governorship after two years. There's no coming back from that, regardless of the solid reasons for her decision. The worst thing that could happen to our nation would be the election of Sarah Palin as president. The MSM bile would make George Bush Derangement Syndrome look like a case of the common cold. Believe me. I admire Sarah Palin. She's brave and beautiful and refreshing, but even I don't think I could endure hearing that voice for four or eight years. Women politicians really do need to take voice lessons. That keening sound they hit when they're exercised is something men can't stand for more than a few minutes. And men are Palin's natural constituency. It's a no go. D-minus.
Donald Trump. Actually, I can't believe that anyone is taking this seriously. He's Perot II. Barons of industry have an insurmountable problem when they choose to enter politics, which is why so few of them attempt it. They're not used to being criticized or even confronted. CEOs are all closet MacArthurs. They're used to hearing that their every utterance is genius. Ross Perot was a brilliant man. But when he ran for president he descended into a state of near-psychotic paranoia. It will be the same with Trump. Nothing in his life has prepared him for the attack machine that will be launched at him if he starts to gain voter traction againt Obama. The one thing he could do in advance he hasn't even considered: dye that comb-over gray. It would look more natural, maybe even presidential. But when you've spent your entire adult life surrounded by expensive, well educated, and superbly dressed yes-men, there's nothing about the inevitable gang rape of the MSM you're prepared for. F.
Tim Pawlenty. Don't make me laugh. A man without balls from a state where every statement ends with a question mark, yah? He wants to show how tough he is by suggesting Obama gets his intelligence briefings wearing Depends? Really. What the hell was he doing when Al Franken stole a Senate seat under his nose? Pissing helplessly on the floor of the governor's mansion? And he has a weak chin. Besides which, nobody wants to hear his bland, flat, upper midwestern voice. F.
Michelle Bachmann. In many ways my preferred candidate. She's tough, combative, willing to go toe-to-toe with Chris Matthews and company in a way Palin has never dared to. She's also beautiful, accomplished, well educated, clearly fine in her personal life, and articulate and committed about the issues that really matter. She'd be my candidate choice but for one thing. Did you know she has a masters law degree from William and Mary, the second oldest university in the country? Yeah. The MSM can snipe all they want. She's no dummy, even if she is from Minnesota, home of the biggest dummy I know, Garrison Keillor. Problem? Her law degree is from Oral Roberts University. End of candidacy. Period. Forever. Liberals tolerate everything that hates America and life in general. What they cannot tolerate is Oral Roberts University. Before I found this out, what I most wanted from Michelle Bachmann was a voice coach. How you sound on the stump is incredibly important. Obama sounds manly and reassuring. Plausible. Actually, it's his whole shtick. Sounding like a president. Bachmann sounds like a slightly irritated housewife. That could have been fixed by a voice coach. Oral Roberts? No way. F.
Newt Gingrich. The man who probably should be president. As I've said in the past, he would utterly demolish Obama in any debate. He's the smartest politician we've had on the national scene since Richard Nixon (whether your knowledge of history drains the irony from this or not), and his checkered personal life means he's not trying to be a god but a public servant. At this point in his life he doesn't really need to have his private indiscretions splashed across the front page of the New York Times. But he's willing. If it matters to anyone, Newt's the one candidate on either side I wouldn't feel confident about owning in a debate. But his reputation has been so tarred and tattered already, and he's so seemingly a thing of the past, that his chances in a general election seem nil. The president of the United States doesn't have to be a nice guy. He has to be smarter, shrewder, and more determined than all the people who mean us harm, foreign and domestic. Reagan was old. But he was handsome in old age and his voice didn't sound like chalk on a blackboard. C-minus.
Ron Paul. I'm only including him because of Pete. Who is so rational and well researched and plausible until this particular name comes up. Which is when he goes completely nuts. But there's a larger point. The sharper among you will have noted that I've stressed the "voice factor." It's every bit as important as policy. Sometimes voice is a presentation issue. Sometimes it's an indicator of character. The American people always regard it as an indicator of character. Obama got himself elected with that confident baritone and his willingness to change modes -- Harvard to Georgia preacher -- to suck in the audience. I had my suspicions about Ron Paul long before his son, Rand Paul, came on the scene. Now I know. They're both fucking nuts. Their voices have the same high, hysterical note that makes men pull away. This guy isn't quite all there. It's not wholly conscious. It's just a feeling, but one that may have some merit. I can hear Pete now. "Well, Obama has a pleasing baritone, and he's no good." Does it matter that Ron Paul sounds like a whining grandmother, cross, didactic, and closed to other opinions? Uh, yes. It does. F-minus.
Chris Christie. He just can't run. Period. If he does, New Jersey will speedily go into the toilet and the MSM will take him apart for what's going on in New Jersey, which isn't Alaska.. You can bail out of Alaska but you can''t bail out of New Jersey. He's also fat, more liberal than we want, and really really really fat. D-Plus.
Paul Ryan. He's a specialist, not a presidential candidate. He's sort of a politician, but not really. He tries to craft legislative solutions people might actually understand, based in sound logic and far-seeing fiscal concepts, but on the other hand he's allowed the MSM to photograph the nerdiest hairdo any politician ever had. And I'm unaware that he has any foreign policy ideas whatever. Also, he sounds like a high school social studies teacher. F.
Sorry. The news and prospects aren't good. The good news for Republicans is that Obama is such an unbelievably awful, terrible, sickeningly incompetent president. The bad news is that I haven't seen anybody I do want to be my president.
Which I guess was Pete's point all along. We're in a hurt locker here. Time to get creative...