Friday, May 11, 2012
Why it's not over.
POLLS DON'T MATTER... MUCH. In the aftermath of the primaries we seem to have our own depressed and depressing corps of defeatists, who agree that it's all over for the United States and disagree only about who knew it first. I have to pull rank here. I knew it in 1964 when LBJ crushed Goldwater. I knew it again in the late 1970s when Carter undermined an already struggling economy and made us the laughingstock of the world with his brain-dead foreign policy. And I knew it in 2008 when Obama got elected in a hallucinatory haze of uncritical wishful thinking by the mass media, pundits on both sides of the aisle, and uneducated kids. Which is why I understand what the mission is this year:
This time -- 2012 -- all we can do is stanch the bleeding. Defeat Obama. None of our candidates is any good. No matter which one you back, the only consistent credential is "not Obama." I didn't make that state of affairs. It just is.
The good news is that there are potential reformers in the wings. People who can do what needs doing. Bobby Jindal. Marco Rubio. Sarah Palin. Chris Christie. Paul Ryan. Eric Cantor. And (if you must) Rand Paul. But they're not ready yet. They need experience, they need to grow into the role we will ask them to play. They are the future. Note that they're not repeats of the past. Only one fat old white guy among them. The others include an Indian, an Hispanic, a woman, and a semi-orthodox Jew, as well as a young midwestern white guy and the obligatory crazy white guy.
I'm not telling you who to back in that future race. The basis for my hope -- as opposed to all of you in the "it's fucking over" crowd -- is that there are no young Democrats boasting equivalent credentials. In other words, if we can survive the current crisis, we can absolutely save the country we love.
Four more years. Time for the Millennials to learn something about life, others, and the need for balls. Unlike most of my critics, I'm not talking End of the World here. I'm talking triage
I admit there's a certain kind of masochistic and lachrymose fun in being the smart guy who's able to quietly tick off the signposts of doom on his own private checklist. We've got our own little punk commenter band here that's enjoying the hell out of hopelessness.
Marvin + Verloc + Helk + Peregrine John = Unassailable Truth.
Coming soon to a grim, gray, and unappetizing venue near you!
Without being a Pollyanna, I think the Marvin act is a little over the top. Contrary to the way we individually and brilliantly wanted things to go, things may be arranging themselves better than our seer-level genius could have anticipated. Here's what I predicted back in November 2009.
You see, thanks to the amount of time I've spent studying Criminal Minds, I've been able to come up with a definitive profile of the next president of the United States, the chief feature of which is that he will bear no resemblance to Barack Obama. Things we can say for sure.
-- He won't be an historical first of any kind, like, say, a woman
-- His clothes won't quite fit.
-- He won't be a dynamic, galvanizing, or particularly moving speaker.
-- If he schedules a primetime press conference, none of the networks will cover it.
-- He'll win presidential debates by causing the audience to turn off the television out of boredom.
-- His wife won't wear jeans shorts or designer belts five inches wide.
-- He won't appear on any magazine covers or adoring YouTube videos.
-- He won't cause any network newsmen to get homoerotic leg twitches.
-- He won't cause any network newswomen to get hot and bothered on Air Force One.
-- He won't be young.
-- He won't be good looking.
-- He won't be charming.
-- He won't be sexy.
-- He won't be even remotely glib, folksy, or clever.
-- He won't have different accents for different audiences.
-- He'll spend a lot of time off-camera in the White House. Working.
-- He won't be apologetic about anything American, at home or abroad.
-- We'll be okay with that.
-- He'll have actual experience in government, foreign policy, and executive roles.
-- He'll love the United States more than himself.
-- He'll be a ruthless bastard about pursuing American interests abroad.
-- He'll see wars as opportunities for victory, not occasions for PR bonanzas in world opinion.
-- He'll be elected BECAUSE he is boring, experienced, competent, and predictable. And boring.
By 2012, the entire country will be yammering for an old-fashioned, even soporific president. Where can we find someone like Chester A. Arthur, Millard Fillmore, James K. Polk, Benjamin Harrison, or Martin Van Buren? Unfortunately, almost all Republicans flunk the test. Romney is good looking if not sexy. Huckabee is charming if nothing else. Giuliani and Thompson just love those cameras. Palin is completely out of the question.
And, yes, I was wrong about some of the conclusions I drew from my list. I excluded Romney because he was too good looking (forgot that good looking doesn't matter if you're not sexy). There's also the flip-flopping thing and not much documented experience in foreign affairs. But Romney it is, and though I don't love him as a candidate, I can see why he won. It wasn't all about money. Although he did have money, which is important in defeating Obama, let's face it.
I'm also reaching the conclusion that he's the right candidate for this election year. As I said in March...
Our presidential candidates are all dumb in the same way. They never seem to fully comprehend the danger of a political class that outwits them at every turn and always makes them look like idiots. Which they are.
They're our best hope. Don't you get that? You're all pissed off because Gingrich is so smart he keeps sounding like he's a charter member of the political class. And everybody else has been a flavor of the month -- Cain, Perry, Bachmann, and now Santorum -- all dumb as rocks. Except Romney. Who's maybe not as dumb as he is clueless. As if he thinks the presidency is the kind of national CEO Calvin Coolidge saw it as and flatly fails to understand the need for vision, fiery rhetoric and something called charisma. He thinks we're hiring a federal accountant, and accountants are supposed to be meticulously polite.
If you want smaller, more limited government, wouldn't you actually prefer the dumb ones? Balance the books, you dummies. Leave vision to the private sector. We can handle dreams of the future on our own. They don't suffer from Napoleonic fantasies. They don't have the gravitas for it. And maybe they have the humble decency not to dream in that particular direction.
I anticipated how vicious this presidential campaign is going to get, which we've all had a taste of this week. It's only May and the Obama troops are already digging up dirt from Romney's high school years? Actually, I didn't anticipate it adequately. I couldn't imagine how low they'd go so fast.
I have a very clear vision of what the 2012 presidential campaign will be like. It will be ugliness incarnate. Obama cannot run on his record. He will run instead the dirtiest campaign since Harry Truman's whitewashed 1948 bid, which was as nasty as it gets until Obama 2012 gets underway.
Who will you want then? When the negative ads powered by a billion media dollars start rolling out across the electoral landscape. Will you want a thin-skinned office-seeker whose chief claim to fame is a profitable Olympics and a budget-busting healthcare mandate? Or will you want Mike Tyson in a fat, old-guy suit drawing on a lifetime of harsh ring tactics to go toe-to-toe with an opponent everyone but Alan Colmes concedes is not in his brainpower league?
I was wrong. You see, I'm beginning to think Romney is the right guy to weather such a scorched earth assault. Aggression as a response to aggression is so natural to me that I missed it. Perhaps because I thought the main offensive would begin after the convention, I missed the thrust of the many boxing metaphors I've inflicted on you all over the years. It isn't Mike Tyson's tireless attacks and counter-attacks we need to win, it's Muhammed Ali's rope-a-dope. Lean back, take the blows, preserve energy, and let the other guy punch himself out before you close in for the kill.
With a few missteps along the way, that's how Romney defeated all the conservative sluggers in the primaries. He had the patience to let them win their individual flashy rounds one by one, then blow themselves up under the harsh media lights. Which they all did. And if they couldn't overcome Romney's passive-aggressive stolidity, how on earth would they have dealt with the frontal murderous assaults of Obama's shock troops?
Romney is better positioned than any other candidate to withstand an ugly campaign. Rope-a-dope. Let Obama make himself look ugly and mean. While Romney goes on being nice and boring and polite. Talking about the economy. Why isn't he likeable to so many people? For the same reason that so many people dislike Tim Tebow. He's too good to be true. He is uniformly nice to people. He has few distinguishable personality warts. He is long married, has five upstanding sons, wealth, a prodigiously successful business and public career, and there's no reason why any guy would want to have a beer with him. He doesn't drink beer. He probably thinks his collection of Neil Sedaka 8-tracks are as hip as he needs to be. He's so squeaky clean we instinctively recoil from him. What else is the Obama war machine going to dig up against him? He stole a pack of chewing gum when he was four? He was in the same room when a bipolar Brigham Young cheerleader tore off her top at a pep rally? He spoke gruffly to a skycap who didn't check in his curbside luggage fast enough when he was running late for a plane? Personally, I doubt he did any of these things. Why Obama is acting so desperate so soon.
Do you start to see? There is no Reagan. But that doesn't mean a second Obama term is tolerable. If he gets to name one or two replacements for conservative justices on the Supreme Court, the constitution is lost. Winning this election is vital even if Romney is a, shudder, moderate.
It's also possible that a Romney candidacy is -- bear with me now -- a providential blessing for hard-line tea partiers/conservatives. Think about it. They don't trust him, so they're working overtime to win the senate and secure the house of representatives. Orrin Hatch almost defeated in caucus. Dick Lugar done in. They're working like hell for a commanding majority in congress. Great. Unseat the incumbents who would have won easily and replace them with true conservatives. So they'll have to get out that vote to make it happen.
It's time to reference Dick Morris's formalization of what he's been hinting at for weeks now in various interviews.
Romney should win in a landslide
Obama cannot summon the commitment he got in 2008 by negatives or partisanship. It was precisely to change the “toxic” atmosphere in Washington that he was elected. To fan it now is not the way to regain the affection of those who have turned on him.
If the election were held today, Obama would lose by at least 10 points and would carry only about a dozen states with fewer than 150 electoral votes.
And the Republicans would keep their Senate seats in Arizona, Texas and Nevada while picking up seats in Virginia, Florida, Indiana, Nebraska, North Dakota, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Missouri and Montana. The GOP will also have good shots at victory in the Senate races in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and — if Chris Shays wins the primary — Connecticut. Only in Maine are their fortunes likely to dim.
Further, it's time to give serious thought to the possible advantages of a Romney presidency in the event of Republican control of both houses of congress. Specifically, what're the best and worst things that could happen if the Republicans get a tea-partyish majority in congress? Worst case? They act exactly like the first two years of the Obama administration, pursuing a cold ideological approach that rams legislation down the throats of the opposition and the American people. Best case? Doing what people thought they were electing with Obama. Finding ways to bring Democrats on board to save the fiscal future of the nation and our children. An end to partisan dictatorialism.
Romney may not be a likeable guy for the reasons mentioned above. But he's absolutely a nice, a civil, a polite guy. A thing that Reagan was too. Reagan had to drive the change he sought. It may be that Romney only needs to manage the change that will be driven by the congress -- without pissing everybody off. And what is it everybody knows Romney is? A manager. Maybe the American people will not just tolerate reforms administered in this fashion but embrace them. Maybe in 2016 they won't be eager to throw the overreaching bums out for a Hillary candidacy freighted with Obama baggage and bile. Or in 2020, when Rubio will be old enough to shave and Bobby Jindal will be old enough to evince the gravitas of an American Ghandi. Just saying.
There are more than a few people who regard Coolidge as a great president. What if Romney in his dull moderation in all things, is a 21st century Coolidge?
We can all hope. And we all should hope. Because without hope, we become even bigger bores than Mormon accountants who've never had a drop to drink.
Is there such a thing as providence? As always, you get to decide the big questions for yourselves.