Thursday, January 3, 2008

After Iowa...What? (R)

So Iowa Republicans have given their blessing to a nice religious fellow who is so bipartisan and so hostile to the Republican establishment that he is almost indistinguishable from a moderate Democrat. I don't think that he will survive outside the sentimental religious atmosphere of that state, however. But should he win the nomination, it is certainly at least reasonable to advocate voting for Barack Obama on the understanding that if a clearly unqualified and incompetent President is going to screw up America and the world, it is better that it be a Democrat. Otherwise, who would step in to begin fixing the mess four years later?

Assuming that it does not come to that, whither do Republicans cast their eyes this side of the caucuses? Romney has suffered a body blow. He poured enormous time and money into this state. He goes into New Hampshire on January 8 a second place finisher nine points behind the Iowa winner having already spent 53 of his $62 million campaign fund (according to CNN).

That leaves the race open to (essentially) tied-for-third-place finishers Thompson and McCain, Mayor Giuliani, and of course Pastor Huckabee. It also leaves Republican voters almost as confused and undecided and somewhat disheartened as they were on January 2. Where is wisdom?

Start here. None of these men is Ronald Reagan. We are not entitled to a Reagan every time the top slot comes open. Reagan was rare. Accept that.

With that understanding, a voter's responsibility in a democracy is to exercise his franchise in such a way as to help elevate the best (most wise, virtuous, prudent) people into government.

Again, there is something to be said for helping to engineer a calculated loss for one's own party in certain circumstances. Mike Huckabee's nomination might be one such circumstance. Aside from that, however, after 9/11 the stakes are simply too high to play that game. You may have strong misgivings about one candidate or another, perhaps even deep hostilities, but he is safer than any three of the Democrats (with one exception).

Simply consider the most electable of the best candidates across the board. (It is not enough to be simply a good candidate. He must also be electable to merit your support. The candidate who has the best positions on what you think are the most important issues is not necessarily, on that basis alone, electable. There is more to becoming President and more to being President than policy positions.) The Democrats are so foolish in foreign policy, so depraved in social policy, and so destructive in economic policy that they disqualify themselves from consideration.

On Mike Huckabee, I have already said enough.

David Brooks has an insightful column on Mitt Romney entitled "Road to Nowhere." He puts his finger on why I find Mitt so dull. He's entirely market tested, "the party's fusion candidate." Having been nowhere in conservative politics, he emerges as the conservative candidate, a though a presidential contender can be restructured like a company and then re-marketed to consumers. The problem, says Brooks, is that, "In turning himself into an old-fashioned, orthodox Republican, he has made himself unelectable in the fall." He polls in the single digits among young people who are Barack Obama's strength. He does very poorly among people making less than $75,000. Obama did well in all income brackets in Iowa. Independents find him "inauthentic," whereas Barack Obama gives just the opposite impression. Brooks has more to say about a general "failure of imagination," but the bottom line is this: "His triumph this month would mean a Democratic victory in November." Romney is not a reasonable alternative.

Giuliani? I just shake my head. The word commonly employed at the end of the Clinton presidency was "tragedy." So much talent and so much opportunity squandered for such trivial and stupid gain. The same word, "tragedy," comes repeatedly to mind when considering all that Rudy Giuliani has to offer the nation alongside the mess that he has made of his life and that stands impenetrably between him and the Oval Office. For example, read "Old Habits: How the Giuliani Methods May Defeat Him" by Elizabeth Kolbert (New Yorker, January 7, 2008). As the Republican nominee, Rudy would have to fight a two front war: Obama on one side and his own past on the other. Fierce animals, both of them. Why would the party choose that unless it were absolutely necessary? It is not.

That leaves you with two candidates: Fred Thompson and John McCain. Neither one is Reagan. Neither one is the conservative dream. Both are eminently qualified. Either one would be better than any of the Democrats. Choose one.

In choosing, be mindful of the wise counsels of Peggy Noonan and Larry Lindsey.

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