Monday, July 11, 2011

The GOP: True believers, dissemblers, and keeping score


I was watching Republican presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty on Face the Nation today. I've written before about how much I believe Pawlenty exudes weakness and how poorly I think he will continue to do in the race. Much of my assessment comes from my sense that he is a pandering fool. And, even at that, he just seems bad at pandering, which is not a good thing for a politician.

ThinkProgress had a piece up today in which they quote Pawlenty as saying that science is split on whether or not sexual orientation is a matter of biology. Whatever. We know that Pawlenty has called into question the science of climate change after having previously accepted it. Clearly science in any form is not the man's strong suit, so I would tend to ignore whatever he might say about it. It's just that whatever he says about anything sounds like an opinion of convenience. Hence the ick factor.

All of this has led me to think about constructing a scale to gauge the extent to which prominent Republican politicians actually believe the stuff they keep saying.

We have been seeing many stories about the power of the hard right flank of the conservative movement, its energy and enthusiasm, and how terrified GOP pols are that they will find themselves on a hit list of one of the more vocal Tea Party groups or media outlets that seem to be calling the shots for the entire Republican party.

As for the scale, a "one" would be a Republican who actually believes all of what he or she says publicly. A "ten" would be someone who believes none of it.

Let's call it the GOP Liar's Index.

Now, since I don't think perfection is possible in this life time, I'm going to say that there are no "ones" and no "tens."

Back to Pawlenty. Maybe he's a "five," stuck in the middle and not sure of anything he has to say, which is what makes him look weak - half believing the conservative orthodoxy and half disbelieving it. Not sure.

Bachmann would have been a "two" a few months ago, but my sense is that she is starting to moderate her public opinions away from what she actually believes. Ironically, in her case, the duplicity isn't to placate the Tea Party but to sell herself to more mainstream Americans. She might be a "four" now.

Romney could be a "seven" as he sits very uncomfortably within a hyper-conservative Republican Party, knowing that he has to sell himself to a lot of people on the right who just don't like him.

I don't know about Huntsman. He might be a "two" or a "three." Not to lionize the man, but he does seem to come across as someone who believes the things he says.

If there are people in the GOP who seem to believe everything they say, I suspect that they both have the last name Paul. Yep, these guys are scary in that way.

Palin? I swear that she is too stupid to really believe anything she says but simply mouths the lines that will get her the biggest applause in front of Tea Party crowds or at Fox News and not, inconsequently, the biggest pay check. I just refuse to care any more about Sarah Palin.

John Boehner? I think this poor SOB could be a "nine." He's a Washington insider. The last thing he wants to do is shut down the federal government or play silly right-wing extremist games on the Hill, but that seems to be the way he has to talk about it all if he intends to keep Eric Cantor from taking his job.

Paul Ryan has to be a "two." Another true believer, as I've written.

I'm only having some fun here. Feel free to tell me who you think is being truest to their own values. But I don't think I've ever seen a group of politicians treading so lightly so as not to alienate a movement within their own party that is simply crazy. I'm just saying that some of them, particularly those Republicans in the Senate and House who might be facing Tea Party challenges from the right, are going to be forced to take positions that don't naturally sit well with them. I'm thinking here of the Hatches and Lugares and Snowes.

I don't want to say that politics is too much about who can lie the best, but in 2012 the GOP is sure going to test that theory.

The bottom line may be that for a Republican to be successful electorally, they would have to be either true believers, i.e, totally out of their freakin' minds, or really good liars about being totally out of their freakin' minds.

You will note that I have studiously avoided giving my scale a top or a bottom. Either way we're screwed.

(Cross-posted to Lippmann's Ghost.)

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