Sunday, October 30, 2011

Eating their own

George F. Will lights into Mitt Romney for being the pretzel candidate.

The Republican presidential dynamic — various candidates rise and recede; Mitt Romney remains at about 25 percent support — is peculiar because conservatives correctly believe that it is important to defeat Barack Obama but unimportant that Romney be president. This is not cognitive dissonance.

Obama, a floundering naif who thinks ATMs aggravate unemployment, is bewildered by a national tragedy of shattered dreams, decaying workforce skills and forgone wealth creation. Romney cannot enunciate a defensible, or even decipherable, ethanol policy.


Romney, supposedly the Republican most electable next November, is a recidivist reviser of his principles who is not only becoming less electable; he might damage GOP chances of capturing the Senate. Republican successes down the ticket will depend on the energies of the Tea Party and other conservatives, who will be deflated by a nominee whose blurry profile in caution communicates only calculated trimming.

Republicans may have found their Michael Dukakis, a technocratic Massachusetts governor who takes his bearings from "data" (although there is precious little to support Romney's idea that in-state college tuition for children of illegal immigrants is a powerful magnet for such immigrants) and who believes elections should be about (in Dukakis's words) "competence," not "ideology." But what would President Romney competently do when not pondering ethanol subsidies that he forthrightly says should stop sometime before "forever"? Has conservatism come so far, surmounting so many obstacles, to settle, at a moment of economic crisis, for this?

Mr. Will is at his Brahman best when he gets all stuffy like this, and it's a joy to read such indignant diatribes ("Floundering Naif" would be a great name for a deep-sea charter boat), but especially when it's directed at one of his own kind. After all, Mr. Romney is the perfect GOP establishment candidate; he's the 21st century Thomas E. Dewey, but without his charm or conviction.

What's missing from this lovely piece of fratricidal vitriol against Mr. Romney is Mr. Will's promotion of an alternative choice for the nomination. Unfortunately, all of his druthers have left the party, so to speak, or have no chance of getting the nomination, and he appears to be way over his brief crush on Michele Bachmann that he elaborated on in October 2009. So, who's left? Will he go for Herman Cain, who can't articulate a position on abortion but stands up for the smokers? What about Newt Gingrich, who is getting another look now that the rest of the field is falling apart? After all, Mr. Gingrich once predicted that after all the other candidates have been found wanting, they would turn to him.

This is what happens when you make the campaign solely about beating the other guy. That may be the way to win the nomination or even an election, but at some point the voters want to know what you stand for, not against.

(photo: Saturn Devouring His Son by Francisco Goya)

(Cross-posted from Bark Bark Woof Woof.)

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