As I have said many times before, I believe that we live in an unusual time – in which the bankruptcy of the administrative entitlements state has been made manifest in any number of ways by Barack Obama. Nothing has happened in the last few weeks to alter my judgment in this matter.
In 2010, this President led his party off a cliff. He seems intent on repeating that feat in 2012. If Bill Clinton were President, he would be busy making a deal with John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, and in the negotiations the old fox might very well snooker them both. In the midst of a economic downturn, however – when Keynesian pump priming has been tried and has manifestly failed, when the unemployment rate is 9.2%, and the underemployment rate is close to double that – Barack Obama is prepared to go to the wall for tax increases, and he tells us that eighty percent of Americans have a desperate hankering for them. What more could the Republicans want?
There is, however, one force in American life that really could save Barack Obama from the fate that he is preparing for himself – and that is, as I have also frequently remarked, the Republican Party. Much to my delight, however, John Boehner and the Congressional party have proved to be both savvy and firm. They reject tax increases, and they want spending cuts – and they are not about to be pushed around. The Republicans in Congress may not right now be popular with the public, but Barack Obama is sinking fast in the polls, and he is likely to fall much further.
The Presidential party is another matter, and I am frankly worried. Consider those who register in these polls. Jon Huntsman, Rick Santorum, Tim Pawlenty, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Sarah Palin, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, and Mitt Romney. Who on this list is both a stalwart conservative and a plausible candidate?
Not Mitt Romney. He is not a conservative. He is a managerial progressive – the proud father of Romneycare: the Massachusetts program that was the model for Obamacare. Like Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Bush père, and Bush fils, he is a manager. He is the man to make the administrative entitlements state hum. He is not the man to dismantle it.
Not Rick Santorum. He lost his Senate seat by a margin of 18%. He has no business being in the race.
Not Newt Gingrich. He is another managerial progressive, and he has blotted his copybook more times than anyone can count.
Not Jon Huntsman. He is a handsome fellow, but he does not stand for anything.
Not Herman Cain. He does not know beans about foreign affairs; and when it comes to Muslims, he is prepared to chuck the First Amendment. Not to put a fine point on it, the man is a crank.
Not Ron Paul. Like Cain, he has interesting and intelligent things to say about federal expenditures and monetary policy, but let's face it: he, too, is a crank. When it comes to foreign affairs, he would make the damage done by Barack Obama look like a glorious victory.
Probably not Tim Pawlenty, alas. He is a good man, and he is hardworking, but he seems not to have fire in his belly, and he appears to lack a sense for the jugular. In the New Hampshire debates, he was well-position to have at the father of Romneycare, but he backed off and came off as weak.. Even if he wins the Iowa caucus, I do not now believe that he has the moxie to knock out Romney (who is nothing if not well organized), much less defeat Barack Obama.
Probably not Michele Bachmann. She is a force of nature and a fierce, principled, well-informed conservative. Moreover, she is fearless, and she is an excellent debater. But she has no executive experience, and she is said to be extremely disorganized, to have made no friends among her fellow Congressmen, and to suffer a great deal of staff turnover. If the criticism I hear is correct, she should not be in the race. She is an outspoken Congressman – and that is all that one can say.
Probably not Sarah Palin. I like the Barracuda. I admire her. She is a political natural with fabulous instincts, and she has some first-rate advisors. Moreover, she has executive experience; and before she received the vice-presidential nomination, she was doing a fabulous job as Alaska governor. She has, however, made some choices that suggest she is not really serious about the race.
Perhaps Rick Perry – if he gets in the race. In my book, he has a couple of strikes against him. He was a Democrat (which, to be fair, meant very little at the time in Texas), and he chaired Al Gore’s campaign in Texas for the presidential nomination in 1988. This last matter does give one pause. But Perry has been an excellent Governor in Texas, and he is a proven campaigner. More to the point, since joining the Republican Party, he has established himself as a staunch conservative. The one doubt I currently entertain has to do with his status as a Texan. Some Texans are, if I may descend to understatement, parochial. There have been hints of that with him. He did not advocate secession, but he spoke as if it was a possibility. That may come back to haunt him, and it arguably should. If he gets in the race, we will have to see what he is made of.
There is still room for other candidates. It is not too late for Paul Ryan to enter the race. And if he did so, it would transform it. But the list of candidates in or about to enter the race is not impressive, and most of them are merely indulging their vanity and wasting our time. Is the Republican Party this short of talent? This is the political opportunity of a lifetime -- and no one of obvious stature and ability is willing to step up to the plate. We desperately need a standard-bearer.