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Paging Dr. Carson

Thus far in this early season of presidential politics we’ve written little about Ben Carson, but now seems as good a time as any to start paying attention to his candidacy. The retired pediatric neurosurgeon, political neophyte, and former long shot is now leading the Republican field in one national poll, quickly catching up to real estate mogul and fellow political neophyte Donald Trump in all the rest, and suddenly looks like a serious contender if not the outright frontrunner.
Which is fine by us. Our most preferred candidates, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and former Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, both of whom had impressive records while in office, have already dropped out of the race, the Republican party presently seems intent on nominating someone who has never held public office at all, and among those boasting that odd qualification Carson strikes us as clearly superior to Trump. Former high-tech executive Carly Fiorina also fares well by that admittedly low standard, too, and we’re liking her better with every mainstream media interviewer she slays, and we note that she’s a solid third and rising in all the polls, but today we’re writing about Carson.
So far as we can tell from his rather vague policy pronouncements we are generally in agreement with Carson about the major issues of the day, and on the also important matters of personality and character and electability we are even more impressed. Carson’s campaign vagueness is probably appropriate, given that at this point nobody knows all the minutiae about what the major issues for the first days of a Carson presidency will be, and he’s at least been specific enough to articulate a political philosophy that promises whatever mistakes he might make won’t be the result of a pro-government or anti-American bias. These days we’ll settle for such small favors, and gratefully note that the rest of Carson’s campaign is least as appealing. We suspect it will also appeal to those uninformed folks who comprise the decisive vote in every election, which is arguably the most important argument of them all.
Carson is a cerebral and soft-spoken sort of fellow, which we find a comforting contrast to the emotional and bombastic style of Trump, and it’s proving effective. The pundits have criticized Carson’s performances in the two televised debates, where his meek and mild persona was seemingly lost amid all the blustering back-and-forth between the rest of the candidates, but on both occasions his poll numbers rose afterwards. The great Ray Charles discovered that when they turned down the lights and he lowered his voice to a smoldering rendition of an old Harold Arlen tune the audience listened more intently than it did to even his most rollicking rhythm and blues, and every movie director worth a lick knows that people’s ears are most attuned not to the explosive actions scenes but to the whispered denouements, and Carson seems to have figured out the same time-honored principle. You wouldn’t know it from the Nielsen ratings or the Hollywood box office take or the top 40 on the Billboard charts, but there’s surely still an audience for that.
There’s obviously also an audience for defiantly and unapologetically frank talk, too, but Carson has lately provided plenty of that in his soft-spoken way. He was widely criticized for saying he would not support a Muslim presidential candidate, which those critics disingenuously took to mean that he would impose an unconstitutional religious test on nominees, but given his subsequent poll numbers it would seem that the 95 percent or so of the country that would also not support a Muslim presidential candidate at this particular moment were unconcerned. Those impressive poll numbers have since prompted some of the media to seize on his statement that citizens should respond aggressively to any mass shooting incidents they find themselves in, twisting it into a criticism of the victims of the latest mass shooting, but we don’t expect this will be reflected in the next round of polls. Trump’s fans like to boast that he has triumphantly challenged the media’s politically correct rule that you just can’t say certain correct things about certain politically incorrect issues, and we reluctantly acknowledge that he has, and thereby made some compensating contribution to our political discourse, but we hope they’ll concede that Carson has more quietly done the very same thing.
The press attacks will continue, of course, but they will be complicated. The usual press narrative about any candidate leading the Republican field is that he is either a dithering idiot or diabolical genius, but Carson’s remarkable career and made-for-TV life story render both stories implausible. He was head of pediatric neurosurgery at the prestigious Johns Hopkins University medical center, so the Democrats can’t say it wasn’t brain surgery, because it was, and unless they nominate a pretty darned good rocket scientist they’ll be hard-pressed to say that Carson’s a relative idiot. The evil genius slur will be even harder to pull off, given the heroic and well-verified tales of growing up in poverty with a single mother in poverty and learning to separate joined-at-the-head Siamese twins and without getting rich by the standards of recent Democratic nominees, and the fact that he’s just so darned cerebral and soft-spoken, and if they have to debate him on the issues they’ll be forced to seize the pro-government and anti-American ground.
Carson is black, too, and although it is a testament to his sincerely post-racial candidacy that we’ve neglected to mention that fact until the seventh paragraph it does merit noting. He’s not only black, but has that all-important slave blood and single mother that even the First African-American President (TM) didn’t have. Although Carson admirably does not put this out as a qualification for the presidency, we’ll be so defiantly and unapologetically frank as to say that it will at least further complicate any of the politically correct media efforts to portray him as a dithering idiot or evil genius. If the Democrats don’t nominate The First Female-American President (TM), which is looking increasingly possible, and if the Republicans don’t seize the opportunity instead, which they might, given Fiorina’s strong performance on the campaign trail, the geriatric old white man that does wind up representing the Democratic Party would be the one constrained by political correctness for a change. As much as we detest race- or gender-based calculations, they seem a safer path to the presidency than an emotional and bombastic white guy such as Trump. Throw in the fact that Carson might even draw a few more than usual votes from the Democrats’ essential monolith of black voters, and he’s looking more electable than Trump or any of the others.
Which is not say we’re endorsing Carson. He’s still a bit vague for our policy wonk preferences, Fiorina is still looking better every time she shows up in the news, something in our cautiously conservative temperament likes that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has actually held office, and something in our disgruntled Republican soul likes that he’s been enraging the establishment ever since. There’s still plenty of politics left before the first votes are cast, too, but for now we don’t mind that Carson is doing well.

— Bud Norman

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How to Trump a Record of Accomplishment

We can well understand the anti-establishment mood of the Republican electorate, given the timid resistance of the party’s congressional leadership to the past several years of the Obama administration, but when a buffoonish and oft-bankrupt billionaire is leading the pack and two governors who did outstanding jobs far away from Washington are the first to drop out it’s starting to get a bit ridiculous.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker announced his withdrawal from the race on Monday, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry did the same last week, and its hard to see what fault even the most disgruntled Republican might find with either of them. During Perry’s long tenure as Texas’ governor the state became the economic powerhouse of the country, creating most of the jobs that the Obama administration likes to claim credit for, and he did it with the low-tax, low-spending, low-regulation policies that conservatives have long championed. Walker bravely took on the powerful public sector unions in a stronghold of the labor movement and somehow prevailed through an election and a recall and re-election despite all the money and mobs and rogue prosecutors that his enemies could throw at him. With all the talk about Republicans seeking someone who’s willing to fight, and the clamoring for results, Walker and Perry seemed well-positioned for a serious run.
Both were once wobbly on the illegal immigration issue that is now crucial to the party, but with Walker’s recent rhetoric and Perry’s decision to deploy the Texas militia to the border both seem to have found the light. Perry still suffered from an embarrassing moment during an early debate in his previous presidential campaign when he returned too early after a surgery and paused to remember some small detail of his proposals, but that hardly seems sufficient to overshadow his many years of effective public service. Walker’s plain-spoken and low-key style might not have fit the fighting spirit that the Republicans seem to be in, but surely that humble appearance was belied by his steadfastness through one of the most bare-knuckle political battles of recent years.
As recently as mid-summer Walker was considered the front-runner in the race, and the Democrats were nervous enough about that they unleashed a torrent of media criticism about everything from his alleged “Unelectable Whiteness” to his being a few hours short of a college degree after dropping out of Marquette University. Whiteness does not render a candidate unelectable among the Republican electorate, of course, and the fact that Walker long ago chose to begin his extraordinarily successful career in politics rather take another useless course in political science likely only burnished his anti-establishment credentials and made him seem Truman-esque to a typical Republican voter, so there must be some other explanation for his fall from front-runner to back-of-the-pack.
Our best guess is that it has something to do with Donald Trump’s entry in the race. Since his vainglorious announcement Trump has received more free media attention than the combined war chests of Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush could ever buy, with the Democratic-friendly press eager to publicize his latest put-downs and bizarre conspiracy theories rather than Walker’s or any other Republican candidate’s record of accomplishments, and a worrisome plurality of Republicans has apparently bought into the idea that schoolyard taunts and petulant facial expressions and obnoxious boastfulness are better indications of a fighting spirit than a willingness to steadfastly defy the money and mobs and rogue prosecutors of a powerful special interest. We live in a time, alas, when a substantive record of accomplishment is less important than flash.
This is nothing new, of course. At this point in the ’08 election cycle we were rooting for Rudy Giuliani, whose track record of transforming New York City from a bankrupt and crime-ridden and otherwise socialist hell-hole into a livable city seemed to fit him for an even bigger job, but his “big state strategy” of sitting out Iowa and New Hampshire and other places where New York social values don’t hold sway left him too far behind by the time the big states started voting to stay in the race. The Republicans wound up with the war hero and “maverick” image of Arizona Sen. John McCain instead. At this point in ’12 we held out hope for former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, another soft-spoken but rock-ribbed conservative who had somehow done a lot of good things in the blue state of Minnesota, and we wound up with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who would have made a better president than he did a presidential candidate. This time around we’re once again looking for a second choice, and remain hopeful that there are still good choices left in the game, but it seems the preference for flash over substance is worse than ever, so we’ll have to see how it plays out.
Walker made mistakes, of course, and for the remainder of the news cycle they’ll be carefully analyzed and then forgotten. One pundit blames it all on his reliance on one of those “establishment” campaign managers, which might explain his cautious performances in the two highly-related debates against his far flashier opponents, the panel of sensible people on one of our favorite talk radio shows cite his failure to emphasize his long record of fighting the good fight, and of course he should have known the rest of the media were unlikely to pay any attention to his remarkable history. One can hope that he’ll learn from these mistakes in future elections, but any good conservative will also be hoping that his next chance is in eight years when the Republicans will be up against the long history of parties failing to win a third term in the White House.
The fact that Walker has been a remarkable governor concedes the fact he’s also been an office-holder, which somehow suddenly seems a black mark on any office-seeker in a Republican nomination race, but there’s still some hope. Former high-tech executive Carly Fiorina has greatly impressed us in the debates, and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson also strikes us as far better than any of the Democrats. Should the Republican electorate decide that having held office isn’t a disqualification for any office seekers there’s also Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose obvious lack of timidity has annoyed the party’s congressional leadership enough to earn the establishment’s scorn and perhaps some exemption from the disgruntled base, and even Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, whose heresy on immigration is troubling but whose record otherwise is exemplary. There’s even a chance that such an impressive fellow as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will get some traction, and for all his squishiness we’d settle for a proven winner such as Ohio Gov. John Kasich to go up against whatever nominee the even more crazed Democrats are likely to settle on.
Reports indicate that Walker’s departure from the race was prompted by his concerns about going into debt to support the campaign operation he was forced to organize by his momentary front-runner status, which further endears him to us, and his parting speech suggests he wants to clear the way for any of the other candidates to defeat Trump, which is even more endearing. His retreat is getting at least a day’s worth of media attention that otherwise would have paid to Trump’s latest schoolyard taunt or crazy conspiracy theory, so his short-lived candidacy has at least accomplished that.

— Bud Norman

About That Debate

Thanks to the miracle of the internet we were able to see or at least hear almost the entirety of the big Republican presidential debate, either on the Cable News Networks’ spotty web site or a local talk radio station’s somewhat more reliable feed, and we found it most entertaining. Although we’ll leave it to the pollsters to declare who won, our many years in the theater criticism business leave us unable to resist the temptation of writing a review.
Unaccustomed as we are to saying anything nice about CNN, we thought it wasn’t altogether horrible. Moderator Jake Tapper had an annoying habit of interrupting the good stuff about the Obama administration’s failures and indulging all the internecine criticism, and the first-rate conservative radio talker Hugh Hewitt, who has been called “third-rate” by Donald Trump after he flunked the host’s simple quiz about the Middle East’s leadership, only got a couple of questions in, and the time allowed to the overcrowded stage of candidates did seem wildly unequal, but at least there were no out-of-left-field questions about contraception or some other non-issues that were calculated to create a controversy intended to further some Democratic campaign theme. Most of the questions seemed fair enough, and exposed a wider range of opinions than you’ll likely find in the Democratic debates, if they ever get around to having one, and allowed the candidates to demonstrate this is a very deep and talented field that just might include a very good president.
There’s some grousing on the right that the first part of the debate was all about Donald Trump, but at this point there’s no using denying that he’s what the race thus far has been all about, so we see no reason why they shouldn’t get it over with at the beginning. Happily, we can say that Trump didn’t seem to fare well by the attention. He was asked about his habit of making unfavorable and utterly irrelevant comments about peoples’ appearances, and after hearing a disapproving comment by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, whom Trump had already stated shouldn’t be on the same stage with him due to his lower poll numbers, Trump snidely responded that “I never attacked him on his looks, and believe me, there’s plenty of subject matter right there.” This followed Paul’s golden opportunity to worry about entrusting America’s nuclear weaponry to someone whose “visceral response is to attack people’s appearance. Short, tall, fat, ugly. My goodness, that happened in junior high.” More formidable candidates such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and current Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former computer industry executive Carly Fiorina also responded to Trump’s junior high name-calling with an even more effective dignity, and we saw Trump coming off as a small, petty, obnoxious man. His fans no doubt loved it, and apparently rushed to the Drudge Report to record their cheers, but we don’t expect the upcoming polls will reflect that the rest of the post-junior high country was impressed.
Trump did well with his signature issue of illegal immigration, and of course wasn’t shy to take some well-earned credit for broadening the parameters of that debate, but we thought several of his rivals showed equal passion about the issue even as they proposed more moderate solutions. Unless the the Republicans somehow wind up with Bush or Rubio, which seems unlikely, and the self-described socialist yet tough-on-immigration Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders winds up with the Democratic nomination, which no longer seems so unlikely, the Republican will be on the popular side of the illegal immigration debate.
Not to say that she was the “winner,” a title that only more scientific polls than the one at Drudge can confer, but we must note that Fiorina is very, very good at this sort of thing. Throughout the proceedings she exhibited an impressive command of the facts and a logical response to them on a wide range of issues, offered a compelling life story of her rise from secretary in a small business to Chief Executive Officer of a leading high-tech company, a convincing account of her firing from that company and the lay-offs it made during a tech-sector downturn, and made a persuasive case that she’s a person whose intellect and character should be taken seriously. Our study of the classical art of rhetoric introduced us to the concepts of logosethos, and pathos, and Fiorina has achieved the trifecta.
She was especially good on her foreign policy, in regards to both Russia’s adventurism in Ukraine and the rest of the old Soviet Union and the even more rapidly deteriorating situation in the Middle East and the increasingly convoluted relationship between the two, and was impressively blunt and specific and  hawkish about the military spending that will be required to achieve it. We were reminded of the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and we can think of no greater compliment than that. Another high-point of the night was when CNN generously allowed her the opportunity to respond to Trump’s statement about her in an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine, of all people, in which he said of her, “Look at that face. Why would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that face, the face of our next president? I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not s’posteda say bad things, but really folks, come on. Are we serious?” The question to Fiorina about it conveniently followed one that had Trump doubling-down on his criticism of a obvious misstatement Bush had made about funding women’s health care during an interview about the narrower issue of Planned Parenthood, and after Bush’s apologies and clarifications Trump sneered “I heard what you said,” so Fiorina siezedthe opportunity to note that everyone in America also heard and fully understood what Trump had said about her. After nearly a full moment of deafening applause, Trump was reduced to his previous explanation that by “face” he meant “persona,” and the apologetic addendum that he he thought she had a “lovely face.” Already Fiorina had come out with a compelling campaign advertisement about her face, boasting that it’s 61-years-old and and that she’s “proud of every year and every wrinkle,” and featuring the faces of other women that Donald Trump wouldn’t treat to shrimp cocktails but otherwise deserve the full respect of anyone aspires to the presidency of the United States, and we don’t expect the insult will reap further rewards for Fiorina. Ordinarily we wouldn’t comment on such matters, but given the latest events in the news we’ll admit that to our 56-year-old eyes the 61-year-old Fiorina and her wizened and dignified persona strike us as quite fetching, even if her happily married status and our old-fashioned standards render that entirely moot, and at the risk of sounding junior high we think that the libidinous Trump and his absurd hairdo should thank his lucky stars that he’s so famously rich.
Another Fiorina triumph came toward the end of the evening, when the moderator asked an admittedly frivolous question about which woman should take the place of Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill. A couple of the candidates persuasively argued that the former-slave-holding and Indian-oppressing Democratic hero President Andrew Jackson should be nudged aside from the $20 bill to make room for a woman, but all were willing to name some woman another who deserved the honor. Some suggested their wives or mother, others preferred Rosa Parks or Susan B. Anthony or various other politically correct heroines of recent decades, but the only woman on the stage felt free to say that both the $10 and $20 bills should stay the same. She dismissed the issue as mere symbolism and pandering to women as a special interest, when now constitute a majority of the electorate and have the same interest in men in sensible policies and sound leadership, and we note that the supposedly sexist audience at a Republican presidential debate gave her another prolonged applause.
The rest of the cast was pretty good, too, although only to an extent that’s not likely to change those upcoming polls. We though Bush as pretty combative, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie seemed to enjoy an outsized role in the production, at which point you can insert your own fat joke, but we’ve never figured either will play any role in the race. Bush has committed to positions on illegal immigration and the Common Core curriculum that the middle-of-the-country Republican electorate will never support, no matter how sincere or well-stated his arguments might be, and being from New Jersey Christie has similar heresies to overcome. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was strong, but has the same illegal immigration problem as Bush and wasn’t nearly strong enough to overcome it. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee was good, as the veteran television presence always is, and we loved his defiance of the same-sex marriage ruling and the rest of his evangelical furor as much as the next Republican, but he doesn’t seem the right guy to deal with that $18 trillion deficit and the steady growth in government, and we don’t expect his performance will move him up in the polls. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who convincingly claimed that he could deliver his bellwether state to the Republicans, also drifted too far afield from Republican orthodoxy to hope for any improvement in his standing. The other non-politician that has been polling well in this anti-politics year is retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, whose low-key and soft-spoken and humble persona contrasts nicely with the garish and bombastic and braggadocios Trump, was a little too low-key and soft-spoken and humble to stand out in the debate, and had a few awkward moments explain his past opposition to fighting Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
We’re still tentatively rooting for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, due to the three impressive electoral wins he pulled off while fighting tooth-and-nail against the combined national might of the public sector unions in a most righteous attempt to reform his long misguided state, somehow pulling off the God-given right-to-work in the process, and on the whole we thought he did all right. He didn’t command the stage nearly so much as we might have hoped, and we fear he might have even gone largely unnoticed, but at least there were no memorable gaffes. The somehow anti-establishmrny Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is another candidate we’re liking, and he also did well, but his performance likely did nothing to change his standing.
We also like the performances of former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has already dropped out of the race, and whiz-kid Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who lingers so far back in the polls he was relegated to the not-ready-for-primetime debate, which we admit we did not watch, so that’s how reliable a barometer our opinions are. Still, the evening’s entertainment left us with a hopeful feeling. At some point in the debate the charming Huckabee noted that no one seeking the Republican nomination is a self-described socialist or being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for using a private e-mail server for official business, and that he would have no hesitancy to to vote any of them against the possible Democratic nominees. This is one of those rare occasions when we agree with Huckabee, although we have to admit there would be some nose-holding involved in at least one case, and again we say that we enjoyed the show.
The Democratic episodes should be entertaining, too, if they ever get around to one. At the moment that Sanders guy seems the craziest of the competitors, and therefore the most likely to win, but Clinton still has all that money, and Vice President Joe Biden could conceivably inherit President Barack Obama’s die-hard fans and simultaneously capitalize on the anti-status quo sentiment that Sanders is currently riding, but we have no idea how that might turn out. If it turns out to be Fiorina and Clinton standing next to another on a debate stage, though, we think Fiorina would romp like that Ronda Rousey in the “mixed martial arts” game taking on Beth Correia.
No votes have yet been cast, and won’t be until next year, which we like to think is still a ways off, so we won’t reach any conclusion except that it was a good show.

— Bud Norman

Trump Takes a Pledge

The Republicans got some good news today when Donald Trump at long last signed a pledge not to run as an independent candidate for president if he is not the party’s nominee, in which case he would surely have handed the Democrats a winning plurality and another four years in the White House. Now the party’s main concern is making sure that Trump isn’t the nominee.
Trump’s pledge might yet prove as reliable as his many wedding vows, but at least any quixotic third-party campaign he could conceivably attempt will start as a broken promise. This will presumably drain some of his support away, perhaps even to the point that he doesn’t do any more damage than moderate Republican John Anderson’s independent bid did to Ronald Reagan’s landslide victory back in ’80, and although the current Republican field might be lacking in Ronald Reagans one is grateful for such small consolations. There’s other good news for the Republicans to grasp to, as well, what with all that bad news about enough Democrats signing on the that awful deal that gives Iran a nuclear bomb and $150 billion, the dismal decline in the stock market, the soaring murder rates of black Americans in the cities where the “Black Lives Matter” movement has held greatest sway, the manifold problems of illegal immigration that Trump has so cannily exploited, the growing public skepticism about the “global warming” alarmism that is driving Democratic politics, and cumulative effect of so many issues where the Democrats are opposed to clear majorities of public opinion should provide the party with such an opportunity that only such a extraordinary buffoon as Trump could miss the chance.
Even with Trump sitting atop the opinion polls about the Republican race, we still regard his chances as improbable, although we can’t say implausible, even though we’d like to say it was impossible. Currently the rest of the top three is comprised of Dr. Ben Carson, the former chief of pediatric neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins University Medical Center, and Carly Fiorina, one-time secretary at a small insurance company and former chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard, both of whom should fare better among any Republicans pining for an amateur politician. One can’t help noticing that Carson is black, and has a compelling up-fraom-the-ghetto-to-performing-brai-surgery story, and he’s obviously a more sincere contrastive and Christian than Trump. Fiorina also has a made-for-TV story to tell, she’s delightfully ferocious in interviews and debates, and is at least as solid as Trump in her conservative bona fides, so if the public truly is pining for its first woman president she’d be a much better choice than the one the Democrats seem to have settled on. Carson is soft-spoken and humble where Trump is loud and bombastic, Fiorina projects the same aura of hard-tacks competence that Trump aspires to and doesn’t need a rich father or cronyism to achieve it, and eventually the Republican primary voters and caucus-goers will notice that some of those politicians have been pretty good governors and senators.
Still, we can’t write off Trump. Not in a country where fellow pro-wrestling performer Jesse Ventura and “Terminator” star Arnold Schwarzenegger were elected governor, and where an erstwhile community organizer and undistinguished Illinois legislator and one-third term Senator was twice elected president, and where a movie about “Niggaz With Attitude” is the runaway hit of the year.

— Bud Norman

The Race Is On

We’re still habitually writing 2014 on checks, but already the 2016 presidential race is underway. The Democrats still haven’t decided whether they’ll have a race or just hand a crown to Hillary Clinton, but there’s more than enough going on with the Republicans to keep the press happy.
There was a big confab of conservatives in inordinately influential Iowa that attracted many of the likely candidates, a few more likely candidates were conspicuous by their absence, a pair of very famous people have indicated an interest in joining the fray, and there seems to be a very wide and diverse field forming. All of it neatly serves one or another of the preferred press narratives, and while the potential Democratic candidates are dithering all the respectable media attention can be paid to those crazy Republicans and their traveling freak show.
The spectacle of Republican hopefuls seeking the support of conservatives, of all people, was almost too much for The Washington Post to bear. That oh-so-respectable publication’s report from Des Moines frets that the gathering of conservatives there “highlighted anew the thorny patch ahead for candidates as they try to attract support from the party’s conservative base without compromising their hopes for a general election.” They note that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who was being lauded elsewhere in the paper for promising “adult conversations on big issues,” and former Massachusetts Governor and past presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who is ruefully described as a past casualty of conservatism, declined invitations to the event, and one can’t help noticing the “tsk-tsk” between the lines as they contemplate the notion that such pillars of the party establishment did not feel welcome among such rabid Republicans as one finds in places such as Iowa.
As much as we appreciate The Washington Post’s deep, deep concern that the Republicans might be endangering their prospects of winning a presidential race, we think their worries are unwarranted. The conservatives’ insistence of stricter enforcement of immigration law and preference for lower taxes, the two issues the paper cites as reasons for Mitt Romney’s defeat in ’12 election, will likely prove a benefit to any Republican candidate after Romney’s resulted in tax hikes and amnesty for trainloads of unaccompanied minors from Central America. The reporters can’t seem to think of anything else on the conservative agenda that would compromise their hopes for a general election, and neither can we. A greater worry would result from nominating a candidate that fails to bring out the conservative base, as happened with Romney.
There’s still abortion, same-sex marriage, and a host of other social issues, including almost daily new ones involving acronyms and neologisms and exceedingly rare behaviors that are still unfamiliar to most Americans, so the quadrennial stories about the Titanic of the Republican party ramming into the iceberg of conservatism can always make do with that. In yet another Washington Post dispatch we learn that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal skipped the Iowa event not because he was insufficiently conservative but in order to accept an invitation to speak at a “controversial” prayer rally in his home state, where he “called for a national spiritual revival and urged event attendees to proselytize on behalf of their Christian beliefs.” This particular prayer rally is apparently controversial because it was organized by the American Family Association, which hews to traditional Christian beliefs about sexual morality, but the paper doesn’t go so far as to find anything controversial Christians retaining a freedom of speech. Once again there’s that deep, deep concern that the Republicans might be making a mistake, but if opposition to abortion was such a challenge to general election chances the party wouldn’t have won anything in the last 43 years, and while same-sex marriage is polling a bit better than even these days we don’t sense that the public wants to start enforcing proper opinions on the matter, and by 2016 the Democratic party’s association with all the craziness that’s going on in the cultural left won’t do it any benefit. Jindal has also lately been outspoken about the Islamic roots of Islamic terrorism, and we can’t expect that the press will also find that controversial, but it shouldn’t prove a general election problem.
For the benefit of the press caricaturists who wish to to portray the craziness of the Republicans, however, we might see the entrance of former Alaska Governor and past vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin as well as real estate mogul and television reality show star Donald Trump. We rather like Palin, and delight in the way she drives all the right people insane, but after too few years in office and too many years of relentless ridicule by the late night comics of the left she’s unlikely to win the nomination and all too likely to distract from the more accomplished candidate who does. We don’t particularly like Trump, and find no reason whatsoever he should be president and see no plausible argument that he ever could be president, but he does have an undeniable ability to attraction attention to himself. Between the two the press could easily pay diminished attention to an otherwise impressive slate of candidates, and those late night comics of the left will surely do so.
Among the candidates that have impressed us is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose bold reforms have so enraged the public sector unions that he was forced to survive a recall election that featured state legislators fleeing to other states as rowdy mobs rampaged through the state capitol, as well as a bruising but successful re-election campaign, and we note from the oh-so-respectable but frequently reliable The Hill that Walker a big hit at the Iowa gathering. The paper went so far as to say he “shows fire,” a significant compliment given the governor’s reputation in the press as a rather blandly polite midwestern sort of fellow, although we think blandly polite might play well after eight years of the world’s greatest orator and most petulant president, and it further noted that he stressed his own conservatism, which we sense they did not intend as a compliment. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in Walker’s home state reported that he told the Iowans to “go big and go bold,” but over at the National Review they note that Wisconsin’s legislative agenda includes a right-to-work law and a gambling casino, and worry that the governor’s presidential ambitions might prevent him from going big and bold on either issue. We’ll be watching to see how the governor responds, and will be disappointed if he doesn’t back the right-to-work bill in order to prevent a round of drum circles and hippie sleep-ins at the capitol building. Right-to-work is good economics and, well, a right, and even in Wisconsin it’s good politics these days, and nightly newscasts full of dirty hippies protesting your policies isn’t going to hurt a bit. The gambling thing is trickier, as even conservatives are split on the advisability of the government getting into the monopolized gambling business, but after all Walker’s been through he should survive any outcome on the issue.
Walker’s just one of several Republican governors who have brought greater prosperity to their states with conservative reforms, however, and at least three senators who have an expressed an interest in the presidency also warrant consideration. We can’t see the party giving Romney another chance, and we expect that Bush’s stands on immigration and common core and a general sort of big government-run compassionate conservatism associated with his family will be more than money and organization can overcome, but even those men have real accomplishments they can point to. Pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson and former high-tech businesswoman Carly Fiorina have never held public office, and Fiorina lost a senatorial bid in heavily Democratic California, but both bring impressive resumes and appealing personalities and common sense conservatism as well the ethnic and sexual identities that Democrats like to claim. They represent a wide range of views being passionately debated in the party, which could be considered a sign of Republican vigor, but the stories will tell of petty infighting between the crazies and the moderately crazy. Should the moderately crazy prevail, once again, the press will then begin to describe them as merely crazy.
Meanwhile, over on the Democratic side, the few stories we find about potential challengers usually mention Vermont Rep. Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist, and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who isn’t so frank about her political ideology. We’ll be on the lookout for any stories fretting that any Democratic nomination race that might break out would drag Hillary Clinton too far to the left, but given that socialism isn’t so controversial as Christianity and the press isn’t nearly so concerned about the political fortunes of the Democrats it might take a while.

— Bud Norman