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Of Sleeping Dogs and WMD

The late Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction are back in the news, and they’re proving an embarrassment to both sides of the debate about the Iraq War.
Readers of a certain age will recall that the WMD, as they were popularly known, were one of 23 casus belli cited in the congressional resolution authorizing the war in Iraq but the only one that anyone seemed to notice. When the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq failed to provide the press with large stockpiles of newly-made WMD to photograph the critics of the war started chanting “Bush lied, thousands died” and public opinion began to turn against the effort. President George W. Bush had always taken care to truthfully state only that our intelligence agencies and those of several of our allies had suggested a high probability of a WMD program, even someone so reputedly stupid would have been unlikely to launch a war on a basis he knew would be disproved, the lack of proof of the WMD did not prove their non-existence, there were sporadic reports of the chemical weapons that Hussein had indisputably used against in the past and credible theories that the weapons had been shipped to Syria during the debates in congress and the United Nations, several Democrats including both Senators who wound up serving as President Obama’s Secretaries of State also found the intelligence reports dating back to the Clinton administration credible, and there were still those other 22 writs that had been widely ignored, but such arguments neither fit on a bumper sticker nor rhymed and were not enough to persuade a war-weary public.
The missing WMD and that “Bush lied, thousands died” line became such cherished beliefs of the establishment media and the rest of the left that it was noteworthy that such a established paper as The New York reported last week that “American troops secretly reported finding roughly 5,000 chemical warheads, shells, or aviation bombs … ” The report was quick to add that the weapons were “remnants of long-abandoned programs, built in close collaboration with the West,” and “the discoveries of these chemical weapons did not support the government’s invasion rationale,” but that didn’t stop the war’s supporters from claiming long-awaited vindication. The Times spends most of its article explaining the toll those weapons have taken on American soldiers, and it is hard to reconcile that with its claims that they posed no threat to civilians. If taken at face value the facts laid out in the story also show that Hussein was not in compliance with his treaty obligations regarding weapons of mass destruction, and suggest that he retained his old willingness to use anything at hand against his enemies. As much as they hate to cite The New York Times as a source, the war hawks have found a weapon there to use against the “Bush lied” calumny.
Which raises the infuriating question of why the Bush administration didn’t avail itself of the evidence to defend its arduous efforts in Iraq while public opinion was turning against the war. Conservative suspicions naturally turn to political adviser Karl Rove, who has long been a leading figure in the demonology of the left and has lately assumed the same role for the right, and over at The Daily Beat the usually reliable reporter Eli Lake provides quotes from former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and some unnamed “insiders” to bolster the case. Rove reportedly felt that that the public had already concluded no significant WMD were in Iraq, t and by 2005 was telling Santorum to “Let these sleeping dogs lie; we have lost that fight so better not to remind anyone of it.” The strategy was not without some merit, given that that the shrillness of the opposition was likely to drown out any claims of WMD and a hostile press was not going to offer any help, but given the continued decline in support for the war and the drubbings that the Republicans took in the ’06 and ’08 elections it doesn’t look good in retrospect. The Lake article has provided the more strident right-wing talk radio hosts with material for further rants against Rove, and in this case he seems to deserve it.
Rove wasn’t the president, though, and the ultimate responsibility for the decision rests with his boss. Perhaps he had his own reasons for declining to publicize the discovery of the WMD, and perhaps they had to do with military considerations that he considered more important than his own political standing, but we’ll have to await some long-off history book to learn what those reasons might be. Those history books will likely be full of facts that will change the public’s understanding of the war, and they’ll surely record that “Bush lied” and “blood for oil” and all the other bumper sticker slogans proved false, and they might just conclude that Bush’s invasion was a bad idea and Obama’s premature an even worse one, but until then no will get to enjoy any vindication.

— Bud Norman

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About Those Speeches

The art of political oratory has become so degraded in America that Barack Obama was able to pass himself off as a silver-tongued speaker just four years ago, but we still enjoy hearing what passes for speechifying these days. What we heard on the radio Tuesday from the Republican National Convention was mostly pretty good, at least by contemporary standards, and likely to compare well with next week’s efforts by the Democrats.

We missed most of the address by Mia Love, the mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, candidate for congress, and a rising star of the conservative movement, but saw that her address won plaudits from the right-wing commentators and by all accounts “electrified” the crowd. The portion we did hear was indeed rousing, stressing the traditional Republican values of self-reliance and personal responsibility with a convincingly personal touch, and we expect we’ll be hearing more from her in the comings months. Those watching the convention on MSNBC apparently missed all of the speech, as the left-wing network simply cut away from all of the black and Latino speakers lest their audience be confused about why a crowd full of racists were cheering so loudly for a black woman such as Love.

Former Pennsylvania senator and failed presidential contender Rick Santorum also spoke, and while he probably managed to get his many supporters enthused about the Romney candidacy we don’t expect the speech had much appeal beyond his fans. The speech was a strange extended metaphor about hands, starting with the gnarled but strong hands of his coal-mining father and running through the various sorts of hands he shook while campaigning, and although it had some kind words for traditional Judeo-Christian values it was light on the hellfire-and-brimstone stuff that scared the children and the secular reporters during the campaign.

Even the ABC reporters who kept interrupting the speakers on the radio were hard-pressed to find much fault with a rousing speech by the nominee’s wife, Ann Romney, who gave an endearingly personal account of her husband’s career. The main chore facing the Romney campaign, which has been besieged by the most extravagant sort of negative advertising, seems to be convincing the public that he’s not a top-hatted villain who ties damsels to railroad tracks for cackling laughs, and the speech was probably effective at countering that cartoonish image. By hearing it on the radio we missed out on the full effect of her classy good looks, but even so we found it very compelling and just the sort of thing that should have particular appeal to the kind of women who are susceptible to the Democrats’ most outrageous slanders.

Keynote speaker Chris Christie gave a good speech, but that was disappointing because we’d been expecting a great one. The famously burly governor of New Jersey has some heretical views typical of his region, especially on gun rights and radical Islamist jurists, but on the crucial issue of fiscal sanity he’s been heroic, and he’s achieved great things in a stubbornly liberal state by stating the cold, hard facts of life with his legendary bluntness, so it seemed certain that he’d lay it on with extra gusto in a prime time spot. Alas, although he talked about being blunt he failed to do so, and left us wanting more.

Perhaps we’ll get it when Romney and running mate Paul Ryan make their acceptance speeches. Both will probably attempt to be at their most likeable, but they’re genuinely likeable guys if you don’t happen to hate successful people, so the effort shouldn’t prevent them from laying out the difficult truths that Christie spoke of. We don’t anticipate anything along the lines of Patrick Henry’s “The War Inevitable” or Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, but it should be pretty good.

— Bud Norman

Sayonara Santorum

Rick Santorum has dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination, and that’s probably best for both him and his party.

The stated reason for the former Senator’s withdrawal is the poor health that has recently afflicted his young daughter, and that might even be the real reason, as one of the several admirable qualities that Santorum has demonstrated during the long campaign is an uncommon devotion to his family. There were other good reasons for Santorum to call it quits, however, and it is almost certain they also played a part in the decision.

Santorum had already lost the nomination, barring some uncharacteristic self-inflicted catastrophe by front-runner Mitt Romney, and it was becoming increasingly likely that he would suffer a humiliating and potentially career-ending loss in the primary of his home state of Pennsylvania. Dropping out of the race and ceasing his attacks on the party’s all-but-certain nominee now, especially with a plausible reason having to do with his family, will allow Santorum to remain an influential figure in the GOP and perhaps even make another and more practiced run for the presidency in the future.

Santorum’s withdrawal also allows the Republicans to begin repairing some of the damage that has been done by the internecine fighting that has marked the primary campaign. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul will remain in the race, for reasons known only to them, but the former has ceased his sniping at Romney and the latter has avoided any attacks on Romney from the outset, so the Democrats shouldn’t get any more help making a case against the Republican nominee.

There were a few less-than-admirable qualities that Santorum also revealed during the race, and they all helped the Democrats and their media allies caricature the Republicans as a party of religious zealots. Although Santorum spent most of his time on the campaign trail talking about how to fix the country’s broken economy, by far the most important issue to voters, he too often allowed hostile reporters to lure him into pointless statements about banning contraception, Puerto Rican statehood, John F. Kennedy’s 62-year-old speech about separation of church and state, and other red herrings that fit the contrived narrative of the opposition.

The downside of Santorum’s withdrawal, of course, is that Romney’s many enemies in the news and entertainment media will not be able to focus their efforts entirely on his campaign. After going to such lengths to emphasize the extremism of Romney’s opponents, though, the media will at least have a harder time convincing the uninformed voter that he’s dangerously far to the right.

— Bud Norman

Romney and the Shouters

The race for the Republican presidential nomination is all over but the shouting, to resort to an old cliché, but there still seems to be a good deal of shouting left.

Mitt Romney’s clean sweep of Tuesday’s primaries in Wisconsin, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., only put him a bit more than halfway to the number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination, but it nonetheless made clear he’ll have a smooth ride through the other half. The contest in D.C. can be easily dismissed, as there are only a half-dozen or so Republicans living in the capital city and at this point most of them are probably employed by the Romney campaign, while the win in neighboring Maryland is barely more impressive. The respectable four-point victory in Wisconsin is more convincing, though, because if former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum’s blue-collar image and pro-manufacturing message can’t win there it is hard to see what states left to be contested he can win.

Yet Santorum vows to remain in the race, as do long shot candidate Newt Gingrich and no-shot candidate Ron Paul, and there is still considerable grumbling among a significant portion of the party about Romney’s candidacy. Tune into any of the conservative talk radio shows and you’ll hear it from every other caller, or surf your way through the right side of the blogosphere and you’ll read it in every other post. The discontent also shows up at the polls, where Romney is still falling short of 50 percent in many states.

Much of the opposition to Romney is based on the health care reform bill he implemented while governor of Massachusetts, a valid complaint for conservatives fuming about the suspiciously similar Obamacare law, but there also seems to be a more visceral resentment on the part of Republicans who consider themselves outsiders that the perceived candidate of the “elites” is winning the nomination. Romney’s well-groomed, well-educated, and well-heeled persona also seems to be a problem with a certain segment of the party.

Some disgruntled Republicans might even sit out a general election between Romney and Obama, but Democrats would be well advised to not overestimate their number. Despite his frequent deviations from conservative orthodoxy Romney remains far to the right of Obama, and once the race is officially over that will become clear even to the most disappointed conservatives. It should also become clear, once Romney has sewn up the nomination, that the vast majority of Republicans who did vote for him could not possibly all be “elites.” Nor should the Democrats overstate how much damage the protracted Republican battle is doing to the party, as most voters have stopped paying attention to the anticlimactic race and won’t hear the criticisms being leveled against Romney by his remaining rivals.

The barbs of Santorum, Gingrich, and their many supporters might even prove an advantage to Romney in the general election. It won’t be easy for the Democrats to caricature Romney as an extreme right-wingers after so many months of extreme right-wingers shouting that Romney isn’t one of them.

— Bud Norman

The Race Goes South

Southerners are a diverse group of individuals, in our experience, and they don’t deserve the crude stereotypes that appeared in much of the coverage of Tuesday’s Republican primaries in Alabama and Mississippi. It is hard to resist reaching for the redneck jokes when Jeff Foxworthy is out campaigning for Mitt Romney, however, and both states did wind up voting as the conventional wisdom predicted.

Most of the media types reckoned that southerners wouldn’t cotton to national frontrunner Romney because he hails from way up north in Massachusetts, is too rich, insufficiently rock-ribbed in his conservatism, and is a Mormon. Although it no doubt pained many southerners to prove the media types correct for a change, Romney finished behind winner and Rick Santorum and runner-up Newt Gingrich in both Alabama and Mississippi, the efforts of comedian Foxworthy notwithstanding.

A win in either state would have been a significant boost to Romney’s candidacy, possibly even the knock-out punch that has thus far eluded him, but the losses might prove only a minor setback. He lost to Santorum by a mere three percentage points in Mississippi and was nearly tied with Gingrich in Alabama, results that are quite respectable given the low expectations heading into the races, and because neither contest was winner-take-all his sizeable lead in the delegate count was little affected. By finishing just behind Gingrich he also kept the former House Speaker in the race to split the anti-Romney vote in at least the next round of contests, a nice tactical advantage while it lasts.

The results also suggest that the southerners’ animosity toward Romney isn’t so strong that it would harm his chances in the region during the general election, and they don’t necessarily confirm any media-sanctioned stereotypes. Santorum won despite being from Pennsylvania, which is almost as Yankee as Massachusetts, and despite being a famously devout Catholic, a religion that the media types have long presumed is also anathema to southerners.

The nocturnal news junkies might have also noticed the late, late returns from Hawaii, where Romney won a Republican caucus victory over Santorum, with Ron Paul finishing third and Gingrich in last place. We weren’t previously aware that there are any Republicans in Hawaii, but it just goes to show that you can’t always go by stereotype.

— Bud Norman

What We Saw at the Kansas Caucus

The Grand Old Party had a grand old time in Kansas on Saturday, with the most fervent of the state’s Republicans gathering at 99 different locations for the quadrennial caucus. We roused ourselves out of bed and trudged over to the Century II Convention Center in downtown Wichita to take a look and cast a vote, and were mostly heartened by what we found.

With help from sunny skies and unseasonably warm temperatures the turnout was heavy enough that we were forced to find parking several blocks away from the event, which Wichitans usually regard as an outrage, but everyone we passed along the way seemed cheerful and gladly willing to make the noble sacrifice for the democratic process. Some idiot in one of those silly Guy Fawkes masks that the “Occupy” crowd favor was standing outside the building and holding a hand-lettered sign that asked the assembled Republicans “Are you rich or stupid?” Except for one fellow who growled that “You’re a product of the public school system” all of the caucus-goers we saw ignored the provocation and simply smiled and nodded as they walked by.

The crowd looked reasonably prosperous, for the most part, but one wouldn’t guess they were all rich. The attire was generally respectable but casual, except for the politicians and party officials in nondescript blue suits and some biker-looking types in Ron Paul t-shirts, and there wasn’t a top hat, monocle, or pair of spats in sight. Nor did the caucus-goers appear stupid, except perhaps for a few of them, and you’re going to have that in any large crowd. Not one of them looked quite so stupid as the idiot wearing the Guy Fawkes mask and waving his witless sign.

A small army of overly helpful volunteers registered us quickly despite the requirement of a photo identification card, a new law that has the Democrats here in high dudgeon but didn’t seem to annoy the Republicans at all, and we were soon settled into a back row seat to read an old P.G. Wodehouse novel while a few party officials blathered on about something or another. Soon the stage was turned over to the spokesmen for the various candidates still in the race, and we set the novel down to pay some attention. The speeches given at every caucus seem a superfluous tradition, since anyone who gets out of bed on a Saturday morning to vote has surely made his mind up already, but we do love a good oration.

A high school debate coach made the case for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, laying out the many strong arguments for his candidacy but not attempting to refute any of the arguments which have all but knocked him out of the race. A businessman spoke on behalf of Ron Paul, stressing the Texas congressman’s anti-abortion stance and friendliness to free market economics, but not mentioning the non-interventionist foreign policy, and while it made the candidate sound quite reasonable it didn’t do much to fire up the large contingent of voters bearing his signs and wearing his name on their t-shirts. Mitt Romney, the frontrunner nationally but a dark horse in the Kansas caucus, didn’t even bother to arrange a speaker, and instead a party official read a letter from the campaign. The reading was done with little enthusiasm, and one could sense that the caucus-goers in the state’s largest city felt slightly snubbed, but the reaction was determinedly polite, with ample applause and no booing.

The clear favorite of the crowd, judging from the large number of signs, t-shirts and other campaign regalia, was Rick Santorum, and speaking on his behalf was none other than his wife, Karen. Unaccustomed as we are to hearing a wife speak fondly of a husband, we thought the speech was surprisingly good. She spoke a bit about politics, stressing her husband’s staunch conservatism, but mostly talked about his personal qualities as a husband, father, and man of faith. The Santorum supporters, almost all of whom were accompanied by several children, were clearly moved, and when the speaker began to tear up so did many in the crowd.

We returned to Wodehouse while the overly helpful volunteers slowly led the crowd aisle by aisle to the ballot boxes. When our turn finally came we marked the ballot for Romney, affixed the yellow sticker they’d given us, and dropped our in the cardboard ballot box, satisfied that we’d done our part for the democratic process and hopeful that our guy would finish a respectable second or third. Nothing against Santorum, mind you, and we did like his wife, but we’re worried that he’d be too easily caricatured by the Democrats, and Romney has seemed the steadier candidate with the more impressive managerial acumen. In any event we’ll be voting Republican come the fall, and we suspect that so will everyone else at that caucus.

On the way out we stopped to chat with an old pal who was fretting that the Republican cause is already lost, and he was at least somewhat more hopeful after we noted that gas prices are rising, the economy is still weak, and all sorts of global crises are about to explode. Noting the large number of children accompanying the Santorum voters, a very fecund bunch, we also argued that demographic trends might favor the party over the long term.

While chatting we were interrupted by a fellow with a Ron Paul button who explained to us that presidents are actually chosen by the Council on Foreign Relations, and that it hasn’t yet made up its mind if it would re-install Obama. We asked why he had bothered to come to the caucus when the fix is in, rather than sleep in and watch basketball, and after a moment’s thought he admitted he didn’t know. When he started to explain how the Federal Reserve had been responsible for the Lincoln, McKinley, and Kennedy assassinations we excused ourselves and headed home for a nap.

Later that evening we learned that Santorum had won by a romp, but Romney had avoided any lasting embarrassment by finishing ahead of Gingrich and Paul. With a win in Wyoming and some of the territories, Romney actually finished the day with the most delegates. All in all, and factoring in the nice weather, it was a pretty good Saturday.

— Bud Norman

The Race Comes to Kansas

The race for the Republican presidential nomination has come to Kansas, where Saturday’s caucus will actually have an effect on the race for the first time in memory, but thus far you’d hardly notice.

Except for a couple of robo-calls from the Rick Santorum campaign, some e-mailed announcements of a pair of pre-caucus events, and the incessant Newt Gingrich ads that air nationally on the talk radio shows, there are few reminders that a caucus is about to occur. The only campaign yard sign we’ve spotted here in Wichita is the black-and-red Ron Paul number planted in a lawn down the street, and that’s been there for a couple of years now. The local paper and television stations have devoted a few stories to the caucus, but the success of the Wichita State basketball team has been getting much more attention. Even among our most politically-minded friends and acquaintances, the caucus has not been a frequent topic of conversation.

Giddy Democrats will point to this apparent lack of interest as proof that Republicans are unenthused about their candidates, and they’ll be right to some extent, but count on them to overstate the case. The state’s complicated, time-consuming, and excruciatingly boring caucus system deliberately discourages the participation of the casual voter, and Kansas Republicans just aren’t a very excitable lot.

Nor have the candidates made much of an effort to whip up enthusiasm, and for good reasons. Kansas has only 40 delegates at stake, and the winner won’t necessarily take all of them, so it doesn’t make sense for a candidate to spend large amounts of time or money here. Rick Santorum recently paid a visit to Lenexa, one of the endless sprawl of Kansas City suburbs, and he and Newt Gingrich are scheduled to make other appearances in the state, but that’s been the extent of the campaigning.

National frontrunner Mitt Romney has chosen to wage his campaign elsewhere, and is smart to do so. Most of the people willing to endure the rigors of a Kansas caucus are members of the state’s fervent and well-organized anti-abortion movement, and the state usually chooses the candidate that most outspokenly shares their views. The last time around Kansas went for Mike Huckabee, months after John McCain had wrapped up the nomination, and this year Santorum is the obvious favorite. Romney can expect to carry the state if he does get the party’s nod, so there’s no reason to fight a losing battle here.

The prevailing mood here is starkly different from four years ago, when the Republicans trudged through bitterly cold to cast a desultory vote against their party’s presumptive nominee, while the Democrats went to vote for either America’s First Black President or America’s First Woman President with an almost religious passion. This year we expect the Republicans will probably genuinely like the man the vote for, won’t harbor the same dislike of the others that they had for John McCain, and will wind up voting for whomever gets the nomination. They won’t match the enthusiasm of the Democrats in ’08, but they won’t end up looking so damn gullible, either.

— Bud Norman

The Race Goes On

Mitt Romney had a pretty good “Super Tuesday,” all in all. He didn’t clinch the nomination with a convincing romp, but it was a good night. The former Massachusetts governor won six of the 10 states up for grabs, including one considered crucial to his campaign, while none of the losses were devastating and one of them was actually a boon.

The most important victory came in Ohio, which has 66 delegates and an intimidating reputation as a bellwether. Although Romney eked out a miniscule win against Rick Santorum, it’s still a good a win. The former senator from neighboring Pennsylvania has an manufacturing platform and homespun image perfectly suited for Ohio, and his loss there should be considered a damaging blow.

Romney’s victory in Virginia was made easier by the fact that only he and Texas Rep. Ron Paul were on the ballot, but it should be noted that his other opponents’ inability to deal with Virginia’s Byzantine ballot requirements speaks poorly of their managerial skills, so we also count that as a good win. An apparent Romney victory in the Alaska caucus should dash the hopes of Paul’s most quixotic supporters, who couldn’t even win the most libertarian state in the union. The victories in Massachusetts and Vermont don’t mean much, but they still go in the win column.

Tennessee was Santorum’s most impressive win and Romney’s most embarrassing loss, and will no doubt to lead to much pontificating about Romney’s difficulties in southern states, but otherwise the outcomes are not likely to affect the rest of the race. Santorum’s win in Oklahoma was predictable, given that the state is so blessedly conservative Barack Bema lost 15 counties on Tuesday in the Democratic primary, and his win in North Dakota yielded only a few delegates.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich reminded voters that he’s still in the race by winning Georgia, his home state, but that was also good for Romney. The Georgia win will keep Gingrich in the race, clinging desperately to a “southern strategy” that was largely discredited by his loss in Tennessee, continuing to split the stubborn anti-Romney vote with Santorum.

The race will go on for a while, much to the delight of Democrats everywhere, but perhaps less attention will be paid now that the outcome seems less in doubt.

— Bud Norman

The Devil and Rick Santorum

Many of Rick Santorum’s seemingly endless controversial remarks are quite defensible, but it’s becoming a rather Sisyphean chore to defend them.

The former Pennsylvania Senator and current Republican presidential candidate struggled mightily to stay on his economic message in an interview with CNN Tuesday, telling the network that “I’m going to stay on message, I’m going to talk about the things Americans want to talk about,” but it was to no avail. The report was about a speech Santorum gave four years ago at Florida’s Ave Maria University, in which he said that Satan was “attacking the great institutions of America” and that mainline Protestantism “is in shambles,” and on Tuesday, at least, that seemed to be the main thing politically-minded Americans wanted to talk about.

The mighty Drudge Report shouted the story from the top of its well-read page, offering the most incendiary snippets of the speech. The pugnacious New York Daily News weighed in with a shocked account of “Santorum’s extreme right-wing social positions.” The Christian Science Monitor, founded by a church with its own controversies, wondered “Does Rick Santorum have a Satan problem?” The left side of blogosphere went predictably crazy with the story, calling Santorum everything from a “nutjob” to a “semi-popular Sinclair Lewis character,” while the right side was conspicuously more reticent about the matter. Rush Limbaugh devoted much of his influential radio show to the issue, mostly to decry the double standard that other media apply to the religious views of conservatives, but even he conceded that “Santorum will have to answer on Satan.”

Santorum vows he will have answers, and they deserve a hearing before voters render any judgments. The idea that there is a supernatural force tempting mankind to evil is a tenet of many religions, including several that are non-western and therefore exempt from criticism by the same sorts of leftist commentators heaping ridicule on Santorum, was once embraced by many successful presidents of the past, and remains a widely-held belief even in modern America. The opinion that America’s mainline Protestant churches have gone theologically and politically squishy is widely shared by many Protestants of the sterner denominations.

Limbaugh is quite right in noting the double standards that prevail in much of the media, of course. When President Obama used the occasion of the National Day of Prayer to revive the old Social Gospel spiel to argue for higher tax rates on the wealthy, saying that “For Me, as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’ teaching that ‘for unto whom much is given, much shall be required,’” no one worried that a theocratic dictatorship was about to descend on the land. Nor did Obama’s 20-year relationship with the race-baiting, America-hating crazypants Rev. Jeremiah Wright ever receive anything like the proctological degree of media scrutiny devoted to Santorum’s four-year-old speeches. Nor do the media ever question the post-modern moral relativism that denies the very existence of evil, an idea every bit as wacky as anything that might come out of Rick Santorum’s mouth.

Limbaugh is also right to admit that the speech requires some answers, however, and therein lies an inescapable problem for Santorum and the Republican party he hopes to represent. Time spent reassuring the public that he won’t impose a Catholic version of sharia on the country is time that Santorum can’t devote to talking about the slowest economic recovery since the Great Depression, the trillions of dollars of debt that have been racked up in a futile attempt to revive the economy, the stunning incompetence of Fast and Furious and Solyndra and Lightsquared and numerous other scandals, rising gas and food prices, a deteriorating international situation, and dozens of other issues more pressing than four-year-old sermons. It looks unlikely that Santorum will ever get back on message, but the sooner the party does, the better.

— Bud Norman

State by State, by Stereotype

Several explanations have already been offered for Mitt Romney’s solid victory in Tuesday’s Florida presidential primary, and most of them are plausible.

One theory, held by distant runner-up Newt Gingrich, holds that Romney’s sizeable fund-raising advantage allowed him to flood the airwaves with negative advertising in a state too large for stump campaigning. Another theory, not held by Gingrich, is that the former House Speaker’s angry response to the media barrage revealed his flaws more clearly than the ads ever could.

Our favorite theory, though, is the one offered by internet journalist Stacy McCain, who ties Tuesday’s result to the crucial little old lady vote in Florida. He writes that “Your grandma loves Mitt Romney,” a phenomenon he attributes to the contrast between “the tall, lean, millionaire entrepreneur with dark hair and chiseled features” and “the pudgy intellectual.”

This hypothesis is based on a stereotype of Florida as a vast geezerdom, as well as an equally stereotyped view of elderly women, which makes it quite convincing. Most of the stereotypes about the various states are valid, after all, and Florida’s reputation as “God’s waiting room” is no exception.

If either or both of the first two theories are true, and they are by no means mutually exclusive, Romney should be able to achieve a similar outcome in any of the upcoming primaries and caucuses. If the McCain theory is more correct, however, handicapping the race requires looking at the upcoming schedule, which now takes the race to Nevada, Maine, Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri, then examining the candidates through the proper stereotype.

Nevada is full of Mormons and gamblers, so Romney should do well. The Mormons will be inclined to vote for a co-religionist, and the gamblers will be impressed by Romney’s success as a venture capitalist.

The people of Maine regard Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins as proper Republicans, a delusion that prairie people attribute to nine months of winter and a constant diet of sea food, so Romney should do well there, too.

Colorado is populated with bike-riding hippies drawn there by a misunderstanding of John Denver’s pop hit “Rocky Mountain High,” so look for Ron Paul to score an upset victory.

Minnesotans revere Garrison Keillor, so they have no prejudice against pudgy intellectuals, but they’re also notoriously nice, which means they will have no natural affinity for Gingrich. Rick Santorum’s squeaky-cleanness might serve him well, but expect another Romney win.

As Kansans we are obliged by state law to have nothing good to say about Missouri, but we will say that it is the most likely state for Gingrich to score another victory.

— Bud Norman