Is this the best the GOP has?

I was at the Defending the American Dream Summit last Friday, put on by the Americans for Prosperity Foundation. I was really there just for the Free Market Job Fair, sponsored by the Leadership Institute and ConservativeJobs, but I also managed to see the speeches by Romney, Cain, and Giuliani in the ballroom. (Fortunately, I left long before the OccupyDC nutcases appeared, but that’s another post.)

Sitting there in the back, the room illuminated only by the four gargantuan TV screens projecting the speaker’s face, and the light on the stage, I was awestruck by how cavernous the place was. No, really—you could have parked the Nimitz in there and still probably had enough room for a Space Shuttle or two. That feeling, however, was quickly replaced by awe at the candidates who graced us with their presence—and the fact that one old guy up in the front was really spry, to be hopping around like that.

Namely, though, the awe was, “This is the best the GOP has?”

To me, Romney’s biggest plus was he has a voice that belongs in nearly every commercial about life insurance and in cartoons. It has that deep texture that you look for in voice actors, and seriously—could you not imagine this guy being the voice of Skeletor? Aside from that, however, I was disappointed. He offered up the same conservative talking points of cutting government spending and working from one’s bootstraps (including a story about creating Staples in the back room of a warehouse with used Naugahyde chairs), but those are words: will they actually translate into action?

Similar things were heard from Herman Cain, who came out in an imitation of the “I’m Coming Elizabeth!” manuever from Sanford & Son. The crowd welcomed him as they might welcome a rockstar, and hung on his every word, and I could see why: for all his faults, Herman Cain has a sense of gravitas, a natural charisma, almost like a gospel preacher, and connects with his audience. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be a good leader, though; I believe Confucius said to watch for people with silver tongues, and for all his faults, I think Confucius was pretty much right on the money there.

So who do we have running for the Republican nomination? What are we getting out of this horse race? Nothing good, I’d say. Here’s a list, with their (as of this writing) RCP average in brackets:

Romney [23.0]: Gee whiz, where do we begin? I feel in the future, when they say a candidate “tacks like a weathervane,” they will instead say “My lord, that’s guy a freaking Romney.” Even though Mitt has swung conservative lately, let us not forget that the man was fairly liberal in Massachusetts, and beyond that, actually stated he wanted to liberalize the GOP and change it up. I don’t, per se, have a problem with that—the Republican Party is, by and large, far too right-wing on social issues for this country’s good—but his constant swinging back and forth, from climate change to the collective bargaining referendum in Ohio and now to his liberal/conservative mixup, shows that he really has no substance or principles and will just say anything to get elected. He did say two very good things at the Summit, namely, he would scrap Davis-Bacon and push for a Balanced Budget Amendment, but I have the feeling he was just offering up red meat to the base. He is, in that sense, more like Obama that anyone in the Republican Party wants to admit. Hey, at least with a guy like, say, Huckabee, back in 2008, I knew where he stood. I knew I disagreed with him. But Romney is like a slippery eel—actually, he’s more like an extradimensional entity without a quantum state, continuing to just jump around from one thing to the next. Does the GOP really want to nominate a Republican Kerry in 2012 for President?

Cain [25.5]: I agree wholeheartedly with Doug Mataconis that Cain’s campaign is something of a joke. I mean, come on: this is the guy who didn’t know that China had nukes for fifty years already! He also wanted to electrify the border fence with Mexico and whose only real concrete “plan” I have seen is his 9-9-9 plan, which has it’s good points and it’s bad points. At the summit, he stressed that we currently have a “foggy foreign policy” (which was not, alas, a pun about Foggy Bottom) and said he would “clarify who our enemies and allies are!” As if that’s truly a foreign policy in and of itself. As a candidate, I just cannot take Herman Cain seriously, and while he has tremendous support within the Republican base (even after the sexual allegations) that will not serve him in the general election, when he will be required to reach out to independent and moderate voters and, potentially, even some disaffected Democrats. Somehow, Cain’s joke caught fire and now he believes his own story. This is not good for anyone.

Gingrich [11.0]: By the power of Greyskull, how this man has returned to the polls with gusto is beyond me (but then, so is Cain’s staying power.) Getting a helping hand from Doug Mataconis again, Gingrich “has more baggage than Imelda Marcos had shoes.” It’s pretty sad, but the two big things that stick out are, first, his tenure as Speaker, which oversaw the government shutdown in the nineties (which occurred not over the federal budget, apparently, but because he had to exit the back ramp of a plane), and secondly, that the man is an even bigger flip-flopper than Romney. I mean, when you say that “any of my statements used in an ad are lies,” how the hell can anyone take you at your word? Does he think he’s going to pull an “I, Mudd” trick on the voters and cause us to all seize up like low-budget androids that can’t solve paradoxes? Not to mention his campaign staff all quit earlier this year, and he decided to take a vacation rather than actually deal with campaigning. The government shutdown will come back to haunt him, certainly, as voters do not remember that one fondly, but all told, he is a grab bag of bad mojo. If Newt was up against Barack in the general, we could immediately dismiss any possibility of Obama being a one-term president.

Perry [9.8]: I’m a little mixed on Perry. On the one hand, he did push for a TSA anti-groping bill that would punish TSA “agents” for their sexual molestation in airports. That’s a very good thing in my book, even if it ultimately did not pass. He’s also introduced a new flat tax plan, which, like Cain’s, has some good and bad points. However, there’s also that business with Merck, where he vaccinated young girls with a potentially problematic drug without parental consent, and his foreign policy is, well, to be honest, I don’t really know anything about the man’s foreign policy stances. I’d be very cautious if he swung back towards neoconservatism—we’ve had enough of that over the past eleven years—and I’m also unsure of how conservative he would play on social issues, but if he doesn’t go too far, Perry might end up being an acceptable president. As long as he actually walked the walk on limited government conservatism and trim some branches off the excessively large federal tree.

Bachmann [3.5]: I will be honest with you, I was very frightened when I first saw Bachmann rocket to the top of the polls earlier this year. She did not strike me as someone who could be president, especially not in this country. It has nothing to do with her gender, but everything to do with her political positions, as well as being married to the guy who used to head up an “ex-gay clinic.” Oh, no no no. Look, as much as pro-life is still on the table, this is the 21st century, and we’re past the point where it’s okay to demonize homosexuals. Hell, even Clint Eastwood, for god’s sake, doesn’t care. And if he doesn’t care, why should you? Fortunately, however, Michele has tumbled down in the polls, and I don’t think she’s long in this horse race.

Huntsman [1.2]: I kinda wish Hunstman had more points in the polls, just so that we’d have more variety. For better or worse, however, Huntsman is practically nonexistent. He’s right now chasing after something that went extinct years ago—Liberal Republicans.

Santorum [1.5]: Why is this homophobe running, again?

You may notice there are a few candidates I did not mention, the least of whom is Buddy Roemer. However, that’s because the two I have in mind, Ron Paul [8.2] and Gary Johnson [N/A], are the only two Republicans running for the nomination that are actually serious about the issues with our country. They want to end our wars, including that one on drug use that we’ve received an F- in. They actually want to drastically cut spending, and don’t speak about it in platitudes: Ron Paul released a plan that would cut $1 trillion from the federal budget in the first year by hacking away several federal departments, while Gary Johnson has noted that even defense spending must be on the table and has proposed cutting the defense budget by 43%. One major difference between them is that Ron Paul is a fierce advocate of Austrian economics and would like the put the US back on the gold standard while ending the Fed, but Gary is more moderate, advocating only to audit the Fed and end quantitative easing. I can take that, for now. Moreover, both candidates have platforms that, while still conservative (albeit libertarian conservative), appeal to fiscally minded independents and potentially have tremendous support in certain Democratic interest groups, particularly those who are against foreign adventurism.

Unfortunately, the Republican base, out of short-sightedness and whipped into a froth by “conservative” talk show hosts, have swung far to the right and are not paying attention to the long view. There is a chance they will win with Romney, provided the economy does not improve and centrist voters decide they truly are sick of Obama, and maybe eke out a victory if Perry is the nominee, but if they choose Cain, Gingrich, or Bachmann, you can forget that. The rest of the American public will say, “That’s the best you got?” and will turn away.

Somehow, they don’t realize that.

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