Turning and turning in the widening gyre...while hoping not to lose friends. Because that's the real challenge, these days. And as the results of the Iowa caucuses come in, I will do my best to be an equal-opportunity satirist and return to my regularly-scheduled needlework blogging tomorrow.
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity. -- W.B. Yeats
Politics has got to be the greatest spectator sport in America. Much better and more brutal than football. My cousins in Iowa have a chance to have their votes count, but most states I've ever voted in have late primaries and so I've never played a significant role in choosing a presidential nominee... by the time I got to vote it was always mostly over. BUT I did work for the National Right to Life Committee for 3 years, have seen firsthand many of the players and the playing fields of politics in the late 20th century, and was once frisked by Dan Quayle's Secret Service agents. (I'll have to tell that story sometime, I guess).
I love politics, but it's a game for the young and strong of heart, those with nerves of steel and rhinoceros hide. Vast amounts of wealth and influence can't hurt either. But competence? Not really necessary, as President Obama has shown. I'd like to think that the Republican field has better to offer, and really hope there will be a meaningful challenge to the status quo coming out of this. It could happen: truth can be stranger than fiction.
By "a meaningful challenge to the status quo," I most decidedly do not mean Ron Paul. I am astounded at how so many religious and cultural conservatives think his particular brand of isolationism and extremist libertarianism is worthwhile. I think David Bahnsen may have nailed the reason for it on his blog, where he describes Ron Paul as appealing to the mediocre. And I can see that. He's like the kid in class who doesn't really want to do the homework, but instead wants to stir things up so the standards are changed for him. He thrives on negative attention, and actually hopes he'll get sent to the principal's office, because he doesn't like the school and its rules anyway. He's almost anti-patriotic in his desire to diminish American influence abroad, promote a nuclear Iran and a weak military. And his endorsement of legalized dope and prostitution, the conspiracy theory of 9/11, and tolerance of racist comments are just beyond the pale. But what really ticked me off was in one of the debates, where he was asked about Supreme Court justices Roberts, Thomas, Scalia, and Alito: and he couldn't think of a single positive thing to say about any of them. As someone who fought like anything to get some of those guys in, I find that incredibly offensive, proof that Paul is not interested in Republican or conservative ideas at all. He has no real plan for how he would govern if elected. Why don't we all just lob spitballs at the student council members from the back of the room? I know, we're not supposed to speak ill of a fellow Republican. And some of his economic policies are sensible. That's about all I can say for him.
Sarah Palin: I know, she's not running. I'm not sure how I feel about that. It's no secret I'm a huge fan of hers: we both have a child with Down syndrome, a love for the populist masses that make up the Tea Party and the rural Red States, and (I flatter myself) a gift for the occasional witty verbal jab. I think she would have made a phenomenal VP for McCain, though I've never been convinced she had enough experience to be President... but people had those same kinds of reservations about Reagan. I think she has the potential to be a Reagan for this generation... or not. Maybe her best place right now is in the media, trying to reverse the politics of personal destruction that she knows all too well from the receiving end. But I still like to daydream about having an inspiring female President who is not teleprompter-dependent.
Mike Huckabee: Another one not running. He was my caucus pick last time around, and had he declared last year, I would almost certainly have voted for him. He's got the soft touch that wins hearts as well as minds, and a race with him in it would be honest and clean: the kind of presidential race that should appeal to the better natures of all Americans. But the cynic in me says that Americans have lost their better natures and don't want a clean race. Also, I wonder if he has the necessary personality traits to be President; could he face down an evil tyrant and make choices that he knew would result in loss of American lives, for example. Quite possibly this is one of the reasons he decided against running.
Michele Bachmann: Probably not relevant anymore; I have always had to fight the impression that she was Palin lite: Junior Varsity. That's strange, because her credentials are impressive, both personally and politically. Her voice is a bit irritating... but then many people say that about Palin. The feminist in me is really troubled by the fact that she is the one who has to fend off the "Are you a flake?" questions when Ron Paul (for example) doesn't. Particularly when she has given some of the best and clearest condemnations of Paul's policies of any of the candidates I've heard. It's not fair, but there it is: female and black Republicans come in for a disproportionate amount of negativity.
Speaking of which: Herman Cain. That was just sad. He should never have run; he had no realistic conception of the level of scrutiny he would receive. But let it never be said that Republicans weren't willing to jump behind a black candidate.
John Huntsman: Who? Um, I'll have to do some research and get back to you.
Mitt Romney: They say he has nice hair...eh, it's okay, I guess. His debating and public speaking skills are very good. Don't like his sense of entitlement to the nomination, just because of his large fortune and years of waiting. We're not supposed to hold his Mormon religion against him; but the truth claims that Mormonism makes are the kind that make me question the intellect of those who seriously embrace them. Not that we need the greatest intellect in our Presidents, but still... I wonder what book he would take the oath of office on, whether he'd have to have all Mormon Secret Service agents to go with him to the Mormon temple so it wouldn't be defiled, and how he'd conduct high-level international negotiations if he can't do it over alcohol, tea, or coffee. Little things like that; but I suspect that he'll be the nominee in the end. And middle America will never warm to him, Ron Paul will stage a 3rd party run (or at least rabble-rouse enough to throw the election into disorder) and Obama will get a second term. And then we'll have total economic collapse. For all this, I don't dislike Romney and will cheerfully vote for him if he's the nominee.
Rick Perry: He was supposed to be the candidate that would win the evangelicals. They say he has nice hair too, but I like Romney's better. Really, hearing him speak in public can be painful. I like the idea of governors of Texas becoming President; I think it's worked well in the past. But I'm not sold on this one. Not dead set against him, but not on board the train. Anybody can have a bad debate or four, I guess. But Perry seems to have the same kind of sense of entitlement that I get from Romney, only less well disguised.
Rick Santorum: I've had a soft spot for him ever since I played a small part in his 1992 House race (I placed a few ads). He has the credibility of a leader who has come from within the pro-life movement, so it's not surprising that he's appealing to social conservatives. He has nice hair too... but he does remind me of some of the geeky guys who used to want to date me. Just a little awkward in the prime time lights. He's a good guy, and I'll probably support him if he makes it to March. I'm guessing he will be the Huckabee equivalent (to Romney's McCain equivalent) in this election cycle, and the end result will probably be the same. He'll have a good run and make it farther than expected, but lose to Romney in the end. But I'm stating it here in the hopes that truth will be stranger than fiction and something positive will shake loose.
Newt Gingrich: I have no idea whether he'll last much longer or not. I was flabbergasted when he took the lead a few weeks back. With negatives that high, and an ego bigger than any of the other candidates, it's still actually fun to see him do what he does best: set the pace of the debate for everyone else. Whether I like him personally or not is irrelevant: he still has ties to the glorious Reagan years, and can articulate the conservative positions very well. Surprisingly he's less likely than many of the other candidates to go negative... he doesn't really need to. In this political climate, that's impressive. What's not impressive at all: his hair. Totally underwhelming.