SEND IN THE CLOWNS — Don’t Bother, They’re Here

Aug 22nd, 2011 | By | Category: Featured Article

Who among those cavorting about the Republican Party’s presidential three-ring circus will have the dubious honor of running against the GOP’s declared nemesis, that big-government socialist demon, President Barack Hussein Obama? And does it really matter?

Here’s everything you ever needed to know about the Republican aspirants to the White House who will never make it there – and if they do…shudder! By their own words shall you know them.

But let’s not bring in the clowns just yet. First, let’s review the credentials of the incumbent the unlucky clown will have to face.

Obama — The Last Adult

Before heading to Martha’s Vineyard for a well-earned vacation, the President took his re-election campaign message for a test-drive through the Midwest. That message: Republicans want to protect tax breaks for the super-rich at all costs, even if it means tipping the nation – and you – into bankruptcy. By all accounts, much of the Midwest is buying it.

This from The Washington Post:

(A)s his tinted black bus pulled into Randy Hultgren’s (Illinois) congressional district, President Obama told residents that Republicans like Hultgren must be willing to raise taxes to reduce the deficit.

A few hours and 90 miles away, Hultgren’s own constituents had picked up the message, repeatedly hectoring the freshman congressman at a town hall meeting to raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations.

“We have clear information that. . .tax cuts, especially to the super rich, has (sic) not increased any more jobs,” one man told him. “I want to know under what conditions you would be willing to consider increasing taxes, especially on those who can afford it?”

“I just have one question for you tonight,” said another. “Did you sign Grover Norquist’s pledge to never raise taxes?” — referring to the promise that has been signed by most congressional Republicans, including Hultgren.

“Don’t you have the confidence in your own ability in Congress to make up your own mind? You need Grover Norquist to tell you?” the man continued.

That scene, the Post reported, “has been repeated at town hall meetings across the country this August.”

It’s fairly well established now that Obama had been the singular adult in the room throughout the recent debt ceiling showdown (often much to the chagrin of the left who would have preferred a deadly game of chicken).

When an Illinois voter asked whether the president had abandoned liberals in the debates over healthcare reform, the debt ceiling and repealing Bush-era tax cuts, according to the Chicago Tribune, he gave her a primer on realpolitik:

My job as president goes beyond just winning the political argument. I’ve got a whole bunch of responsibilities, which means I have to make choices sometimes that are unattractive and I know will be bad for me politically and I know will get supporters of mine disappointed….

The bottom line is we’re moving in the right direction. But I know it’s frustrating, because the other side is unreasonable. And you don’t want to…reward unreasonableness. Look, I get that. But sometimes you’ve got to make choices in order to do what’s best for the country at that particular moment, and that’s what I’ve tried to do.

Now, let’s bring in the clowns, one by one, from the likeliest to unlikeliest challengers.

1. Rick Perry — Flavor of the Year

The latest entrant to the circus is the cowboy who said more than once in 2009 that it would be a neat idea for Texas to secede from the Union again (as it did in 1861) if it finds federal regulations and taxation too onerous.

“When we came into the nation in 1845, we were a republic, we were a stand-alone nation,” the cowboy governor told one interviewer, even before his famous quip about it to a Tea Party crowd in Austin.  “And one of the deals was, we can leave anytime we want. So we’re kind of thinking about that again.”

Sorry, Guv. That wasn’t the deal. Check your history book. Membership in the nation isn’t optional. Frankly, if it were optional my preference would be to cede you back to Mexico, a win-win for everyone, as I wrote here.

More recently, Perry’s been beating his gums about “gittin’ America back workin’ ag’in,” as in these recent remarks at Tommy’s Country Ham House in Greenville, S.C., reported by the Post:

We may talk about a hundred different issues…but let me tell ya, every time I’m going to come back to the issue that is most important to Americans, and that is, “How are we going to get this country workin’ again, sir?” The answer is: We’re gonna cut the taxes, we’re gonna lower the regulations, we’re gonna get the lawyers out of our business, and we’re gonna get America back workin’ again.

His logic is impeccable. How do you get America “workin’ ag’in”? Why, putting it to work, of course. Yessireebob. And you do that by getting rid of pesky lawyers, taxes and those meddlesome regulations that protect life, limb and employment standards. After all, as he never ceases telling us, he oversaw the Texas “miracle” of job growth over his decade-plus as Lone Star governor.

He got Texas “workin’ again” alright, but he did it mostly with government largesse, including from big bad federal guv’mint pork. More from The Washington Post:

…(T)he number of government jobs in Texas (emphasis added) has grown at more than double the rate of private-sector employment during Perry’s tenure.

The disparity has grown sharper since the national recession hit. Between December 2007 and last June, private-sector employment in Texas declined by 0.6 percent while public-sector jobs increased by 6.4 percent, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Overall, government employees account for about one-sixth of the workforce in Texas….

Texas reap(ed) more than $227 billion in federal spending in 2009 — more than double its 2001 total… (including) nearly $25 billion in federal stimulus money, which has gone to everything from road projects and unemployment benefits to helping to balance the state budget. Befitting its population, Texas has received the third-highest amount of stimulus money in the nation, behind California and New York.

On the regulatory battlefront, Perry especially doesn’t like “EPA regulations (that) are killing jobs all across America.” He wants Obama to stop every dang one, the New York Times reported.

Global warming? In his book-length rant against the feds, “Fed Up, Our Fight to Save America from Washington,” he calls it “one contrived phony mess that is falling apart under its own weight” and a “secular carbon cult” led by false prophets like Al Gore. Yeah, what do scientists know, anyway?

For that matter, what do economists know? Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Perry said recently, would be committing a “treasonous” act if he tried to boost the economy during Obama’s presidency by “quantitative easing,” a policy by which the Fed buys Treasury bonds to pump more money into the economy, something Perry thinks is a decision to “print more money” to help Obama get re-elected.

Didn’t we just come through a regnum in which a Texas born-and-bred intellectually-bankrupt President thought he knew more than the scientists and economists of the world? Do we want to do that again?

Despite his head-in-the-sand approach to problems, Perry has leap-frogged the already well-established clowns of the party and can claim the mantle as front-runner. This is certainly true in states like Missouri, where he trailed Mitt Romney by only 3 points in a recent poll, and Louisiana, where he led the pack at 30 percent, with Rep. Michele Bachmann and Romney at 16 and 15 percent respectively. I expect he’s doing fairly well in Texas, too.

Doesn’t this tell us something about the anatomical region in which the Republican Party’s brain is lodged these days?

2. Michele Bachmann — Bye-Bye Buzz

The Minnesota Congresswoman had all the buzz buzzing her way until the Texas governor jumped into the race and upset her sanctimonious applecart. The Post’s Chris Cillizza recently posted an excellent analysis of this phenomenon and its implications here.

The Sarah Palin wannabe had it all going her way in Iowa after driving her own governor, Tim Pawlenty, out of the race. A Tea Party darling and religious-right zealot, she knew how to push all the right Hawkeye buttons (pun intended). Here’s the world of Bachmannia:

Global warming? A hoax, of course, because “there isn’t even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas.” The bliss of ignorance must be great indeed.

Gas Prices? “Under President Bachmann you will see gasoline come down below $2 a gallon again.” (One of her rivals, John Huntsman, Jr. – see below, called that remark “completely unrealistic” and “not founded in reality.” “I just don’t know what world that comment would come from,” he told ABC-TV.)

Cap-and-Trade?  “I want people in Minnesota armed and dangerous on this issue…. (W)e need to fight back.” I suspect she has no idea who Captain Trade is.

The EPA, Republicans’ whipping boy of 2011? She wants to rename it the “job-killing organization of America.” Her plan: “I guarantee you the EPA will have doors locked and lights turned off, and they will only be about conservation. It will be a new day and a new sheriff in Washington, D.C.”

Her math and history skills also hail from a parallel universe.

“(W)e had one employee at the federal Department of Transportation that made $170,000 a year at the beginning of the recession. We had the trillion-dollar stimulus, and 18 months into the recession, we had 1,690 employees making over $170,000.”

Let’s see. The stimulus was $870 billion, not a trillion, but why quibble over small change like $130 billion?

The “beginning of the recession”? That would be in December 2007, under George W. Bush, as were the pay hikes she castigates. “By contrast, Obama in 2010 recommended the smallest federal pay raise since 1975 — 2 percent — and then froze salaries in 2011,” according to The Washington Post fact checker. Sorry, Michele. Once again you don’t know what you’re talking about.

History? Remember that gaffe about how our Founding Fathers wouldn’t rest until they rid the nation of the scourge of slavery – a scourge that in fact was written into the Constitution our Founding Fathers wrote and adopted? It wasn’t eradicated until after a blood-drenched civil war that took some 700,000 lives 60-plus years after the founding. Facts are stubborn things, Michele.

I won’t go into the details of all the other idiocies she has committed in public, since I’ve already catalogued them here, but a few Bachmann low-lights are in order:

The Great Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill: She advised BP to defend itself by insisting, “We’re not going to be chumps, and we’re not going to be fleeced” or forced “to pay for perpetual unemployment and all the rest.”

Anti-Americans in Congress: “I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out are they pro-America or anti-America?”

Health Care Reform:  “(S)ocialized medicine is the crown jewel of socialism. This will change our country forever.” (I, for one, hope so!)

Same-Sex Marriage: This is “an earthquake issue” that “will change our state forever….  (O)ur K-12 public school system…will be required to learn (sic) that homosexuality is normal, equal and perhaps you should try it.  And that will occur immediately, that all schools will begin teaching homosexuality.”

Evolution: “(T)o believe in evolution is almost like a following, a cult following.  If you don’t believe in evolution, you’re considered completely backward.” (Agreed!)

Americorps: “I believe that there’s a very strong chance that we will see that young people will be put into mandatory service…. (T)here are provisions for what I would call re-education camps for young people, where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward and then they have to go and work in some of these politically correct forums.” (Paranoia sublime.)

On the less serious side of her rewrite of history and other assorted facts is her presidential campaign launch in her own hometown, Waterloo, Iowa, which she hailed as also the home of actor John Wayne (not so; however, it was home to serial killer John Wayne Gacy for a while) and her birthday shout-out to Elvis Presley in Spartanburg, S.C. – on the anniversary of his death in 1977.

That this woman would aspire to the presidency is nothing less than alarming.

Mitt Romney — Presumptive Hair

I’ve often thought the former Massachusetts governor was the master model for those framed photos of perfectly coiffed men in barbershops.

That said, compared to the foregoing clowns, the early favorite to win all the marbles must look like a philosopher king. Which is probably why he can’t win the nomination. Like Newt Gingrich (see below), he thinks too much. This leads him to speaking in nuanced language, which of course is considered flip-flopping among Republicans, which he also does masterfully (I mean flip-flopping, not “speaking like a Republican”).

His position on EPA, for instance, is complex, according to the New York Times.

In Massachusetts he proposed reducing greenhouse gas emissions and starting a regional carbon cap-and-trade program, but now has backed away from those stands, although he still supports some regulation. “I believe we should keep our air and our water clean,” he told a town hall-style meeting in New Hampshire in July. “Do I support the EPA? In much of its mission, yes; but in some of its mission, no.”

In 1994 and 2002 he said abortions should be “safe and legal.” In 2005 he said they should be banned except in case of rape, incest and to save the mother’s life.

In 1994 he wanted to abolish the federal Department of Education. By 2005 he thought it “can actually make a difference” in supporting quality schooling.

In 1994 he opposed prayers in public schools. In 2007 he said, “We ought to allow ceremonies, graduation ceremonies and public events that we have the ability to recognize the Creator.”

In 1994 he wrote: “We must make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern,” and in 2002 he opposed banning same-sex marriages. But by his 2008 presidential run he was saying unconditionally, “I oppose same-sex marriage. I also oppose civil unions….” This July he refused to sign a pledge opposing gay marriages, then on August 4 he denounced gay marriages and signed just such a pledge.

Such yes-and-no talk, culled from Wikipedia, will not endear him to the government-bashers of the right. Nor will it enlighten the rest of us as to what he really believes or would do about anything.

Jon Huntsman, Jr. — Nice Guys Finish Last

The former Utah governor and ambassador to China is reputed to be a distant cousin of Romney’s. I’m tempted to ask, isn’t everyone in Utah’s Mormon community likely to be a distant cousin of everyone else?  Likely or not, Huntsman’s vaunted soft-spoken brand of cautious Republicanism does bear resemblance to Romney’s yes-and-no style of politics. It probably also explains why his candidacy hasn’t — and won’t — catch fire.

Bon mots from Huntsman include this from Time Magazine: “I come from a long line of saloon keepers and proselytizers, and I draw from both sides.” So true. Like his cousin, Mr. Nice Guy has been “drawing” from all sides for quite a while. Time continues:

(He is) so careful that he’s disinclined to weigh in on any matter on which he hasn’t been fully briefed or made up his mind…. Already he’s in primary-season mode, moderating his previously moderate views by praising the Tea Party as “a very legitimate manifestation of people’s anger and frustration in where we are today” and junking his support for the regional cap-and-trade carbon-emissions pact he and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger once championed.

His claim to “saloon-keeper” origins notwithstanding, he’s the son of a billionaire who “oversaw the invention of the egg carton and later the clamshell containers that Big Macs and Quarter Pounders come in,” Time reported, then asked, “In the age of the Tea Party, of cable and blogosphere bile, is there room for such civility on the national stage? Does the influence of the Tea Parties leave any room at all for a moderate like Huntsman?” My hunch is “No.”

Newt Gingrich — Every Which Way

The former House Speaker is still trying to live down his “Meet the Press” remarks last May in which he described as “radical…right-wing social engineering” House Republicans’ plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program. After apologizing personally to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), author of the radical plan, he scooted over to Fox News to try to squelch the reaction from his right flank:

I want to make sure every House Republican is protected from some kind of dishonest Democratic ad. So let me say on the record, any ad which quotes what I said on Sunday is a falsehood. Because I have said publicly those words were inaccurate and unfortunate….

Not that he has ever retracted a single word of his opinion that the Ryan plan was “right-wing social engineering.”  He simply wants us all to know that his speaking his mind about it was “unfortunate.”

What might the Gingrinch say today about these other past statements, drawn from political ruminations.com?

I think that on most things most days, the vast majority of practicing homosexuals are good citizens. So why would you say that of all the different groups you can pick on, this is the one group that you are going to single out? …(The Republican Party’s position) should be toleration…. I don’t want to see police in the men’s room, which we had when I was a child, and I don’t want to see trying to educate kindergarteners in understanding gay couples. (1994)

Then in June, after New York permitted same-sex marriage, he opined: “I think we are drifting toward a terrible muddle which I think is going to be very, very difficult and painful to work our way out of.Which is it, Newt? Tolerance or homophobia?

In his ongoing efforts to square the circle of his past behaviors, he offered this on his own sex scandals while he had been hell-bent on impeaching Bill Clinton for his:

It doesn’t matter what I do. People need to hear what I have to say. There’s no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn’t matter what I live.

Or this tortured (and incomprehensible) effort to weasel out of personal responsibility:

There’s no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate. And what I can tell you is that when I did things that were wrong, I wasn’t trapped in situation ethics, I was doing things that were wrong, and yet, I was doing them.

Finally, Slate assembled quotations from Gingrich and Osama bin Laden that demonstrate the former Speaker validating everything the late terrorist said about America. Atlantic Wire went a step further and posted five of the quotes without identifiers and challenged readers to determine who made which incendiary remark. Maybe you can identify who is the jihadist and who the God-fearing Christian. I couldn’t. You can take the quiz here.

Since leaving the House in disgrace in 1998, Gingrich has authored 17 books, reviewed 156 titles on Amason.com from 2000 to 2008, and devoured no one knows how many more books. Commented The Washington Post last month:

Despite his omnivorous reading, it’s hard to conclude much about Gingrich’s thinking. Unfortunately, his reading habits reconfirm the rap on him — as the GOP’s supposed man of ideas, he might have difficulty sorting wheat from chaff.

Might? Frankly, I think his most cogent remark was given to the Post way back in 1985: “I think I was pretty weird as a kid.” As the twig was bent, so grew the tree.

Rick Santorum — Math Whiz

Unseated from the U.S. Senate by Pennsylvanians in 2006 after two terms, Santorum has had his clownish moments in the sun as well. This from Think Progress:

The reason Social Security is in big trouble is we don’t have enough workers to support the retirees. A third of all the young people in America are not in America today because of abortion, because one in three pregnancies end (sic) in abortion. (3/29/2011)

Hmm. The accuracy of his statistics aside, has he considered how those abortions have also helped reduce unemployment? You’re not drawing an unemployment check or adding to the jobless statistics if you were aborted, after all. One is tempted to consider abortion a jobs program.

In what may be this campaign cycle’s most stunning display of mathematical legerdemain, Santorum had this exchange with CNN’s Ali Velshi on July 5:

SANTORUM: (Obama) passed a huge stimulus package that now we know, over the past two quarters, has actually cost American jobs…. They claimed in December that, uh, by the end of last year that they created 280 million jobs, and now they’re saying that they created only 240 million jobs…. In other words, there’s 30 million less jobs as a result of the stimulus package.

VELSHI: That’s not a loss of jobs, Senator, that’s a smaller aggregation of jobs. You can’t go on a campaign, a national campaign with this kind of math Senator. It’s just incorrect…. You might want to check that math.

Forget that 280 million minus 240 million is not 30 million but 40 million, his whole premise is from outer space. As Think Progress noted following that CNN interview:

The entire American civilian labor force is about 153 million people. There are currently 13.9 million people unemployed. If the Obama administration had created 240 to 280 million jobs, the unemployment crisis would have been solved several times over, and America would have so many jobs that it would need to start employing workers from all over the world just to fill all the available positions.

Another clown down, two to go.

Ron Paul — Libertarian Outlier

Rep. Paul will not win the nomination — again. One reason: he thinks too much. Another: he’s  too sane (a known by-product of thinking). He’s anti-war and anti-foreign entanglements, and for Apple Pie and all the other platitudes in the American hagiography. Besides, he’s not really a Republican. He’s a Libertarian, and all reasonably informed Republicans in America know it.

Just consider his nuanced and variable position on the environment and regulation, as tracked by the New York Times. He generally favors a hands-off approach to federal regulation, but he has backed tax incentives for developing clean energy. He doesn’t like tax breaks for oil and gas companies but likes Arctic drilling. He’s not sure about climate change but concedes global temperature changes are unexplained.

Is such a candidate likely to win the hearts and viscera of the Republican multitudes? Not in your wildest imaginings.

Herman Cain — Hold the Anchovies

Does anyone honestly believe this guy can win? Get serious! And it’s not because of his race. The head honcho of Pizza King? We have an obesity problem in this country due in no small measure to his product, and we’re going to send him to the White House? Waistline alert!

In the August 11 GOP debate, Cain quoted:  “A poet once said, ‘Life can be a challenge, life can seem impossible, but it’s never easy when there’s so much on the line.’” (He’s said it numerous other times, too.)

It wasn’t a poet who said those not-quite-immortal lines. It was disco queen Donna Summer in her song “The Power of One.” Even more bizarre, this isn’t even one of Summer’s classic hits. She recorded it just over a decade ago as the theme song for Pokémon: The Movie 2000.

Summation

Two others are also still in the presidential scrimmage, but let’s face a little reality here. Even more so than Cain, Paul, Santorum and (probably) Gingrich, neither Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (Michigan) nor long-ago Louisiana Gov. Charles Elson “Buddy” Roemer III (1988-1992) stand a snowball’s chance, so why bother digging around in their attics for clownish remarks? What you have is what you have, a party of clowns trying to unseat a real President.

As Time’s Melinda Henneberger quoted Huntsman strategist John Weaver, “This is the weakest Republican field since Wendell Willkie won the nomination on the sixth ballot in 1940.” No argument here.

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