I got an unexpected Christmas present the other day, out of the blue, unwrapped, and unsolicited. Well, semi-unsolicited. I ran into a longtime colleague of mine, a veteran journalist and a dyed-in-the-wool, God-bless-Ronald-Reagan Republican; a lifetime red-stater and regular campaign contributor stuck in a mostly blue state. Not having talked politics in a while, I asked, in total innocence, "What do you think of the presidential candidates your party is offering?" Well, what to my ears should appear, but a diatribe worthy of Rachel Maddow, my dear. "It is absurd, insulting. None of them is qualified. It's embarrassing. Obama is going to win in a landslide. I couldn't vote for any of them," my colleague said.
"Not even Romney?" I asked.
"But how did this happen? How did this become the Republican party's best and brightest?" I continued.
"They're not. And all those (Tea Party) Republicans who got elected last time are going to lose next time. It's a disgrace. I got phone calls from all the Republican campaign fundraising committees. I told them not to call me. I'm not giving any of them any money."
Pleasantly dumbstruck, I ventured on. "But you're a conservative," I offered.
"No, I'm a moderate."
Well, maybe. But only if by moderate you mean I'm not a falling-off-the-edge-of-the-universe conservative. Which should tell you all need to know about the Republican party today. A lifetime, patriotic party faithful, who keeps the letters from the White House expressing thanks for a generous contribution, a traditional conservative Republican, can't stand to be linked with the people running the Republican Party today. That is, if anyone is running it.
Off the weekly free-for-all they call a debate, one would have to wonder if any adults are in charge of trying to salvage the reputation of the party of Lincoln. If they were, how could they stand by silently while a bunch of candidates has demonstrated a collective unworthiness for the right to run for president, never mind be elected? Their flaws -- inexperience, inflexibility, lack of understanding of world affairs, self-righteousness, lack of understanding of domestic affairs, poor communication skills, hypocrisy, immorality, ignorance, intolerance, and total lack of credibility -- have been spotlighted each week by the candidates themselves as they attack each other.
As I digested my colleague's visceral response to my question, I wondered how many other longtime Republicans felt this way and what they would do when it came election time, and, more to the point, why they were letting this happen to their party, the party of Ronald Reagan?
Do they hate Obama that much? I find that hard to believe. Do they hate all immigrants? Do they hate all gays? Do they hate all Muslims? Do they hate all poor people? Some of their candidates speak as if they do.
The latest candidate to be elevated to front-runner status as the Iowa caucus approaches is Ron Paul, a libertarian in everything but party registration. Republicans can't stand him, and he would be better off running on a third party line, yet there he is, next in line after the rest of the GOP field got through chopping away at Newt Gingrich's resume. Unpredictable, undisciplined, immoral, untrustworthy, self-consumed and irrational were some of the bouquets thrown at Newt, who modestly asked his fellow candidates to engage in a no-name-calling campaign. Too late for that, Newt.
See, the problem the Republican candidates have is that they all can see their fellow candidates' flaws all too clearly. They keep quiet about them until it suits them to do otherwise, like when someone starts to pull ahead of the field. Suddenly, honesty is acceptable in assessing Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich.
No one talks much about the two Mormon candidates, Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney. Again, I think there's a bit of unconscious honesty at work here. I think they, and a lot of stalwart Republicans like my colleague, know that Huntsman is the best and brightest of this lot, and that he scares all the Tea Partiers because he believes in science and taxes and making efforts at bipartisan governing, and he let Obama appoint him ambassador to China. Ooh, scary.
And Romney, the supposed favorite of traditional Republicans? This the Tea Party Republicans have got exactly right. You can't trust a word the man says. He will change his views on a dime, or whatever the going rate is. Some Democrats and Independents actually like him because of this. They think he'll drop his ultra-conservative views once elected president and that makes him acceptable instead of Obama. Now there's something we want in a leader, someone who says and does whatever is necessary to advance his own interest on that particular day. John McCain tried that. Didn't work.
So, who would my colleague like to see run for president?
Bob Gaydos is a veteran of 40-plus years in daily newspapers. He began as police reporter with The (Binghamton, N.Y.) Sun-Bulletin, eventually covering government and politics as well as serving as city editor, features editor, sports editor and (more...)
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