The 2012 slate of Republican candidates is shaping up to be one of the most interesting and bizarre in recent history, and I'm unsure whether I should be hoping the most outrageous candidate, or the most reasonable, makes it to the November 2012 ballot. While the most outrageous candidate would presumably have the smallest chance of winning, the risk is that a last minute October surprise could put him or her into office. Conversely, the risk of a Republican candidate perceived as more reasonable is that they could actually win.
Newt Gingrich recently explained away his multiple affairs by saying that during his life things happened that were not appropriate as a result of "how passionately he felt about this country." As if that weren't unbelievable enough, when questioned about the apparent hypocrisy of being one of Bill Clinton's main detractors during the Monica Lewinsky affair of the 1990's while he himself was having affairs, Newt pointed out that the situation is "complex," something almost unilaterally considered bad by Republicans, often critical of Democratic "nuance" when explaining issues.
Gingrich also expressed concern that the United States could be "a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists." On a recent David Pakman Show broadcast, my producer and I could barely get through this hilarious suggestion, which brings up the obvious question of why radical Islamists, a group accused in the neoconservative narrative of being willing to kill and die in the name of religion, would allow the country they take over to turn to secular atheism.
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum recently suggested that the Social Security system would be in much better shape if it were not for abortion -- that is, if there had been less recent abortions, there would be enough workers paying into the Social Security system to easily cover the benefits increasingly drawn by retiring Baby Boomers. Santorum, who unsuccessfully tried to insert language seeking to promote the teaching of intelligent design into George W. Bush's No Child Left Behind Bill, added that the nation's "abortion culture" combined with policies that "do not support families" deny America the increased number of workers it needs to support Social Security. This is confusing logic to me, because along these same lines couldn't one suggest that more abortions 60 years ago would have prevented having as many Baby Boomers retiring today?
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former pizza mogul Herman Cain have both made it clear they would not have Muslims in their respective Presidential cabinets. At an event hosted by Congressman Steve King in Iowa recently, Cain said "no, I will not" when asked if he would be comfortable appointing a Muslim to either his cabinet or as a federal judge. Romney said about as much to Mansoor Ijaz at a fundraiser in Las Vegas several years ago.
Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has decided he is comfortable participating in anti-gay radio programs, joining Bryan Fischer on the American Family Association broadcast, and taking the opportunity to mention that he supports reinstating Don't Ask Don't Tell, the recently-repealed policy which prevented gay and lesbian members of the military from being open about their sexual orientation. Pawlenty's willingness to appear on such programs shows the severe double standard that exists when it comes to gay rights. Republican candidates would not have an easy time explaining appearances on openly racist media outlets, but are able to get a pass from their peers when it comes to anti-gay media.
Donald Trump, who stands no real chance of winning the nomination, has come out of the closet as a birther, asking questions about Barack Obama's birth certificate, and even going so far as to release his own birth certificate, only to find out he released the wrong document, later providing a different one as "proof of" something. The real question Republicans should be asking Trump is whether he still supports the one-time 14.25% tax on "the rich" that he proposed in 1999, designed to wipe out the national debt.
While much of what we've heard of
the candidates has been hard to believe -- outrageous, and downright bizarre -- April 1st has come and gone, and we have not been let in on any
joke. With millions still to be spent, countless debates to be had, and
innumerable distortions and misrepresentations to be made, it's shaping up to
be a fascinating 2012 election.
In addition to the narratives mentioned above the ones still to be created, I'm curious to see how Republicans will address Barack Obama and national security. For years, the conservative discourse has been that Democrats will hesitate to use military force, but given Barack Obama's sending of tens of thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan -- shortly after winning the Nobel Peace Prize -- and getting the US military involved quickly in the Libyan conflict, that narrative will certainly have to change.