Thomas Sowell’s Tortured Logic on the Primary

Last week, Thomas Sowell issued another plea for conservatives to rally around Newt Gingrich. It was…questionable.
Rick Santorum has possibilities, but can he survive the media’s constant attempts to paint him as some kind of religious nut who would use the government to impose his views on others? And, if he can, will he also be able to go toe-to-toe with Obama in debates?

I would not bet the rent money on it. And what is at stake is far bigger than the rent money.
I have similar reservations about Santorum enabling the media to erect a false narrative about him that he won’t be able to overcome, but I think the debates have also shown that his policy chops and passion are more than adequate to mop the stage with Obama.
Mitt Romney is the kind of candidate that the Republican establishment has always looked for, a moderate who can appeal to independents. It doesn’t matter how many such candidates have turned out to be disasters on election night, going all the way back to Thomas E. Dewey in 1948.

Nor does it matter that the Republicans’ most successful candidate of the 20th century — Ronald Reagan, with two consecutive landslide victories at the polls — was nobody’s idea of a mushy moderate.

He stood for something. And he could explain what he stood for. These may sound like modest achievements, but they are very rare, especially among Republicans.
Yes, Reagan stood for something. Yes, there are real doubts about what Romney stands for. But it’s simply not true that Romney’s running as a moderate. He’s taken firm conservative stances on everything from taxes and entitlement reform to abortion and gay marriage to the border and Iran. While he might not make good on those promises once in office, the fact remains that he’s presenting as bold and uncompromising a contrast to Obama as any of the others. (And shouldn’t the “establishment”-baiting be beneath you, Mr. Sowell?)
Newt Gingrich is the only candidate still in the field who can clearly take on Barack Obama in one-on-one debate and cut through the Obama rhetoric and mystique with hard facts and plain logic.
True, Gingrich is easily the best debater in the field, and when he’s on his game, he can deliver almost Reaganesque levels of inspiration in his speeches. But there’s more to campaigning – and leading – than being good with words. Sowell seems to be betting that the general-election debates will be far more decisive than they’re actually likely to be.
Nor is this just a matter of having a gift of gab. Gingrich has a far deeper grasp of both the policies and the politics than the other Republican candidates.
Would that be the deep understanding of conservative politics that led Newt to back federal individual health insurance mandates, bailouts, federal stem-cell research funding, ethanol subsidies, “green conservatism,” Dede Scozzafava, amnesty for illegal immigrants, the creation and expansion of the Department of Education, the Bush prescription drug expansion, and the 1987 Pro-Fairness Doctrine, or to oppose Paul Ryan’s entitlement reform plan, or to flirt with Nancy Pelosi, Al Gore, John Kerry, Al Sharpton, and Arne Duncan?
Does Gingrich have political “baggage”? More than you could carry on a commercial airliner.

Charges of opportunism have been among the most serious raised against the former Speaker of the House. But being President of the United States is the opportunity of a lifetime. If that doesn’t sober a man up, it is hard to imagine what would.
This is the line that was so maddening I had to write this post. It’s not even that Sowell’s hope of Gingrich sobering up is speculative; it’s that we don’t have to speculate on this point. Gingrich has been running for that opportunity of a lifetime, and it hasn’t sobered him up at all. Despite virtually all of the conservative movement fiercely condemning Gingrich’s dishonest attacks on Bain Capital, the man still has so little discipline that he couldn’t resist peppering his speech last night with derisive references to Wall Street. It hasn’t given him enough self-control to resist smearing Romney as a heartless bastard who starves Holocaust survivors – all the while lamenting how much he wishes he could stay positive. But I guess we’re supposed to just have faith that actually becoming president would sober Newt up, even though neither running for president nor being Speaker of the House seemed to do the trick.

Thomas Sowell is an excellent economist, and I doubt he would have much patience if one of his students used such shaky, evidence-free analysis in an economic paper. So why is it good enough for politics?

New at Live Action – Newt Gingirch Reminds America That the Media Covered for Barack Obama’s Baby Killing Past

My latest Live Action post:

Each presidential candidate had his ups and downs in last night’s CNN Republican debate, but former House Speaker Newt Gingrich had the evening’s most memorable moment. Moderator John King posed the following question:

Since “birth control” is the latest hot topic, which candidates believe in birth control and if not, why?

The audience’s raucous booing made clear they weren’t interested in the press’s latest talking point, and neither was Gingrich. He turned the tables beautifully:

I want to make two quick points, John. The first is there is a legitimate question about the power of the government to impose on religion activities which any religion opposes. That’s legitimate. But I just want to point out, you did not once in the 2008 campaign, not once did anybody in the elite media ask why Barack Obama voted in favor of legalizing infanticide. So let’s be clear here. If we’re going to have a debate about who is the extremist on these issues, it is President Obama, who, as a state senator, voted to protect doctors who killed babies who survived the abortion.

Right on cue, Naureen Khan of National Journal sprang into action to defend the president and the press:

According to Politifact, an independent fact-checking organization that looked into similar claims made by former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum on the campaign trail, Obama voiced his opposition to the new legislation as a state senator because it would have given legal status to fetuses and would thus have been struck down by the courts, and because Illinois already had laws to ensure infants who survived abortions would be given medical attention.

Not true…

Read the rest at Live Action. (I’ve previously examined Obama’s abortion extremism here, here, and here.)

New at American Thinker – Health Care: The Straw That Should Break Newtmania’s Back

Of all the arguments against nominating Mitt Romney for president, perhaps the strongest is that his enactment of RomneyCare and his refusal to disavow it could neutralize the Republicans’ ability to run against Barack Obama’s own intensely unpopular health care plan.  If Romney is the GOP standard-bearer, expect Democrats to play up the similarities and common ancestry of the two plans, challenging Romney to explain why one is a bipartisan success story and the other is an intolerable threat to our way of life.  It’s certainly a concern Republican primary voters must take seriously.
But the idea that Newt Gingrich would be preferable on that score is about as unserious as it gets.  The former speaker may be talking tough now on how “you can’t make the difference” between RomneyCare and ObamaCare and boasting that “I can ask [Congress] to repeal ObamaCare because I haven’t passed something which resembles it,” but the truth is that Gingrich is every bit as compromised on health care as Romney is — perhaps even more so.
You wouldn’t know it from his bluster on the stump, but Gingrich endorsed RomneyCare in 2006.  Despite some criticism of the bill’s imperfections, he “agree[d] entirely with Governor Romney and Massachusetts legislators that our goal should be 100 percent insurance coverage for all Americans” and, to that end, called RomneyCare “the most exciting development of the past few weeks,” with “tremendous potential to effect major change in the American health system.”
Read the rest at American Thinker.

For the Sake of the Conservative Movement, Romney Deragement Syndrome Has to Stop

The phenomenon of Romney Derangement Syndrome hasn’t gotten nearly enough attention during this election cycle, but it’s real. 
RedState.com has engaged in a smear campaign against Romney supporters and National Review for not being sufficiently anti-Mitt. Dan Riehl rants and raves about how conservatives should let Barack Obama win a second term if Romney is the nominee. Marco Rubio gives an awesome pro-life speech, and half the commenters at Hot Air can’t do anything but whine about Rubio being a phony because he’s too nice to Romney. Ann Coulter defends RomneyCare (in an admittedly flawed column that deserves a separate post), and Mark Levin can barely keep the contempt out of his ever-rising voice. Newt Gingrich engages in the most despicable distortions imaginable, and yet he’s still the victim in too many observers’ eyes. Jennifer Rubin is too sympathetic to Mitt for some, so she’s caricatured as a fraud and a joke.
People are whipping themselves into such a frenzy over Mitt Romney that they’re declaring friends enemies and deluding themselves into staying home on Election Day. (And many of them, incredibly, are doing it for a candidate who more effectively styles himself as a conservative, but substantively is no more conservative or outsider than Romney.)
Look, I get that Romney’s past is worrisome and his electability is problematic. I’m a Santorum guy. I get that the Republican Party needs to be taught a lesson. But now is not the time for an experiment in winning by losing. The stakes are too high.
The hope that a GOP defeat will finally shock the party into reforming itself is much, much too big an if to seriously weigh it against the damage Barack Obama would do in a second term. And I’m not even talking about the daily spending of money we don’t have, the continual erosion of liberty by unelected bureaucrats, or the burdensome regulations and tax increases (though all that alone would be enough to warrant replacing Obama with Romney).

Consider that his judicial appointments will further shape the American court system and shred the Constitution for decades beyond his presidency. Consider ObamaCare, most of which doesn’t take effect until 2013—if a new federal healthcare apparatus takes root, with brand-new entitlements Americans will be dependent on, it will be virtually impossible to dismantle. Consider that if the Left is allowed to import & regularize a permanent underclass through amnesty, before long these experts of voter fraud will have a brand-new pool of voters to ensure statist government for the rest of our lifetimes. Consider that an Obama who doesn’t have to worry about re-election will be more willing to consider any number of UN erosions of American sovereignty. Consider that Eric Holder will continue corrupting the Justice Department and persecuting states that try to crack down on vote fraud while allowing the fraud itself to go unpunished.

You mean to tell me stopping all that isn’t important enough to warrant holding your nose and voting for Mitt Romney? Really?

Besides, it hasn’t been that long since it was Mitt Romney who was the “conservative alternative” to John McCain (who we still managed to rally around), according to many of today’s RDS sufferers like Erick Erickson and Mark Levin, who told us that Romney shared our values and would uphold them in office. And as Ramesh Ponnuru writes:
He has not moved left since that time. His positions on policy questions are almost all the same as they were then. On a few issues he has moved right: He now favors a market-oriented reform to Medicare, for example. 
If Romney was to McCain’s right then, he is still. He’s to George W. Bush’s right, too. Bush never came out for the Medicare reform Romney has endorsed. Bush never said that Roe v. Wade should be overturned, either. Romney has.
Romney’s platform is solidly conservative on fiscal, social, and defense issues. Serious conservatives like John Bolton, Maggie Gallagher, John Willke, Robert Bork, and Jay Sekulow vouch for him. Supporting him won’t require us to sell our souls, but merely to hold him accountable to his promises afterward we oust Obama. He’s no Reagan, but he’s a step up from everyone we’ve run since then – John McCain, George W. Bush, Bob Dole, and George H.W. Bush.

Granted, maybe he’ll lose the election. Maybe he’ll be a disaster as president. I don’t know. But y’know what? Neither do Mark Levin, Michael Reagan, Sarah Palin, Erick Erickson, Jeffrey Lord, Dan Riehl, William Jacobson, John Hawkins, Thomas Sowell, Jeff Emanuel, or anyone else. Maybe he’ll destroy Obama and save the country from the brink of Armageddon. (And maybe, just maybe, the vote will be close enough that the RDS pouters like Riehl will be enough to cause Obama’s victory.) We simply won’t know unless we try.

Beyond 2012, this spectacle has revealed a deeper sickness within the conservative family. For all we’ve mocked liberals for the cult of personality they developed around Obama, too many of us have done the same. Too many (in most cases Perry and Gingrich backers) have rashly proclaimed their guy the Reaganite, the outsider, the true conservative savior, and therefore anyone not onboard (in most cases Romney backers) is either a pretender or a sellout, no matter how reasoned their argument or how genuine their past contributions to conservatism.

We shouldn’t be enemies. There’s no reason for us to be at each other’s throats. We’re all working to save our country, and we’re all just trying to weigh the relative strengths and weaknesses of three fallible men. Coming to different conclusions than one another about that is no sin, and can’t be allowed to divide us during such a critical turning point in our nation’s history.

New at Live Action – Newt Gingrich Tries to Paint Mitt Romney as an Enemy of Catholic Hospitals

My latest Live Action post:

What many have decried as an unusually nasty campaign got even nastier earlier this week, as Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich accused rival Mitt Romney of being insensitive to religious liberty and conscience rights:

“You want a war on the Catholic Church by Obama? Guess what: Romney refused to allow Catholic hospitals to have conscience in their dealing with certain circumstances,” Gingrich said, apparently referring to the handling of emergency contraception in universal health care laws.

But HotAir.com provides more context, revealing that the truth is more complex. In 2005, Romney actually did just the opposite: he vetoed a bill that would have forced Massachusetts hospitals to offer abortive contraception:

[T]his particular bill does not require parental consent even for young teenagers. It disregards not only the seriousness of abortion but the importance of parental involvement and so would weaken a protection I am committed to uphold.

Read the rest at Live Action.

Sarah Palin’s Credibility Is the Latest Casualty of Gingrich’s Campaign

I was so disgusted by Sarah Palin’s Facebook note pushing the Big Lie that Newt Gingrich is a conservative outsider persecuted by a malevolent Republican “Establishment” that I’ve been considering taking the time to write a response. Fortunately, Jonathan Tobin at Commentary saved me the trouble by penning a concise explanation of just how badly Palin mangled the truth:
She claimed former Reagan administration officials who noted this week Gingrich was anything but a loyal soldier of the 40th president were engaged in a “Stalin-esque rewriting of history.” This is not merely nonsensical, it is illustrative of the defects in her own character and intellect that have led many of us who once cheered her rise to conclude that she has no business ever putting herself forward for high office again.
While Gingrich supported Reagan and Mitt Romney did not, those who pointed out the former speaker’s often petulant and negative comments about the leader of his movement were merely illuminating a little-known aspect of the truth, not “re-writing” it. For Palin to use that over-the-top rhetoric — in effect comparing someone like Elliott Abrams to a communist monster — is contemptible. For her to go on in the same piece to say Gingrich’s critics were employing “Alinsky tactics at their worst” shows again she understands little about either Saul Alinsky’s writings or history.
While Palin and Gingrich have little in common, the one characteristic they do share is hypocrisy. In her posting, Palin claims Mitt Romney needs to be “vetted” more thoroughly because Democrats will attack him in the fall. Yet she considers any attempt to give the same attention to Gingrich, a man with a freight train’s worth of damaging personal and political baggage that renders him unlikely to win a general election, to be above such concerns.
Go read the whole thing. If you’re still on the fence about Palin, consider three more salient points. First, Palin wasn’t troubled by Republicans using left-wing tactics when Gingrich and Rick Perry were leveling their class-warfare smears at Bain Capital: she dismissed those as the routine “rough and tumble” of politics and falsely claimed that Perry was merely questioning Mitt Romney’s job-creation claims. Second, David Swindle notes that Gingrich says he’d put Palin in his administration, which just might be relevant to her Newt endorsement-in-everything-but-name. Third, if she’s so concerned about Republicans using “Alinsky tactics at their worse,” then perhaps she should read Phillip Klein’s piece on Gingrich’s own cribbing from Saul’s playbook.
I’ve written a lot on Sarah Palin’s behalf over the years, most of which I still stand by, since she was the victim of many specific false charges that nobody should be subjected to. But in light of her latest attacks on whoever won’t fall in line behind Gingrich, it must be conceded that she is first and foremost a populist opportunist, not a principled leader of true grassroots conservatism. Her actions have confirmed the pattern that she began in endorsing Rand Paul in the 2010 Kentucky primary: making decisions based not an a careful reading of candidates’ merits, but on a completely superficial assessment of who insists “I’m an outsider!” the hardest. I can’t sum it up better than Tobin:
Palin, who seems far more interested in burnishing her image than actually helping her party, manages to keep her name in the news every now and then with statements such as this one. But her problem is the more she talks, the more she reminds us why she has doomed herself to the margins of political discourse.

In Which a Newt Gingrich Apologist Transcends Self-Parody

Ann Coulter had it exactly right yesterday when she took aim at the way Gingrich’s apologists have, almost overnight, emptied the word “Establishment” of nearly all meaning. The most preposterous example to date has to come from noted hack Erick Erickson in this Twitter exchange. In response to someone else’s (manifestly false) claim that “all the GOP insider[s] who bash Newt chose Crist over Rubio,” Erickson replied, “And supported Harriet Miers.”
You can probably see the punchline coming from a mile away. Guess who else supported Harriet Miers?
If your answer was “Newt Gingrich,” give yourself a hand.
So we now live in a world where “true conservatives” must circle the wagons around Newt Gingrich to stand up to undefined “elites” who are evil because they do things like agree with Newt Gingrich on Supreme Court nominees.

It’s insanity like this that makes me question why I ever bothered to get a degree in Politics.

In Defense of National Review Against the Right’s Daily Kos

We’re currently witnessing the death throes of Rick Perry’s campaign. He finished fifth in Iowa, sixth in New Hampshire, and is currently polling fifth in South Carolina, where his fans have placed their hope for a turnaround. He’s in sixth in Florida, and fifth place nationally.

In a final, desperate search for something that can turn his fortunes around, Perry has decided to join Newt Gingrich’s leftist attack on Mitt Romney’s time at Bain Capital. It backfired. Badly.

Perry and Gingrich’s demagoguery has been fiercely condemned by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Glenn Beck, Jim DeMint, the American Spectator, National Review, Reason, the Weekly Standard, Human Events, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Examiner, the Washington Times, Commentary, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, Michelle Malkin, Charles Krauthammer, Power Line’s John Hindraker, Ace of Spades, American Enterprise Institute, the Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute, ex-Perry financial supporter Barry Wynn, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, and PJ Media head Roger Simon, who very candidly apologized for having ever backed Perry, calling him “less qualified, it turns out, to be president than my dead grandmother.”

In other words, Rick Perry (and Newt Gingrich) has offended just about every corner of the Right—traditional and libertarian, moderate and hardcore, establishment and grassroots, commentator and activist, blogosphere and radio, Mitt fans, competitors, and haters alike.

Everyone, that is, except for RedState. Erick Erickson first said he didn’t mind the attacks (with Perry’s version “a bit more carefully nuanced” than Newt’s), then revised his argument to, yeah, but why did Romney support TARP? (Maybe for the same reason Perry did too, Erick?), and later wrote a post conceding the attack “has gotten out of hand”—while falsely claiming Bain got government bailouts and lying about what Perry’s critics were saying: “the sudden decision that it is verboten to level any attack at Romney because of Bain […] corporations should not be immune from criticism.”

The other front-pagers have rationalized the attack, mildly criticized it amidst teeth-gnashing about Romney’s general awfulness, and complained that it was distracting us from bashing Romney on healthcare. The strategy is simple: maintain the single-minded focus on taking down Romney at all costs, while discussing Perry as little as possible, refusing to give a moment’s consideration as to how Perry’s own words just might undermine RedState’s increasingly-hysterical insistence of Perry’s unique conservative authenticity. 

The shameless Perry-whoring is pathetic enough, but recently the site jumped the shark past “pathetic” straight to “obscene” with Thomas Crown’s attack on National Review. After assuring us what a good friend he is to everyone at NR, he tells the magazine “you have lost your way” for no discernible sin other than preferring Romney to Perry:

You have alienated yourself from your readership and your movement […] You have forgotten that one of the founding creeds of the modern conservative movement is A Choice, Not An Echo […] You are supposed to be a beacon of what is best in us, not a reminder that some days, you just can’t win […] It’s a shame, and we’re all poorer for it. We’ll miss you, and hope you come back to us some day.

Nearly 2,000 words, and yet Crown can’t squeeze in the most important part of any argument: the facts to substantiate his thesis. All he has is a handful of lazy mischaracterizations of both the candidates and NR’sWinnowing the Field” editorial:

Consider that in one fell swoop the publication managed to dismiss the longest-serving governor in the nation, with a record of conservative governance unmatched by any governor current or recent past [if you ignore the liberal parts of his governorship and his flip-flop record…oh, and how many of those Texas jobs went to illegals?], linking him unsubtly to a crank known for conspiracy theories and Ron Paul [nowhere in NR’s passage on Perry & Paul do the even remotely link the two, though since Crown raises the subject, Perry has praised Paul before]; praise Mitt Romney, who while apparently a model conservative (the sort who helps get abortion funding in state-run mandatory health insurance) [not true] has failed to seal the deal with conservatives for some unknowable reason; praise Jon Huntsman, whose entire campaign was a John Weaver special from tip to tail (this is not a compliment) [fair enough, but hypocritical: RedState’s had plenty of praise for Huntsman, too]; and praise Rick Santorum, one of the greatest (if dimmest) champions the pro-life movement has had, and who was so conservative he went to war for massive increases in federal spending almost every day, [that’s exaggerating a blemish on an otherwise-excellent conservative record] and whose greatest knock is not his loss to an anodyne nobody by a margin that made even the rest of 2006 look like a joke [also oversimplifying], but rather a lack of executive experience [Fair enough, but still hardly indicative of any problem at NR].

Crown’s fantasy of Perry support being some sort of conservative litmus test doesn’t hold up, and neither does the idea that National Review has sold out to Romney (a smear that RedState has peddled before). In fact, since Erick Erickson and Thomas Crown are so interested in which publications have put personality above principle, let’s do a little comparison:  

At National Review, I can read Ramesh Ponnuru endorse Mitt Romney and Kathryn Lopez vouch for his pro-life sincerity, but I can also read Michael Walsh argue he’s “plainly not” the “candidate the hour calls for” and Katrina Trinko report on jobs lost due to Romneycare. I can read the Editors disqualify Newt Gingrich from consideration, but I can also read Thomas Sowell endorse Gingrich (twice) and Jonah Goldberg credit him as “the only candidate to actually move government rightward.” I can read Shannen Coffin criticize Rick Perry’s Gardasil mandate, but I can also read Henry Miller and John Graham defend it, as well as Christian Schnieder defend Perry on in-state tuition for illegals. I can read Quin Hillyer defend Rick Santorum’s small-government credentials, but I can also read Michael Tanner and Jonathan Adler blast his “big government conservatism.”

Can I read substantive defenses of Mitt Romney, or substantive criticisms of Rick Perry, at RedState? Only from the occasional diarist who hasn’t been driven away by the thought police. From Erickson or the team writers? Don’t count on it. As John Scotus documents, Erickson’s been shilling for Perry since Day 1. The RedState narrative is that Perry’s the only candidate who “authentically represents smaller government,” “by far, the greatest alpha male conservative in a generation,” and supporting anyone else would be settling. The dark side of Perry’s record was almost completely ignored. Romney, however, is routinely characterized as the worst thing to happen to the GOP since John Wilkes Booth. Why, nominating him would kill conservatism! Perry critics and Romney sympathizers are routinely harassed. Erickson repeated Perry’s dishonest attacks on Romney over education and imposing Romneycare nationally, and even calls Romney a bad Mormon

National Review has an editorial leaning toward Romney; RedState toward Perry. There’s no shame in either, but while the former publication is a place where dissent thrives and every candidate is given equal fairness and scrutiny, the latter has dedicated itself fully to a biased image of their guy and their designated anti-Perry.

And yet, Thomas Crown has the nerve to lecture National Review about being unfair to candidates? RedState is the only major conservative venue not disgusted with Perry’s “vulture capitalism” smears, and yet National Review is the one somehow out of step with conservatism?

Which publication lost its way again?

We shouldn’t be surprised that the website that smeared Michelle Malkin for criticizing Rick Perry would conduct itself so dishonorably throughout this campaign. Until Eagle Publishing realizes how far one of their publications has fallen and replaces Erickson Erickson with someone committed to cleaning it up, whatever use RedState once was to the conservative movement will continue to be outweighed by the stench Erickson has allowed to permeate it.

In the meantime, I’m sticking with National Review.

The Official CFO 2012 Republican Presidential Roundup

In the 2008 Republican primary, it was pretty easy for to pick a candidate early on: I endorsed and vigorously supported Mitt Romney. I reasoned at the time that, aside from his formidable private-sector experience and squeaky-clean personal life, he best unified the social, fiscal, and defense wings of conservatism, and though there were a couple flip-flops in his record, the baggage and positions of his competitors were easily worse. I stand by that decision.

This time around, though, the decision has been more difficult, essentially because the candidates seem more evenly mediocre. Romney looks worse (for reasons we’ll get into below), there are no extreme babykillers among the viable candidates who need to be derailed, and overall there’s just nobody whose assets aren’t marred by substantial drawbacks of one form or another.

But recently, enough has come into focus that I feel comfortable making concrete pronouncements about the major active, official candidates, including an endorsement. So here’s an alphabetical rundown of my take on each candidate, with my endorsement at the end.

Michele Bachmann: Bachmann strikes all the right notes on the Constitution, life, marriage, economics, and defense, she’s got the passion to convince people of her sincerity and her ability to mount a tough challenge to Obama, and she couldn’t care less about whether or not her remarks or positions are expedient or establishment-approved. On the other hand, she’s sometimes a clumsy communicator, and has had a string of minor gaffes and blunders (not reading that Iowa pledge more closely is the most recent example). Ultimately, I’d be more than comfortable voting for Bachmann over Obama.

Herman Cain: I like Herman Cain the man, but I just can’t warm up to Herman Cain the would-be president. He’s generally solid on the issues and a great businessman, but his campaign seems to be something of a one-trick pony, with little more to offer than generic rhetoric about being an outsider and a problem solver, which simply isn’t enough to paper over the sense that he’s utterly unprepared when discussing foreign policy, which is kind of a big deal for a potential commander in chief. Of course, I’d happily vote for him in the general election, since our current president is far more incompetent…he just hides it better.

Newt Gingrich: Newt is frustrating. He’s extremely intelligent, a superb speaker and debater, has lots of terrific ideas, and is second to none in his ability to convey the gravity of a situation. But he’s also got a scandal-ridden personal life, a laundry list of foolish flirtations with liberals, and a horribly managed campaign. I’d still vote for Gingrich in the general, since I think most of his values are basically in the right place (and let’s face it, who wouldn’t love to see Barack Obama forced to debate this guy for an hour on stage?).


John Huntsman: Huntsman is a flake, a moderate-to-liberal Republican, and a phony. I wouldn’t vote for him in the general, which is good because he’s not getting the nomination. Next.
 
Gary Johnson: He’s like Ron Paul, only worse. He’s going nowhere, and under no circumstances would I vote for him. Next.

Ron Paul: I’ve written extensively about why Ron Paul’s treason, demagoguery, conspiracism, and dishonesty disqualify him from serious consideration, so I don’t think I need to repeat myself too much there. (Oh, and while I’ve admitted before that Paul’s got a solid record on abortion, pro-lifers should be aware that he says the only other candidate he’d support is Gary Johnson, the one pro-abort in the field this time around.) And did you know he’s drifting leftward on immigration? In the unlikely event that the GOP would be so irresponsible as to nominate Paul, I could not in good conscience vote for him, even in a general election against Obama.

Rick Perry: There seems to be a general sense that Perry’s the new favorite for Republican nomination, thanks to a combination of his job-creation record and the perception that he’s the True Conservative TM of the race. And that scares me for three reasons. First, his record on immigration is horrendous. Second, his recent calls to leave gay marriage and abortion to the states are troubling, even if he did flip-flop on both lickety-split. Third, how can you have faith in the liberty, limited-government principles of a guy who issued an executive order mandating that little girls be vaccinated with an unproven anti-STD drug? It’s vitally important that we get Obama out of office, and I’m willing to put up with a lot of bull for the greater good, so I’d vote for Perry in the general if it came to that…but I would do so reluctantly, and with very restrained expectations about his presidency.

Mitt Romney: After Romney dropped out last time, I said that if he put the effort into immersing himself in the movement and taking the lead on the issues, and if he stuck with it between 2008 and 2012, the nomination would be his for the taking. Well, that hasn’t happened. At best, we got the occasional okay-yet-unremarkable op-ed or sound byte. It’s bad enough that Romney hasn’t distinguished himself, but since then ObamaCare has reignited scrutiny over the healthcare plan he championed in Massachusetts, to the point where Democrats are giving him backhanded “thanks” for it. So the doubts about Mitt’s conservatism are bigger than ever, and he’s chosen to circle the wagons around RomneyCare rather than add another flip-flop to the list.  Mitt Romney’s drawbacks are even more pronounced this time around, and he brings nothing special to the table that would offset them. That said, I would vote for Romney in the general election—he still embraces (albeit imperfectly) all three legs of the conservative stool, I believe him when he says he wouldn’t replicate RomneyCare at the federal level, and I think he’s got strong potential to threaten Obama on the economy.  

Rick Santorum: Santorum is a strong fiscal conservative, a strong defense hawk, and arguably the premiere social conservative lawmaker of the past 20 years. He’s a veteran of the conservative movement, an experienced senator, and a courageous, unapologetic advocate of conservative principles. On paper, it seems like a no-brainer that he should be the Republican nominee. The problem is, he just can’t seem to gain any traction, which I believe is due to a combination of growing antipathy toward social conservatives among establishment Republicans and Santorum’s inability to make his message resonate with voters. I’d love to vote for him in the general…but sadly, I don’t think I’ll get the opportunity.

Conclusion: If it were strictly a question of who I think would make the best president, I would back Rick Santorum. But unless he manages to grain some real traction, I don’t see him as a viable option, and I think Perry’s got the potential to fool enough people that we need a viable, trustworthy, conservative alternative. To that end, I am endorsing Michele Bachmann for the Republican nomination for President of the United States. She’s a little rough around the edges, but in the final analysis I believe she’s got the principles, the know-how, and the fire to take on Barack Obama and set America back on track.

GOP Debate Reaction

The following rankings are based strictly on their performance last night, not their overall merit as candidates.

First Place: A tie between Michelle Bachmann and Newt Gingrich. I was surprised to see Bachmann at all, simply because she hadn’t made her intentions to run official before last night, and I didn’t expect to be as impressed with her performance as I was (I’ve always liked her passion for conservatism, but she has had a few foot-in-mouth issues). Bachmann was clear, polished, passionate, and generally delivered a performance that stood in stark contrast to the Left’s caricature of her as an unserious nut. Gingrich, unsurprisingly, delivered a performance that showcased his unmatched command of the details and a no-nonsense attitude that I think would have taken him far if…well, if he wasn’t Newt Gingrich, weighed down by all the baggage that entails.

Second Place: Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney. Solid performances, but more or less interchangeable in my view. Romney may have been a little more polished, though he’s lucky nobody forced him to get too specific about health care. Speaking of which…

Third Place: Tim Pawlenty. He would have been in a tree-way tie for second with Santorum and Romney, were it not for chickening out when given a chance to back up his attacks on RomneyCare. Tim does realize that, if he wins the nomination, he’ll have to say uncomplimentary things about Obama to his face, right?

Fourth Place: Herman Cain. I never expected to be as disappointed as I’ve been in Cain. Despite being able to speak with great confidence and clarity on economics, it’s clear he hasn’t made any effort to improve his foreign policy credentials. He also stumbled badly when trying to explain his remarks on the loyalty of Muslims, and I was disappointed to learn he wouldn’t support the Federal Marriage Amendment.

Fifth Place: Ron Paul. His delivery is so terrible that I can’t fathom how this guy managed to develop a cult of personality around himself. He comes across as the crazy uncle you’re constantly praying won’t embarrass you in front of dinner guests.