Archive for Sunday, March 6, 2011

Careless candidates muddle GOP race

March 6, 2011


— If pessimism is not creeping on little cat’s feet into Republicans’ thinking about their 2012 presidential prospects, that is another reason for pessimism. This is because it indicates they do not understand that sensible Americans, who pay scant attention to presidential politics at this point in the electoral cycle, must nevertheless be detecting vibrations of weirdness emanating from people associated with the party.

The most recent vibrator is Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas who won the 2008 Republican caucuses in Iowa and reached that year’s national convention with more delegates than Mitt Romney, and might run again. Huckabee, now a Fox News host, was asked by Steve Malzberg, a talk radio host, this:

“Don’t you think it’s fair also to ask (Barack Obama) ... how come we don’t have a health record, we don’t have a college record, we don’t have a birth cer — why, Mr. Obama, did you spend millions of dollars in courts all over this country to defend against having to present a birth certificate. It’s one thing to say, I’ve — you’ve seen it, goodbye. But why go to court and send lawyers to defend against having to show it? Don’t you think we deserve to know more about this man?”

Huckabee should have replied, “I’ve seen paranoia, goodbye.” Instead, he said:

“I would love to know more. What I know is troubling enough. And one thing that I do know is his having grown up in Kenya. ...”

Huckabee thereupon careened off into the (he thinks) related subject of Obama having sent back to the British Embassy in Washington a bust of Winston Churchill that Obama’s predecessor had displayed in the Oval Office: “ ... a great insult to the British. But then if you think about it, his perspective as growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather, their view of the Mau Mau revolution in Kenya is very different than ours because he probably grew up hearing that the British were a bunch of imperialists.”

The architects and administrators of the British Empire were imperialists? Perish the thought. A contemporary of William Jennings Bryan once said of the three-time Democratic presidential nominee, “One could drive a prairie schooner through any part of his argument and never scrape against a fact.” But an absence of facts means there is no argument.

A spokesman for Huckabee dutifully lied, saying his employer “simply misspoke”: “The governor meant to say the president grew up in Indonesia.” Obama did not really grow up there — he spent just five of his first 18 years there and the other 13 years in Hawaii. But obviously Huckabee, with his dilation on the Mau Maus, was deliberately referring to Kenya. Unless Huckabee thinks the Mau Maus were Indonesians, which he might count as another “one thing that I do know.”

Republicans should understand that when self-described conservatives such as Malzberg voice question-rants like the one above, and Republicans do not recoil from them, the conservative party is indirectly injured. As it is directly when Newt Gingrich, who seems to be theatrically tiptoeing toward a presidential candidacy, speculates about Obama having a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” mentality.

A magazine article containing what Gingrich calls a “stunning insight” is “the most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama.” Gingrich begins with a faux question: “What if he is so outside our comprehension” he can be understood “only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior?” Then Gingrich says this is not just a question, it is “the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.”

To the notion that Obama has a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview, the sensible response is: If only. Obama’s natural habitat is as American as the nearest faculty club; he is a distillation of America’s academic mentality; he is as American as the other professor-president, Woodrow Wilson. A question for former history professor Gingrich: Why implicate Kenya?

Let us not mince words. There are at most five plausible Republican presidents on the horizon — Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former Utah Gov. and departing ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

So the Republican winnowing process is far advanced. But the nominee may emerge much diminished by involvement in a process cluttered with careless, delusional, egomaniacal, spotlight-chasing candidates to whom the sensible American majority would never entrust a lemonade stand, much less nuclear weapons.

— George Will is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


Tom Shewmon 7 years, 1 month ago

I have posted this before, but I met Byron York (Washington Examiner, formerly National Review) in a Honolulu piano bar one night a few weeks ago and through a little chit-chat, the one thing he said upon being asked is that the GOP had better cough a candidate pretty fast. Huckabee-no. He's really said some stupid things lately. Newt-no. Re-tread extraordinaire---give it up Newt and keep writing books. Palin, we all know that answer. Of course that being said, the economy will need to have a galactical shift before Obama's bid for re-election is anywhere near secure. I'm not sure he'll even cinch the DNC nomination at this rate.

Scott Drummond 7 years, 1 month ago

Disappointed, Tom.

As I read Mr. Will's piece, I found myself wondering: "how will Shewmon spin this damning assessment?" Surely, George Will is part of the liberal media elite or something. Instead, the disappointing revelation that you hang out chit-chatting in Honolulu piano bars. Wow.

Bill Getz 7 years, 1 month ago

The GOP will spend the next two years fighting for control of the Party, willing to go down before a personally popular Demo incumbent for the time being, with victory in 2016 in mind. By that time the only unifying candidate they have, with popular support to boot, David Petraeus, will have finished his mission, been retired for a couple of years, and step reluctancly into the breech. In the meantime, we will be treated to the rare phenomenon of a party imsurgency playing itself out for all to see. Rather like the infrequent passage of Halley's Comet. Sit back and watch the show! BG

weeslicket 7 years, 1 month ago

tom, i think you should run for president.

Maddy Griffin 7 years, 1 month ago

I've told him this many times. He does seem to have all the answers...NOT!!

weeslicket 7 years, 1 month ago

really, tom. i think even FOX NEWS !! !! would have a blast with you.

tomatogrower 7 years, 1 month ago

Mr. Will, I'm sure a lot of moderate Republicans are thanking you now. But you are going to get labeled a RINO by others.
And what about that comment by Huckabee about Natalie Portman's marital status? He defends a teenager who kept her baby, and didn't marry the father, but he condemns the woman who is more than capable of supporting her child, and plans to marry the father. Maybe he wanted her to get an abortion? KInd of defines hypocrisy doesn't it? He must have really hated that movie V. After all, it portrayed the theocrats as the bad guys.

jafs 7 years, 1 month ago


Being against imperialism and colonialism is a bad thing?

How does that work exactly?

Our country was founded by a revolution against the British, who had colonized this country - we were anti-colonialism and imperialism at our beginnings. How did we manage in a couple of hundred years to become what we fought against?

Scott Drummond 7 years, 1 month ago

In fairness to Hucklebum, I am pretty sure his barely concealed beef was really all about standing with the darkies against the Brits.

Maddy Griffin 7 years, 1 month ago

Newt Gingrich needs to sit down and shut up. The man who went after Clinton so rigorously for the Lewinski affair while having an affair of his own. Imagine.

voevoda 7 years, 1 month ago

Obama already produced exactly the same sort of birth certificate that every other Hawaiian has shown. The image is posted on the internet, for everyone to see. The original document itself has been validated by Hawaiian authorities several times. They are the only ones who can authenticate the document, and they have done so. Now they say that they aren't going to waste any more of their state's money to respond to frivolous inquiries. And his birth at a hospital in Hawaii was recorded in Honolulu newspapers at the time it occurred. There is no way that those birth notices could have been fabricated. Give it up, Liberal. Obama doesn't have anything more to prove concerning his birth.

beatrice 7 years, 1 month ago

Sorry Liberal, but if correcting others on their reading skills, then you should know the saying is "couldn't care less."

Oh, and I attended public schools.

JustNoticed 7 years, 1 month ago

(see Steven PInker on could/couldn't care less. It's disturbing.)

beatrice 7 years, 1 month ago

I don't believe the intent was sarcastic.

weeslicket 7 years, 1 month ago

liberal says: "Why not just produce the birth certificate. If you can't because you are not a naturalized citizen, just create one and present it. Shut the people up. I would love to have someone explain to me why he has not done so, I have to produce my kids birth certificate to play sports, I really do not think it is to much to ask, to have the president produce his. His actions or lack thereof, truly should make us all wonder, what the h3ll is going on?"

  1. he has
  2. so has the state of hawaii
  3. now is the "sit down and shut up" part
  4. still not convinced?
  5. as already posted, this information is easily accessible online
  6. return to "sit and shut"
  7. still don't get it?
  8. must've been your teachers' faults.
  9. nope. couldn't have anything to do with you, now could it?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

"Again read my post."

We read it. And it's very clear that you do care, even if you feel the need to lie to yourself about it.

So either except the facts, or proudly declare yourself a birther. You can't have it both ways.

weeslicket 7 years, 1 month ago

and liberal performs the old soft shoe.... HEY !! LOOK over THERE !! tra-la-la-la-la

hey liberal: question asked and answered. with repeated redirections.

SERIOUSLY, someone is an idiot. it simply must be your teachers.

bad_dog 7 years, 1 month ago

Your link doesn't involve a "birther" trying to make an issue out of this, Tom-quite the opposite, in fact. Do you even read the stuff you link to as purported proof of your position or do you just throw up crap up to see what sticks?

Never mind.

bad_dog 7 years, 1 month ago

Must have taken a page from Rove's playbook, eh?

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 1 month ago

A good column by Will. Too bad he himself engaged in this same behavior he is criticizing over the last two years.

I guess that Will has realized that conspiratorial right-wing lunacy is a good tool to win the House of Representatives, but not the presidency.

The question is: once the genie is out of the bottle, can it be put back in? Can GOP candidates ween themselves from the foaming-at-the-mouth craziness that has been so successful over the past two years to appear serious enough for the presidency? We shall see.

Will is certainly backing away from it here.

Oh, and Shewmon-Barrypenders '12!

weeslicket 7 years, 1 month ago

good post.

(can i buy shewmon-barrypenders "12 bumperstickers anywhere, yet??)

barlowtl 7 years, 1 month ago

Both Republican & now the Democratic Governor of Hawaii have vouched for the birth certificate, but you must consider them flunkies too.

verity 7 years, 1 month ago

The presidential candidates have a serious quandary. They feel they need to cater to the crazies on the extreme right but in doing so they make themselves look crazy and scary to moderates.

Who thought I would ever long for the days of Eisenhower and Nixon. Now politics are all about perception, not substance. And perception is bought.

jafs 7 years, 1 month ago

Please, please, please make sure that is the Republican ticket.


weeslicket 7 years, 1 month ago

funny how you manage to rationalize nutties, you foxy logician you.

he's a better bumpersticker for you tom: palin-gringich 2012 (you just wet yourself, didn't you)

beatrice 7 years, 1 month ago

Now that would have been funny ... back in 2008.

Don't you have any fresher material than that? That is about as current as a Dick Cheney hunting joke.

JayCat_67 7 years, 1 month ago

21-12? Sounds like a good name for a Rush album.

beatrice 7 years, 1 month ago

This is actually a reasonable essay from Will. It raises the important question of whether or not a conservative can distance himself or herself far enough from the extremists to win a national election. Can a fiscal conservative who shuns much of the social-conservative agenda win the GOP ticket? Probably not, and because of this I suspect Obama will win re-election rather easily.

beatrice 7 years, 1 month ago

I'm not counting anything, and they aren't my chickens to begin with. I voted for Obama because I felt he was a far superior candidate to McCain, and I've been disappointed by Obama's willingness to roll over for the GOP since he has been in office. If he wants my vote in 2012 he will have to again prove to me he is the better candidate come time of the election. I would love to be able to vote for someone I thought was better, even if that person was a Republican. I just don't see a fiscal conservative who rejects social conservative values winning the GOP ticket, and I don't see a social conservative winning on a national level. That is the point I was trying to make, which is why I see Obama winning re-election.

beatrice 7 years, 1 month ago

Very true. Almost two years away. I mean, god forbid the economy continues to recover during that period. That would be the absolute worst thing that could happen for the GOP.

verity 7 years, 1 month ago

I'm with you, Bea, disappointed how Obama has rolled over for the GOP, even when he didn't even need to compromise. I wish the Republicans would run a good candidate, but I don't see that happening.

beatrice 7 years, 1 month ago

There is bipartisanship, then there is just giving in to another's demands without a fight. Obama caved, giving up one of his campaign promises on lowering the deficit by returning to pre-Bush tax cuts levels. He rolled over.

verity 7 years, 1 month ago

There is a big difference between rolled over and cooperation/bipartisanship/compromise. Obama, in my opinion, has done a lot of rolling over rather than even try for a compromise when he could have gotten what he supposedly wanted without a compromise.

At this point, I don't see anyone in either party who is a real leader. I think Obama certainly has the potential to be and I hope he begins to fulfill that potential.

beatrice 7 years, 1 month ago

You are suggesting there are nearly 70 million left-wing extremists in this country? Hardly. A Republican who starts nearer the center has the better chance of winning a national election, but likely couldn't win the GOP ticket.

beatrice 7 years, 1 month ago

After your kind words, I hate to disagree Agno ... but I disagree. Obama truly did win. He was a very persuasive candidate and people really wanted to believe in his professed vision for change. Heck, he was such a good candidate he was given a Nobel Peace Prize for being so likable! I really do not believe that people who voted fo Obama were really just casting votes against McCain. Instead, those of us who voted for Obama were really and truly voting for Obama. McCain never connected with the people, and because of that it was never his election to lose.

Question now is, can Obama do it again? If Newt, Hukabee or Palin make a big enough push in the GOP primaries, I do believe Obama will easily win again. Given the similarities of Romneycare with Obamacare (the main cause for GOP upset-ness) I don't see Romney being able to convince moderates to vote for him either. Further, after two years of noise with likely little results coming out of the freshman class of Republicans currently in Washington, I believe that too will help Obama win re-election.

verity 7 years, 1 month ago

You're wrong about the buyer's remorse because that would mean the "far-left-loony-leftist" factions wish they had voted for McCain. I seriously doubt any of them do.

yourworstnightmare 7 years, 1 month ago

With Will's excellent column, the great back-pedaling of 2011-2012 begins. Can any GOP candidate back-pedal fast enough from right wing tea party lunacy to be a serious presidential contender?

uncleandyt 7 years, 1 month ago

Here's some ideas that might work. The media can launch a marketing campaign to convince the public that there are dramatic differences between Democrats and Republicans. Convincing the public that they know what is happening is crucial. It will be okay for folks to think that one side, either Republicans or Democrats, is lying or misguided. It is important to keep too many people from understanding that both parties are insincere. National politics is alot like professional wrestling. The producers of Our show decided that John Kerry would play the loser in '04. John McCain was given the loser role in '08. To ensure that the desired election outcomes are achieved, voting can be done on tamper-friendly machines. Sensational !! Hulk Hogan/ Randy Savage 2012 $$!!

beatrice 7 years, 1 month ago

If that is the case, then can we get Newt to start wearing a mask like they do in Mexican wrestling? That way he can pretend to be a new and unknown character. It might help his chances.

weeslicket 7 years, 1 month ago

oh so nice. utterly destructive, from only a mere swish of the wrist.

beatrice 7 years, 1 month ago

Yes, because we all know how much major corporations that own media outlets love Democrats.

Jay Keffer 7 years, 1 month ago

With the lack of a clear front-runner, the only ticket that can win for the the GOP is Nugent-Palin.

Just kidding!!

Unless someone comes out of the woodwork quick, Obama will be elected again, despite his mis-steps. Assuming the economy continues an upward trend, even if it goes at a snail's pace.

No matter who wins, I say it is all controlled by a vast centrist conspiracy.

verity 7 years, 1 month ago

"vast centrist conspiracy"

Why, madam/sir, I do believe you have hit the nail exactly on the head.

Mr_B9 7 years, 1 month ago

I see Herman Cain coming out of the woodwork. He would certainly be refreshing considering the current pool and could clearly beat Obama.

weeslicket 7 years, 1 month ago

that's a lovely avatar you have there, mr_b9. i could almost swear you were winking at me with your one brown eye.

can this please be the new icon for Fox-Shewmon news corp? please? pretty please??

Mixolydian 7 years, 1 month ago

I've been an independant for decades. The last and only party I've ever belonged to was the democrats, but after Carter (ack), then Mondale (gag) the final straw was Dukakis. Dukakis prompted a blackjack dealer clap of the hands "I'm outta here" from me. The republicans seem to be starting the same cycle at the presidential level.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

Ron Paul has a few good ideas, but he's still a wackjob, and for the Republican moneybags, he's the wrong kind of wackjob.

He's going nowhere.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

Well, no, they aren't, but those aren't his only ideas (sadly.) Since you share most of those, I doubt we'll get much further with this discussion.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

All fine ideas. But they don't have to be coupled with the nearly complete dismantling the government so that the Koch brothers can do whatever they want with the "level playing field" only they and their ilk can take advantage of.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

I'm more concerned with the Koch brothers who gave $million to trash the education system of Wisconsin.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

They aren't giving money to fight big government. They're giving it to own it. That's all they know (the divinity of property rights and all.)

Paul R Getto 7 years, 1 month ago

An interesting analysis, Mr. Will. The 2012 campaign will be expensive and bloody, but the R's can pick a viable candidate. The question is, will they? The wild card, it appears to me, is the TeaParty. They are overreaching and misreading the 2010 election as a sweeping mandate when it's more narrowly focused on unemployment and general grumbling about the economy which is not easily fixed by denying cancer researchers their funds or cutting off milk for poor women's babies. It's gonna be a bumpy ride, but President Obama has a pretty good chance at a second term if he acts dignified and keeps up a good pace in the White House. The R's are at risk ot eating their young over ideology, which they have done before. The D's have similar problems but at least still control the White House and the Senate. Good column.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 7 years, 1 month ago

The big money that really determines who our presidents are have to be relatively pleased with Obama's performance to date.

And given that the Republicans don't have anything to offer up against him, they'll go with a known quantity who has treated them well.

Barring any bizarre events over the next year and a half, Obama will be reelected.

Cait McKnelly 7 years, 1 month ago

It's interesting to me how political candidates can not only confuse countries but actually confuse continents.

jaywalker 7 years, 1 month ago

Will hit's the nail on the head, though it might have been with an oddly shaped hammer and an elusive nail (the guy is smart but writes like he doesn't like people to enjoy it).

jayhawklawrence 7 years, 1 month ago

Something must be happening in the Republican Party because this column is very uncharacteristic of the usual tight rhetoric we get.

This sounds like an honest assessment of a broken political party finally shining the light of truth on itself.

That is the one thing that might sell in the next election. Honesty.

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