August 13, 2012

One of the (many) knocks that Mitt Romney has had to endure is that he is unfailingly dull and cautious. Most of the talking heads on the news programs were convinced that Romney was going to pick either Tim Pawlenty or Rob Portman as his running mate. The conservative base, meanwhile, was crying out for Marco Rubio and, to a lesser extent, Paul Ryan.

From the beginning, it was clear to me that Romney was going to have to choose a running mate who would meet with the approval of the Tea Party. A dull, safe choice like Pawlenty or Portman was going to neither inspire nor invigorate the conservative base of the GOP. It’s exactly why I feared those two choices. Portman is reliably conservative, and Pawlenty was a successful conservative governor but let’s face it: they’re as dull as dishwater.

To me, Rubio seemed the smartest choice. Young, handsome, Hispanic, from Florida, and completely Tea Party-approved. Rubio may still be where the future of the Republican Party lay. Right now I’m picturing him as the second half of the 2020 Ryan/Rubio ticket.

But Romney chose Paul Ryan, a lightning rod for the Democrats, a man who was accused of trying to destroy the social safety net, who has gone on record in great detail about cuts he wants to make to government, a man who has been visually represented in an advertisement literally throwing an elderly, wheelchair-bound woman off a cliff.

Bravo, Mr. Romney. Bravo.

Say what you will about Romney, the choice of Paul Ryan was the politically riskiest pick he could have made short of hauling Sarah Palin away from Sean Hannity for another attempt. Was it a smart choice? Time will tell. The Democrats are already blasting the choice, trying to paint Paul Ryan as an extremist right-wing nut. The hatchet job they are trying to pull off will make the character assassination of Sarah Palin look tame. I fully expect the lunatic Andrew Sullivan to write blog posts claiming that Ryan’s children are Midwich Cuckoos.

But Ryan’s place on the ticket proves one thing: Mitt Romney understands the stakes of this election. For a long time, I was unsure whether he fully appreciated the gravity in the black hole of debt with which Obama and George W. Bush have saddled us. Romney in the primaries talked a good game, but it seemed that he considered our rising debt and deficit as just another problem that needed solving, not an impending crisis of nation-shattering proportions.

Paul Ryan is the serious face here. There is nobody in Congress who understands the budget, the deficit, and the debt more than he does. And he has gone on record with his solution. What Paul Ryan does as Romney’s running mate is force this election to be about genuinely big issues. This is a debate the Left claims they want, but in fact they are terrified of this. Ryan has a plan. It is not a perfect plan, but it is an excellent starting point. Ryan is not a perfect conservative, either, having voted in favor of some of the debt he now is trying to curb. But that is in the past and Ryan has seemingly seen the error of his ways and emerged as a budget hawk without sliding into the fantasy fringe of Ron Paul. The Democrats will scream and point fingers, accusing Ryan of everything from trying to destroy Medicare to forcing old people to eat cat food. Ryan will counter as he always has: eloquently, with facts and figures, charts and graphs, and a smile. I’ve watched Ryan on news shows for years now and he has never come across as someone who is less than completely reasonable and rational. The liberal opposition, meanwhile, has no facts, no charts, no graphs, and only vituperation. Most telling, they have no opposing plan of their own. As Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner told Paul Ryan when asked about the debt: “We don’t have a definitive solution. We just don’t like yours.”

In their zeal to attack Ryan, the Democrats have moved away from their campaign strategy to keep this election about anything except economics. The Democrats have tried to make the election about birth control, about Mitt Romney’s taxes, about whether Romney put a dog crate on his car in the early 1980s. They have been loath to discuss anything to do with the economy because it is a losing issue for them.

By picking the poster child for entitlement and budget reform, Mitt Romney has shifted the focus of the election back to the issues that really matter. And while Romney is not comfortable with conservative speech, Paul Ryan makes the case for budget and entitlement reform with great eloquence.

The Democrats are falling all over themselves now in a rush to tell the world how happy they are that Romney has picked such a polarizing figure, that Romney’s choice is even worse than John McCain’s in 2008. This is a lie. The truth is they’re scared. They should be. Ryan is not some sort of monstrous ogre who wants to throw grandma into the snow. He is what the Left fears: a living, breathing rebuttal to the vapidity of their rhetoric and the absence of their ideas.

Today’s Lesson In Progressive Politics: Rick Santorum (?!)

February 17, 2012

The Republicans are really not making it easy for conservatives like me in this election year. We don’t trust Romney, we don’t like Newt, we think Paul’s nuts. But generally speaking we like Santorum. Then he goes and gets all Progressive on us.

Rick Santorum on Internet gambling:

I’m someone who takes the opinion that gaming is not something that is beneficial, particularly having that access on the Internet. Just as we’ve seen from a lot of other things that are vices on the Internet, they tend to grow exponentially as a result of that. It’s one thing to come to Las Vegas and do gaming and participate in the shows and that kind of thing as entertainment, it’s another thing to sit in your home and have access to that it. I think it would be dangerous to our country to have that type of access to gaming on the Internet.

Freedom’s not absolute. What rights in the Constitution are absolute? There is no right to absolute freedom. There are limitations. You might want to say the same thing about a whole variety of other things that are on the Internet — “let everybody have it, let everybody do it.” No. There are certain things that actually do cost people a lot of money, cost them their lives, cost them their fortunes that we shouldn’t have and make available, to make it that easy to do.

Oh, brother…

First off, Rick, the Constitution does not grant us rights. It limits the government from infringing on the rights that are our birthright, that are given to us by God.

I’ve been pretty consistent in my support for Rick Santorum during this process, going so far as to officially endorse him on my Twitter account. But my support has also always been fairly tepid. Of the four remaining candidates, I think he’s the most conservative in his core beliefs. Romney has been saying all the right things, but he gives the impression that he’s spent the last few years with a Rosetta Stone of conservative speech. Catch Romney off the cuff and he’s liable to tell you that he believes the minimum wage should go up every year indexed to inflation, a mind-bogglingly unconservative sentiment.

Still, my tepid support for Santorum is being strained to the limit with this latest dose of Progressive inanity.

The rap against Santorum from the Left is that he is a wacko Christian Papist who wants to establish a theocracy, ban birth control, and force everyone to go to Church on Sunday. It’s a bogus charge. Santorum is a Catholic and has firmly held beliefs that are rooted in his faith. But the idea that he is getting his marching orders from Rome is as offensive today as it was when John F. Kennedy was accused of the same thing. Kennedy! A man and, indeed, an entire family that wouldn’t care about Catholic doctrine if it bit them on their collective fanny. But there is still a strain of anti-Catholicism in politics and the media, and many of the charges against Santorum are the result of it.

My main concern with Santorum has always been that he is an acolyte of George W. Bush’s “Compassionate Conservatism.” When Bush said “When people are hurting, the government’s got to move” he stuck a dagger into the hearts of conservatives everywhere. Conservatives believe that when people are hurting the government’s got to move as far away as possible. Santorum, on the other hand, sees absolutely nothing wrong with feeding Leviathan to promote conservative philosophies. The problem with that, of course, is that the first rule of conservatism is to stop feeding Leviathan.

There are a lot of reasons to be opposed to internet gambling, but Santorum’s reasoning is no different than the reasoning of NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg when he tries to ban trans-fats, or Michelle Obama when she wants school cafeterias to stop serving food kids actually like, or Barack Obama when he wants to the government to provide health care for everyone. In this stance, Santorum is just another Big Government Nanny State-loving Progressive. There is, in fact, more Progressivism packed into these two paragraphs than in anything Mitt Romney has said during the campaign. Social engineering from a conservative is no less odious than it is from a Leftist, even though I may agree with the desired result.

A political philosophy that tries to dictate to the people based on what politicians believe is “for their own good” is not conservative. It speaks to the same sort of arrogance and elitism that are the hallmarks of Progressivism. Sadly, Rick Santorum has stepped through that door. If he doesn’t backtrack on this, and explain that he really meant something he didn’t say, I may end up swinging my support over to Romney. And good Lord, I don’t want to do that.

Rick, Rolling

January 6, 2012

Who would have thought, just a few short months ago, that it would be Rick Santorum and not Rick Perry that emerged triumphant from the Iowa caucus?

Not that Santorum actually won (or did he?), but finishing in second place behind the hair apparent Mitt Romney by just eight votes classifies as somewhat more than a moral victory and somewhat less than true triumph.

The race for the Republican nomination is considerably narrowed now. It’s really down to four: Romney, Santorum, Gingrich, and Perry. Perry and Gingrich are hanging on like Sergeant Snorkel hanging off a cliff-side tree branch. There’s no visible way up, but down is a very real possibility. Perry has all but given up on New Hampshire, and clearly staked out South Carolina as his Alamo. He will be victorious in South Carolina, or he will be gone. Gingrich is liable to stay in the race as long as his money, ego, and love of television cameras allows him to do so. His ego and autagonistophilia (there’s a $10 word I thought I’d never use!) are inexhaustible, but his money is distinctly finite. It’s likely that unless he somehow pulls off a victory in either New Hampshire or South Carolina, he’ll probably be gone by Super Bowl Sunday. Gingrich’s only chance is that he can so dominate future debates, and so thrill the conservative base with a steady diet of red meat, that voters will overlook his many foibles in their lust to see Gingrich and Obama go mano-a-mano.

The current resident of 2nd place in the New Hampshire polls is Ron Paul. I don’t count Ron Paul as a serious candidate. I like to joke that I agree with Ron Paul 97% of the time…95% on domestic policy and 2% on foreign policy. I am the conservative base, and would vote for Ron Paul over Obama. But I’d vote for Jon Huntsman over Ron Paul in the primaries. That’s how noxious I find Paul’s foreign policy views: a vomitous stew of blame-America-firstism, trutherism, and conspiracy nut musings. His foreign policy views are considerably farther to the Left than even Barack Obama’s…the guy who wants to decimate the U.S. military. Ron Paul has no chance of winning the primaries. None. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Bupkis. Fugghedaboudit.

I eagerly await the hate mail, but in your heart you know I’m right that there will never, ever, ever be a President Ron Paul. Nor should there be.

What all of this means is that at this moment there’s a two-man race going on between Mitt Romney and, surprise, Rick Santorum. Which means the time has come for Republicans to decide who is the best candidate of those two men to defeat Barack Obama in November. William F. Buckley’s rule of thumb was to support the most conservative candidate who was electable. In choosing between Romney and Santorum, the choice at first appears clear: Romney is the less conservative of the two, but is a polished debater, smooth talking, quick on his feet, the frontrunner with lots of name recognition, a former Republican governor of one of the bluest states in the country. Surely it’s Romney. Virtually every media talking head assures us that Romney is the only Republican who stands a snowball’s chance in Hell of defeating the suave, debonair, charming President. Even the conservative media is beating this drum. My friends The Gormogons posted a wickedly sharp treatise by Ghettoputer that called Romney “the turd in the punchbowl that is the Republican 2012 presidential primary field with the best chance of beating President Obama in the general election.” But is ‘Puter right?

Mitt Romney has been running for election for nearly 20 years, starting with a Senate bid in 1994. During that time he managed one win: governor of Massachusetts in 2002. He didn’t run for reelection in 2006 so that he could concentrate fully on a 2008 Presidential run. Had he run in 2006, he almost certainly would have lost. Romney’s failure to break out of the pack of Republican candidates this year is indicative of just how little emotion he stirs in the base. In the 2008 campaign, he lost to John McCain…the least inspiring Presidential candidate since Bob Dole stammered his way to slaughter in 1996. That’s right: Romney inspired the base less than John McCain, a man who infuriates Republicans on a daily basis.

Republicans need to ask: if Romney is so electable, then why doesn’t anybody want to elect him to anything?

Then there’s Rick Santorum, a man who the enlightened assure us is not electable. The intelligentsia present this assertion as if it were an indisputable fact, with the proof being that in his last race (Senate, 2006) Santorum lost by an 18% margin. Surely, they say, anyone this unpopular could never be elected President. But Santorum has won more electoral victories than Romney has. In a blue state with red tinting, he campaigned as a hardline conservative and won…first as a two-term Representative, then twice more as Senator. The 2006 election that is being held over his head was something of an anomaly: he was campaigning against a blue dog Democrat who shared a name and family heritage with a former, well-liked, governor, Bob Casey. The 2006 election was also the first election suffering from Bush fatigue, and a powerful anti-incumbent sentiment. It was a wave election, carrying the Democrats into power (they gained 30 House seats and 6 Senate seats). Santorum had also deflated the base with his endorsement in 2004 of the wretched and loathsome reptile that is Arlen Specter. To conservatives, this was akin to watching Harry Potter putting a “Vote for Voldemort” sign on his front lawn.

Whether or not a candidate is electable is a difficult thing to ascertain. All candidates have their issues, both pro and con. Romney is an uninspiring flip flopper with an unfortunate, and transparent, tendency to tell audiences whatever they want to hear. The fear is that he has no core principles, and it’s a valid fear. Santorum has come across in the debates, especially the early debates, as annoyed and surly, complaining about his air time. America does not want a whiner for President. Santorum is also intent on focusing on the social side of conservatism. At a time when millions of Americans are out of work, when there is instability throughout the Middle East and Europe, when our nation is so deeply in debt that a bankrupt future looks all too possible, Santorum makes sure we know where he stands on abortion, contraception, and gay marriage. These are important issues, but I’m far more concerned about reforming Medicare than I am about contraception. Sometimes Santorum’s deeply felt Catholicism gets the best of him. He needs to talk about jobs, jobs, jobs, debt reduction, jobs, debt reduction, debt reduction, and jobs. Instead he lets a media that hates him trap him into answering questions designed to make him look like a kook (because that’s what the media thinks of devout Catholics).

Note to Rick: When some pinheaded reporter asks you if you want to ban contraception the answer is not a treatise on your faith. The answer is “That’s a ridiculous question you should be ashamed of asking. Of course not. Now can we please talk about the economy?”

I don’t know who’s more electable. That will become clearer as the primaries continue. But it’s clear to me that Romney is less of a sure-fire win than his proponents would like us to believe, and Santorum is a greater threat to Obama than his detractors would argue. Rest assured, though. The Obama campaign is rolling down the streets like Megaweapon, ready to viciously and unfairly tarnish anyone the Republicans nominate. The Republicans need a conservative champion, a Beowulf to slay Grendel (and Grendel’s mom…I’m looking at you, Axelrod!). They need a man with the rock solid principles of Rick Santorum, and the business/economy-related focus of Mitt Romney. A bit of the carnivorous style of Newt Gingrich wouldn’t hurt, either. That combination would be truly unbeatable in November.

Consider that a word of advice to all the candidates.

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