The Republican Marathon Is Distracting and Dangerous

January 17th, 2012

By Tom Carter

Mitt Romney and Rick SantorumThe seemingly never-ending Republican primary season drones on, sucking the oxygen out of the national discourse and obscuring things that really are more important.  With hundreds lots of debates behind us and more to come, with some candidates behaving like fools and hurling ridiculous charges at other candidates, the mainstream media is transfixed by the circus that’s playing out across the land.

Meanwhile, try finding in-depth, serious reporting on real problems.  Iran’s looming nuclear weapons capability and it’s threat to peace in the Middle East?  North Korea’s actual nuclear weapons and the sword it dangles over South Korea and Japan?  Ever-higher tensions among Israel and the Arab (and Iranian) nations that are dedicated to destroying Israel?  The nascent disintegration of Iraq since the U.S. washed it’s hands of the whole mess?  The disintegration that will surely follow U.S. departure from Afghanistan?  Growing loopy leftism in Latin America and the implications for U.S. policy?  Continued dangerous American reliance on foreign oil, while abundant domestic sources go untapped?  Serious economic problems at home that aren’t being adequately addressed?  A dysfunctional Congress and a bunkered President who can’t do their jobs?

All of these issues are mentioned here and there in the media, but none receive the emphasis given to the long-running Republican presidential primary.  Maybe it’s no more obsessive than in other presidential primary seasons, and maybe it deserves the level of attention it’s getting.  But I don’t think so, in either case.

Part of the reason there’s so much focus on the primary race is the importance conservatives and most moderates and independents place on defeating President Obama.  In a year when the party out of power has an unusually good chance of defeating a sitting president, there’s bound to be more attention paid to the process.

The dangerous part comes with the possibility that some of these candidates might actually win the Republican nomination.  Consider:

Paul:  In the debate last night, along with attacks on the other candidates, he continued to advocate total withdrawal of U.S. military presence anywhere in the world and kept up the anti-war drumbeat.  However, he made a completely unclear distinction between defense spending and military spending — South Carolina, doncha know, has a lot of military bases and doesn’t want to lose any of them.  And, of course, he advocated a zero income tax rate, a position too stupid to merit comment.

Perry:  Ever the buffoon, he outdid himself last night on an important foreign policy issue.  He opined that Turkey is led by Islamic terrorists, that it should not be in NATO, and that foreign aid to Turkey should be reduced to zero.  Couple of problems — Turkey’s government is led by devout Muslims, yes, but the country remains moderate and is an important U.S. ally, both in NATO and in the war on terror.  And Turkey, a rich country, doesn’t receive U.S. foreign aid.  Rick should do us all a favor and go back to shooting coyotes.

Gingrich:  He’s backed off somewhat, but he’s still shooting himself in both feet by attacking Perry from the left on his record in business.  Romney does a pretty good job defending himself from these mostly bogus charges and scored points when he pointed out that Gingrich is carrying Michael Moore’s water.  Gingrich has little money, a small and disorganized campaign staff, and no chance of getting the nomination.  But his ego overrides everything, and he gets lots of applause in debates because, well, he’s good at debates.  The fact that he’s damaging his party is of no concern to him.

Santorum:  Compared to the little libertarian gnome, the Texas goofball, and the hugely self-impressed egoist, Santorum is the most serious candidate on the debate stage — right after Romney.  Problem is, Santorum will never beat Barack Obama.  He’s much too far to the right and far too driven by religion, and like most people whose lives are dominated by religion, he’s inflexible and intolerant of those whose positions aren’t informed by his beliefs.  As a result, independents and moderates aren’t likely to vote for him in the numbers necessary to win.

Romney:  Despite the hoohaw shouting and applause for other candidates in debates, I think Republican voters in South Carolina, Florida, and the states that come later are smart enough to vote for the only available candidate who has a decent chance of winning in November — Mitt Romney.  He’s conservative enough to gain the votes of all but the most extreme right wingers, and most of them will probably vote for him if the other choice is Obama.  He’s also moderate enough to win the votes of a large percentage of independents and moderates, who, to say it again, will determine who the next president is.

I’m not a Republican, but I support the goal of defeating Obama.  That’s what the country needs, and if Romney is the other choice, I have no problem voting for him.  I would just remind my friends on the right of the wisdom of that most astute conservative, William F. Buckley:  “The wisest choice would be the one who would win. No sense running Mona Lisa in a beauty contest. I’d be for the most right, viable candidate who could win.”  If he were alive today, he would support Mitt Romney, as do so many other thoughtful conservatives.


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