THERE are, you know as well as I, embarrassing riches for the connoisseur of Apocalyptic Portents these days, and probably none is so embarrassing as the idea of Chuckles Krauthammer, public intellectual. The man cannot even construct an argument:
Unified Field Theory of 2012, Axiom One: The more the Republicans can make the 2012 election like 2010, the better their chances of winning.
Okay, look: maybe someone at the Post Writers Group is supposed to take "axiom" out for a walk every so often, but that's not an axiom; it's an argument. In fact, it's the same argument Chuckles makes every day.
He's free to declare anything he wants "axiomatic". We're free to point out he's an idiot.
The 2010 Democratic shellacking had the distinction of being the most ideological election in 30 years.
And an odd distinction it was, seeing as how just two years before the country elected the most power-mad, Messianic, Euro-socialist President in its history, edging out Jimmy Carter, which Dr. Krauthammer must remember, since he's analyzed it, and him, at great length, and even greater distance. Apparently, though, elections don't count as ideological unless the correct ideology wins.
It was driven by one central argument in its several parts: the size and reach of government, spending and debt, and, most fundamentally, the nature of the American social contract. 2010 was a referendum on the Obama experiment in hyper-liberalism. It lost resoundingly.
Dude, 1) you beat the Washington Fucking Generals; 2) you beat the Washington Fucking Generals in a midterm; and 3) you beat the Washington Fucking Generals in a midterm after saddling them with the responsibility for the Bush economy. Don't gloat.
Of course, presidential elections are not arguments in the abstract but arguments with a face. Hence, Axiom Two: The less attention the Republican candidate draws to him/herself, the better the chances of winning.
Okay, there's an axiom we can agree on.
To the extent that 2012 is about ideas, about the case for smaller government, Republicans have a decided edge. If it’s a referendum on the fitness and soundness of the Republican candidate — advantage Obama.
We will accept "Republicans have ideas" as axiomatic, since there's no way you're going to prove it with evidence.
Which suggests Axiom Three: No baggage and no need for flash. Having tried charisma in 2008, the electorate is not looking for a thrill up the leg in 2012. It’s looking for solid, stable, sober and, above all, not scary.
A thrill up the leg? And throbbing tribal drums? Never mind. Again, "axiom" does not mean "something devoutly wished by Republican lackeys." We will be getting to the Republican field in a moment. You tell me whether Flash lost its appeal with the election of Barack Obama, or with the ascension of Sarah Palin, Former Half-Term Governor, Present Full-Time Embarrassment, if such a thing is even possible.
here’s the early line. (Remember: This is analysis, not advocacy.)
A choice, not an echo! A promise, not a prayer! A finger, not a vibrating butt plug!
Michele Bachmann: Tea Party favorite. Appeals to Palinites. Could do well in Iowa. Hard to see how she makes her way through the rest of the primary thicket. A strong showing in debates and a respectable finish would increase her national stature for 2016. But for now: 20-1 to win the nomination.
A strong showing in debates would not increase her national stature. It would rend the very fabric of SpaceTime. It would deliver us into the hands of a Trickster God. It would make Charles Krauthammer a public intellectual.
Donald Trump: He’s not a candidate, he’s a spectacle. He’s also not a conservative. With a wink and a smile, Muhammad Ali showed that self-promoting obnoxiousness could be charming. Trump shows that it can be merely vulgar. A provocateur and a clown, the Republicans’ Al Sharpton. The Lions have a better chance of winning the Super Bowl.
Oh, yes, how well I remember Muhammad Ali charming the American Right! And I was thinking more like "Trump is the Republican's Sarah Palin". Or "Michelle Bachman". Or "Louie Gohmert," "Ted Stevens," "John Kyl", "Rick Santorum," "Dan Burton," or "James Inhof".
Or "Bob Dornan" "Bob Barr" "Newt Gingrich" "Alan Keyes" "Dick Armey" "Richard Melon Scaife" "Sharron Angle" "Tom Delay" "Ginni Thomas" "Clarence Thomas" "Pat Buchanan" "Phil Gramm" or "Dan Quayle".
Or "Ann Coulter" "Glenn Beck" "Cal Thomas" "Sean Hannity" "Tucker Carlson" "Rush Limbaugh" "Jonah Goldberg" "Bill O'Reilly" "Thomas Sowell" "William Kristol" "Pat Robertson" or "Emmett Tyrrell". But, you know, go ahead and choose your own. My preference is "current Republican frontrunner".
The major candidates
Mitt Romney: Serious guy. Already vetted. Tons of private- and public-sector executive experience. If not for one thing, he’d be the prohibitive front-runner. Unfortunately, the one thing is a big thing: Massachusetts’s Romneycare. For an election in which the main issue is excessive government (see Axiom One), that’s a huge liability. Every sentient Republican has been trying to figure out how to explain it away. I’ve heard no reports of any success. Romney is Secretariat at Belmont, but ridden by Minnesota Fats. He goes out at 5-1.
Well, maybe today he's Secretariat at Belmont, a lump of metal shaped like a horse, but he's not a thoroughbred no one else will run against. But seeing as how the Republicans' only chance is to make this election as ideological as possible, it's hard to understand how the hatred of all the party ideologues makes you the front runner.
Newt Gingrich: Smart guy. A fountain of ideas. No, a Vesuvius of ideas. Some brilliance, lots of lava. Architect of a historic Republican victory in 1994. Rocky speakership. Unfortunate personal baggage. 12-1.
Are we really so bereft of ideas in this country that Newt's logorrhea qualifies? And "New Gingrich: Architect of the '94 Congressional Victory" sounds a lot like "Jimmy Swaggert: Friend of the Working Girl".
Haley Barbour: Successful governor. Experienced Washington hand. Abundant charm. Baggage: Years of lobbying, unforced errors on civil rights, early neo-isolationist deviations. Rarely without a comeback, however. 7-1.
Not A Chance In Hopping Hell. Barely-crypto racism is already inherent in the campaign. No need to select a specialist.
Tim Pawlenty: Formerly, unassuming, unprepossessing, solid two-term Minnesota governor. Currently, mouse that roars. Up-tempo style, middle-of-the-road conservative content. Apparently baggageless. Could be the last man standing. 5-1.
And whose one hope is to be the last man standing after some sort of pandemic.
Mitch Daniels: Highly successful governor. Budget guru. Delightful dullness satisfies all axioms (see above). Foreign policy unknown, assuming he has one. Alienated some conservatives with his call for a truce on — i.e., deferring — social issues. If he runs, 6-1.
Anybody imagine this is the reason I read the thing? Okay, first: one of the things I find interesting in the Analysis, Not Advocation, Complete and Utter Bullshit workaday world of the American punditaster is how Mitt Romney can't escape enacting a healthcare plan in a liberal state--when until about a year ago Republicans insisted they wanted to reform healthcare, too, and were going to unveil their plan as soon as the insurance companies finished it--but Mitch Daniels, with a Republican majority in both houses in a conservative state proposed a tax hike, words no Republican had uttered since 1988, and gets a free pass. Maybe this is Analysis, since God only knows what they use for logic over there, but what seems more likely is that Romney is seen as a loose cannon, as someone who might, as President, actually do something he thought would bring himself credit, while Daniels is a corporate weasel to his marrow, if any.
Of course, if I have to handicap this myself, Mitch has been too clever, trying at first to steer clear of annihilation by Palin, and doing the "oh, he's the quietly competent, uncharismatic candidate" routine while pretending he wasn't one. He could be the last man standing, but no one could tell if he was. And his non-candidacy has already endured two seismic shifts in the GOP non-race: the fall of Palin, and the rise of Trump, aka the return of Palin. I realize that even Republicans don't know anything about their non-candidates yet, but the delayed start ain't helping him any. Coy, colorless, and freakishly short last worked, well, never.
Likely not running
Mike Huckabee: Has a good life — hosting a popular TV show, making money, building his dream house in Florida. He’d be crazy to run. Doesn’t look crazy to me.
Sarah Palin: Same deal. Showed her power in 2010 as kingmaker and opinion shaper. Must know (I think) she has little chance at the nomination and none in the general election. Why risk it, and the inevitable diminishment defeat would bring?
What, Huckabee is the only rich guy on that list? That sounds a lot like the punditological version of Team Daniels puffing Mike Pence as a real fine gubernatorial candidate. Why are so many Republicans so eager for Mike Huckabee to stay home and enjoy the Good Life?
Of course, why they don't want Palin to run is obvious, but is this analysis? Kingmaker? At the height of her popularity she went, what? 4-7 in 2010? Is Palin--is the Palin "wing" of the Republican party--going to sit still for a three way, Romney-Pawlenty-Daniels race? Sure they are. And--say it again--if Palin doesn't run, contact a Mystery Illness, or at least explain her absence to the Teabaggers ("I'm busy living it up" is not gonna do it) she's co-hosting a video clip show with Danny Bonaduce six months after the next inauguration.
*Not a cheap Krauthammer joke. It's a highly offensive derision of the not-even-passable mental abilities of the Republican Presidential field. "Merkwürdigeliebe" is the cheap Krauthammer joke. Your objection is noted. May is Civility Month. Check back in. We'll be running specials.