The Republican presidential field looks less like an assemblage of candidates than a collection of fatal mistakes and irreparable flaws, with occasional embodiments of one or more of the Seven Deadly Sins.
Mitt Romney? A flip-flopper who inspired Obamacare. Tim Pawlenty? A too-bashful critic of Romneycare, with a sleepy persona. Newt Gingrich? Serial adultery and terminal hubris.
Herman Cain? A rousing speaker with a future in talk radio. Rick Santorum? Not many politicians warm up for a presidential race by losing a Senate seat in a landslide. Michele Bachmann? Only one House member has ever gone directly to the presidency (James Garfield, in 1880).
Jon Huntsman? Service in the Obama administration is no way to gratify Republican voters. Ron Paul? A libertarian in a conservative party whose 2008 race yielded a paltry handful of convention delegates.
All this explains why a 2012 race is now tempting Rick Perry, the three-term governor of Texas whose liabilities come with some assets: a record of fiscal frugality and economic growth, a flair for channeling anti-Washington sentiment, a proven fundraising capacity and an appealing biography (hardscrabble farm upbringing, Eagle Scout, Air Force pilot).
The name of Indiana's governor--Mitch or Mark or Mike Somebody--came across the local news crawl last night. He was shoehorned into a story about Planned Parenthood shutting operations as a lawsuit proceeds over the bill he signed last month defunding all its services, because the inmates of the Indiana General Assembly had Shorty by the shorties.
Daniels has been invisible in the month since he announced his wife wouldn't let him run for President.
The curious thing about that--national interest in Daniels' persona, that is, in his insistence that he was charismatic by virtue of being charisma-free, was always forced and artificial--is that all those qualities which supposedly made Mitch (and his BFF Haley Barbour) such strong candidates seem, in the space of a fortnight, to've dropped off the radar. In May the Republican party desperately needed someone who was believable on fiscal responsibility but with a low coefficient of Kook; in June Michele Bachmann is a brilliant political monologist.
It's difficult to come up with any possible explanation other than the obvious one: this didn't pan out for the party, so continuing to harp on it just makes the actual candidates look even worse.
The same probably goes for denigrating Bachmann's chances on the grounds that James Garfield was the last House member elected President, as opposed to noting that America elected a certifiably batshit insane, overmatched cipher and religious maniac just seven years ago. I guess that beats stating any of the few thousand real reasons she won't be elected President, or at least dealing with the emails that would come after.
But, look: the contractual obligation to fill column inches is one thing, and taking Rick Fucking Perry even semi-seriously is quite another.
The Republican party, above all else, is desperate not to nominate another George W. Bush. At least it's desperate not to nominate its notion of George W. Bush, which we all remember was not exactly that shared by the average, normal, literate adult human who heard the man talk. To them George W. Bush was not the bumbling, intellectually incurious son of privilege who fucked us over internationally while destroying the national solvency through a combination of cupidity, stupidity, and ideology, no. He's the guy who turned out to be a secret liberal.
The Republican party might just as well decide between Romneyhair and Perryhair; it might as well forget looking for excuses, and start looking for a way to cut everyone else out of the race before the next debate makes "pundits" start taking Herman Cain seriously. The Republican party is so thoroughly dishonest, and has been since Nixon, that it might as well start pinning its real hopes on Justin Timberlake turning conservative in his 50s. Between now and then it's got nothing; it's got two generations lying scoundrels. The Republican party ought to be apologizing to Newt Gingrich. Anybody telling you that Rick Perry is the next great hope of the party should never be believed about anything, ever again. And whoever keeps emailing me hourly updates of Chris Christie's accomplishments should be up on Federal racketeering charges.