* Somehow the Times found a "conservative" who's willing to put a Panglossian spin on everything that happens in the Republican party. And in public!
** Douthat: "Presented with the weakest presidential field of any major party in a generation…." I realize that, in part, this statement is the result of Douthat's sinecure; like Brooks he is occasionally required to say something refreshingly rational--likely something he overheard--in order to present himself as "'conservative' by thought", rather than, as is actually the case with both men, just another child of privilege rooting for the home team. Like the dog walking on its hind legs it isn't done well, but unlike that circus act, it seems to convince some people. At any rate, it's certainly remarkable; "conservatives", faced with a daisful of abject panderers to the entire "conservative" agenda--economic, social, and religious warfare, with a couple of complete loons thrown in for the completists--don't like any of 'em.
This is the end of the American political spectrum which went clinically and legally insane during Roosevelt's First 100 Days, and which, after a twenty-year courtship, finally convinced the Republican party to accept its troth in 1964. I was ten. There hasn't been a public admission that any flag-lapelin' Republican was wrong about anything since. These people defended Nixon. They pretended Reagan was a genius. They compared George W. Bush to Churchill. They swooned for Sarah Fucking Palin like bobbysoxers at an Elvis movie. Sure, there was some dissatisfaction with "moderates" like George H.W.H.M.O Bush, and Bob Dole, but no wingnut's come in for criticism since Nelson Rockefeller died getting a hummer.
It's a remarkable moment, and, clearly, things have gotten so bad with American "conservatism" that "conservatives" themselves have caught wind of it. Spare a moment of human-heartedness for the backers of Rick Perry. Imagine finding out, after dumping a few hundred grand into his campaign, that you actually can be too stupid for Republican voters. This time.
† So they say. To me, Romney is some committee's idea of a viable candidate. He's Bruce Babbitt. He's John Connally. He's a guy who deserves to run fourth. Just ahead of Mitch Daniels.
†† Maybe it's just me, but this--plus the fact that it's Santorum standing at the end, not Bachmann or Perry or Cain--seems to be how Douthat distinguishes between the various forms of religious mania.
Because, sheesh, of the four it's Santorum who's most likely to drag religious nutjobbery down the Hole, and take the Republican brand, 2012 Edition, down with him, if he survives long enough into the primary season that he decides he has to make Abortion (or Contraception!) a major fight. Maybe the idea here is that Santorum is so personally repugnant that "religious" "conservatives" will be convinced to vote for the "electable" guy, even if he is a Mormon. We'll leave aside the idea of one religious nut Republican being concerned about all the other religious nut Republicans, and ask how well this worked in '88 thru '96.
[By the way, Senator: the reason bringing home a fetus is creepy isn't your religious conviction vs. societal norms; it's the fact that you do what's unnatural just to make showy points about your faith, and frighten your children into eternal submission. Y'all just wanna wallow in that "Look at his precious little fingers" routine. You, or God, can refuse to forgive me, but I find it hard to believe you'd have trucked home a Petrie dish of protoplasm, or some unspeakable six-bodied frog mutant with a single staring eye in the middle, for the enlightenment of your brood; at least I hope not. If your two-year-old got hit by a bus you wouldn't scrape up the remains and put 'em on the mantle. Odds are you'd have held a funeral, like the "normal people" you impugn here. I don't doubt your sincerity. But I don't think "sincerity" means "devoid of religio-political machinations which might put the lie to it when viewed less than favorably".]
‡ Where Paul, on the other hand, serves the Grand Old Party's grand old tradition of throwing bones to the rabid like Roman emperors provided bread and circuses. Can Ron Paul actually believe the stuff he says? Can someone with a Hahvahd education really think that a continuing Paul presence in the GOP race is adding something?