The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Memo From the National Affairs Desk: Republican Nightmare Campaign Tour

Posted on | September 23, 2011 | 26 Comments

“Empty feelings present themselves, and grief enters our lives on a deeper level, deeper than we ever imagined. This depressive stage feels as though it will last forever.”
Professor William Jacobson

“The only thing worse than going out on the campaign trail and getting hauled around in a booze-frenzy from one speech to another is having to come back to Washington and write about it.”
Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72

Yesterday afternoon my editor at The American Spectator called, wondering if I was in Orlando, and my answer was a long explanation of “no.” As I had explained at some length Sunday, the requisite trip to Ohio after the Tampa debate spoiled my plan to spend two uninterrupted weeks covering the campaign in Florida, and simultaneously deprived me of funding necessary to return in time for the Orlando debate.

Keeping Mrs. Other McCain happy is Job One, the Ohio trip was an inescapable duty, and so I had to cover last night’s debate from here in my basement office and skip CPAC Florida. This feels like abject professional failure, and the only way to recover my sense of dignity and purpose is to get back on the road as soon as possible. So please hit the freaking tip jar. Speaking of abject failure . . .

Perry’s Awful Night
— John Tabin, The American Spectator

Perry Delivers an Unsteady
Performance at Republican Debate

— PBS Newshour

Web verdict on Perry: Brutal
Politico

Wow, Rick Perry really stunk it up in Orlando, didn’t he? I already did one round-up of reaction, but the reviews are so universally negative that more needs to be said. Bill Kristol said, “no front-runner in a presidential field has ever . . . had as weak a showing as Rick Perry. It was close to a disqualifying two hours for him.”

That was a prelude to Kristol pining for Mitch Daniels, Paul Ryan, Jeb Bush or Chris Christie to join the 2012 field, a species of nonsense that I’m getting tired of. How about the pundits stop trying to recruit their dream candidates and instead talk about the people who are actually, y’know, running for president? Because if you pundit types don’t knock it off, I might just have to write a 2,000-word persuasive essay about why Sarah Palin needs to get in the race, and I know that’s the last thing in the world you want.

But Perry’s suckage has consequences, most notably for the folks who jumped aboard his bandwagon last month only to find themselves now apparently on the Road to Fred Thompsonville. And yes, I’m talking about you, Drew M.:

A lot of smart people I respect were bullish on a Rick Perry candidacy. They talked about his commitment to conservative principles, he strong instincts on important issues and his formidable political skills/team. So when Perry announced at the Red State convention, I was pretty excited.
At that point the speech was one of the few times I’d ever seen or heard him. Beyond a speech he’d given that Values Voter convention (I think) and an interview on FNC with Neil Cavuto, all I really knew about Perry was based on what others were saying.

Having avoided that kind of bandwagon influence from “smart people I respect,” I’m feeling like the wise sorority sister who left the Kappa Sig party after one beer, when her fellow Delta Zetas come stumbling in at 5 a.m. after guzzling hunch punch and suffering the usual consequences.

Allow me to be charitable…it was awful,” Drew M. says on the sticky morning after, and he’s not the only hungover coed making the Walk of Shame and praying that there are no embarrassing photos on Facebook. Politico reports:

Grumbling has already begun about Perry’s operation and how they’ve not been prepared to handle the zero-to-frontrunner demands on the campaign.
One leading Republican said he’s given names of individuals – donors, former state party chairs — who want to be helpful to the campaign and that they’ve never gotten a phone call.
Recognizing the frustration, the National Committeewoman from Texas, Borah Van Dormolen, sent a blast email to fellow RNC members this week.
“I have received numerous calls requesting information on how to contact the Perry for President campaign team,” Van Dormolen wrote, including the email address for where to send the governor an invitation to appear at an event and the address of his finance director for those who want to help him raise money.

Translation: “You f–ked up. You trusted us.” And look: Romney’s leading Perry by 21 points in New Hampshire and it’s entirely possible that Perry could slip to third place behind Ron Paul. I’ve speculated that medical problems might explain Perry’s suckage, but the explanation of why he sucked is secondary to the reality of how bad he sucked.

We now face the Florida GOP Straw Poll and, when the results are known Saturday afternoon, what happens if Mitt Romney wins? What happens, of course, is that every Sunday morning show — Meet the Press, Fox News Sunday, This Week, et cetera — will turn into a talking-head round-robin on Rick Perry’s obituary, and the headlines in the Monday newspapers will be equally brutal.

So much, then, for the claim made by some Perry supporters that the debate doesn’t matter because only journalists and political junkies pay attention to debates. And who would benefit from Perry’s stumble?

Herman Cain Won the Debate
Erick Erickson, Red State

“Cain, however, delivered the answer of the night on an issue about which voters care more, and the answer was devastating mainly because of its personal nature . . . This is the best argument against ObamaCare and government encroachment in health care.”
Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

Obviously, I want to believe Herman Cain scored a knockout last night. But the very fact that I want to believe it causes me to doubt it. Layers of doubt and second-guessing have crept into my thinking about this campaign and, while I get occasional glimpses of clarity, my clearest thoughts are always doubts about other people’s arguments. I spotted Tim Pawlenty as doomed from the start, and my early skepticism toward the Perry bandwagon has been fully vindicated, but a couple of gut hunches about what won’t happen provide only minimal insight into what will happen.

This grueling campaign has turned into a process of elimination. The fact that both T-Paw and Thad McCotter endorsed Romney after they quit the race would seem to reinforce the growing conservative fear of Romney as inevitable. But a determination to resist that fear leads us to ask, If Perry is not the Mitt-killer, who is?

The Herminator has been my official personal favorite since December, but the second-guessing skepticism of this up-and-down campaign leads necessarily to bet-hedging. While in Iowa, at the behest of my uber-Catholic friend Lisa Graas, I decided to check out Rick Santorum and was impressed with his scrappy long-shot low-budget campaign. Santorum is returning to Iowa on Sunday, a trip I assume was scheduled before Thursday’s debate, but which takes on new significance given his widely praised debate performance in Orlando. And by “widely praised,” I mean denounced by GOProud:

Rick Santorum Owes Gay Soldier an Apology
Joint Statement of Christopher R. Barron, Chairman of the Board and Jimmy LaSalvia, Executive Director
(Washington, D.C.) – “Tonight, Rick Santorum disrespected our brave men and women in uniform, and he owes Stephen Hill, the gay soldier who asked him the question about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal, an immediate apology.
“That brave gay soldier is doing something Rick Santorum has never done – put his life on the line to defend our freedoms and our way of life. It is telling that Rick Santorum is so blinded by his anti-gay bigotry that he couldn’t even bring himself to thank that gay soldier for his service.
“Stephen Hill is serving our country in Iraq, fighting a war Senator Santorum says he supports. How can Senator Santorum claim to support this war if he doesn’t support the brave men and women who are fighting it?”

Considering both Chris and Jimmy friends and, mindful that some of my other friends are threatening to boycott CPAC over GOProud’s exclusion, I don’t know that this reaction is exactly helpful. Playing the “chickenhawk” card against a Republican? Handing the Left a stick with which to beat the GOP?

Reinstating “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — which was Santorum’s cheer-inducing reply to Hill’s boo-inducing question — would merely return us to the policy of that notorious gay-hater Bill Clinton. But going back to DADT would also seem to require the expulsion from the service of every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine who “came out” in response to the DADT repeal. And such a mass expulsion is not bloody likely, is it?

We are therefore left with what would seem to be a policy change that is irreversible, no matter what the harmful unintended consequences of that change might be, and I suspect the consequences will be far more harmful than anyone now suspects. (“Progress is the root of all evil,” as General Bullmoose taught us.) One of the first and most obvious consequences is that Santorum, merely for reiterating what was (and still is) the official GOP platform position on gays in the military, is denounced as a hateful bigot even by many self-proclaimed conservatives.

Remember how Rand Paul was attacked last year for expressing the same libertarian objections to the 1964 Civil Rights Act that had once been persuasively argued by Barry Goldwater? That’s what social conservatives face going forward, thanks to a policy change accomplished with the votes of certain Senate Republicans. No supporter of Scott Brown can expect me to write a word in his defense during the 2012 campaign.

Ideas have consequences, and equality has always been a dangerous idea.

Faced with the scorn of progressives, including those progressives who call themselves “conservative,” all I have to offer are the maxims of those giants on whose shoulders we stand. “Where it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change,” as Viscount Falkland observed, and Randolph of Roanoke’s famous aphorism also applies: “I love liberty. I hate equality. I am an aristocrat.”

Having made a good-faith emulation of Buckley’s description of conservatism — standing athwart history yelling “Stop!” — we have little to guide us when we are steamrollered by history, except to emulate certain of my ancestors who never apologized for having fought and been defeated. “It is history that teaches us to hope,” indeed.

Arguing about DADT was not my purpose when I began this post 1,800 words ago. Rather I intended to solicit tip-jar hitters to contribute to the Shoe Leather Fund, so I can get back on the campaign trail where I belong.

Our hero, Admiral Smitty, Conqueror of the Afghan Sea, is due for his triumphant return stateside early next week, and once that happy reunion is celebrated, I’ll be checking the campaign schedule for travel opportunities. Where I’ll go and who I’ll cover are TBD, but your contributions of $10, $20 or $50 are earnestly requested now, as it takes several business days for the PayPal transfers to reach the bank.

Are we, as Professor Jacobson suggests, going through some kind of Kubler-Ross mourning process? Has the endless bummer of this campaign nightmare broken our spirit? Or is there yet room for some improbable hope?

No time for helpless introspection now. The campaign trail stretches off into the unknown distance, where Fear and Loathing await.


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Comments

  • http://profiles.google.com/betoochoa78722 Beto Ochoa

    Rick Perry decided to run, over a year ago. He is not well received here. I will not debate with people why because they are convinced otherwise and no amount of observation will suffice to sway them.
    If you value your national sovereignty, look elsewhere for a president.
    BTW, Perry has practically no claim to our state’s business success.
    Texas is booming because scores of thousands are moving here with their cash in tow.

  • Anonymous

    I seem to recall Santorum stating that it would be unfair to punish those who came out when it became “legal” after re-establishing DADT, I also thought he praised our brave young men and women of whatever sexuality or words to that effect.

    As to Mr. Perry, instead promising to make the “government as inconsequential to our lives as possible” the best single line of any candidate in the race so far, he decided to go all “dreamy acty” on our asses. That very well may have been a fatal gaffe. I know I’ll remember it come next May when NC has it’s primary.

  • Anonymous

    Stacy, you probably should start outlining the 2,000-word persuasive essay about why Sarah Palin needs to get in the race.

  • Cat282ahc

    I thought you were a homely old bastard, till I looked in the mirror.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/EU5DQWQTTHTPO4A4ZYSL3AAV2U Adjoran

    Perry never was the conservative knight in shining armor some hoped he would be.  I knew conservatives would find fault with many of his positions and policies – but I have been very surprised at how poorly he’s fared in the debates.  I never saw him debate before, but I was told he debated every statewide opponent in Texas (Ag Comm, Lt. Gov., and Gov. x3) and won every debate easily.

    Kay Bailey Hutchinson must really not be much in a debate, for all her years in DC.

    Santorum did very well, but part of his problem is the same as Bachmann’s, no executive experience at all.  Not to mention his butt-whipping at the hands of the idiot-boy Bob Casey, Jr., perhaps the worst defeat of an incumbent Senator in history.

    Cain lost his only previous campaign, but at least he was a successful manager.  Whether he can parlay that into a competitive campaign remains to be seen.  There’s not going to be funding for many campaigns going forward, so the money men may decide between him and Santorum (or possibly someone else).

    Michelle Bachmann is circling the drain.  Some will say she “peaked too soon” but I don’t think there was ever much of a chance for her.  She lacks experience and tends to say things which make people wonder about her.

    Of course, the only real conservative alternative to Romney remaining, assuming no one in the field can do it, would be Palin.  Hmmm, didn’t she say the end of September at one time?

  • http://thepagantemple.blogspot.com/ ThePaganTemple

    Do we all agree we should write-off Jon Huntsman? Why? I’ve been hearing rumors that his pole is rising in New Hampshire. What do you guys think of a running mate for him? I think he ought to shake things up if he gets the nomination, pick a real wild card. Somebody like Lady Gaga, or how about Chaz Bono?

  • Anonymous

    And this just happened like Athena springing from the forehead of Zeus? Rick Perry has at least had the good sense to stay out of the fucking way.

    If you want the two perfect counterexamples, look at Obama nationally and O!Romney in Massachusetts.

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  • elaine

    Agreed.

    Like, now…

  • Anonymous

    ……*……..

  • http://zillablog.marezilla.com Zilla of the Resistance

    Stacy, if you do the free upgrade to a PayPal “business” account,  they will mail you a MasterCard debit card allowing you to use whatever funds land in your PayPal account immediately after receiving them. But it takes like 2 weeks to get the card in the mail so your Jar Hitters will still need to hook you up now. It may help in the future though. My jar doesn’t get hit often, but having immediate access to the funds when it does has saved my butt on more than one occasion, just yesterday a dear friend sent a few bucks which really saved me because I was out of everything here and became able to get milk & diapers for my little boy and bread to make lunch for my little girl to take to school. If I had to wait the 3-5 business days for a transfer to a bank, we’d be in really bad shape.
    Let my little tale be a reminder to your readers that sometimes what may seem like a ‘small’ donation, has the potential to help someone in a really BIG way.
    I hope you get lots of Tip Jar Hits, for all that you do for us, you certainly deserve it.
    Thank you for all your hard work.

  • john lichtenstein

    Cain would be OK for a Democrat. Not as conservative as Jerry Brown or even Willy Brown but better than Pelosi. But he’s just not a Republican. Asked what department he would eliminate, he wouldn’t name one. Not even the NEH or cowboy poetry. Cain would continue to fund cowboy poetry while the country went bankrupt. He’s not an alternative to Romney, but Romney with a more colorful backstory.Pat him on the back for surviving cancer and give him Howard Dean’s phone number.

  • http://thecampofthesaints.org Bob Belvedere

    She’s got to do it.  Many of us will not work to support Mandate Mitt.

  • http://twitter.com/Weirddave0 Dave

    Have you been licking toads?

  • Anonymous

    He said he’d eliminate the EPA and replace it with a smaller agency, something Newt proposed some time ago. Lay off the toads.

  • john lichtenstein

    I can only assume you didn’t watch the debate. He said that if he was “forced” to cut anything, he would reform the EPA. He’ll keep the cowboy poetry, Ex-Im bank, NEH, NEA, CPB, Department of Education, Smalla Business Administration, FEMA, Federal flood insurance, farm subsidies, the BATF, and CDBGs. Any mainstream Democrat (Clinton, Gore, Brown, Brown) could have come up with *something* to eliminate. 

  • Anonymous

    I did watch the debate, can’t swear he didn’t preface with “forced”, at any rate he did say he’d replace the EPA  and he was only asked for one example. That’s a good start on a list you have there, but for a candidate to start listing agencies and Departments they intend to abolish and expect to get elected, well their licking toads.
     
    First, while I imagine it’d be fun to go into the EPA and say your fired to the entire staff but I suspect it’s not as easy as closing Guantanamo. As for getting elected while intending to close Departments one must use words like reform and streamline and phrases like eliminate over reach and make more responsive to realities on the ground.

     Then after being elected hopefully with healthy majorities in the house and senate you start by slashing funding quietly and leaving management positions unfilled assigning tasks to personnel that they can’t or don’t want to do. You wouldn’t fill any vacancies especially the janitorial staff and the people who deliver supplies such as toilet paper. You’d also go whole hog after theft and embezzlement which will be rampant because you’d increase the opportunity and temptation while making an all out effort to monitor it. You create the impression that there are snitches everywhere even though there aren’t.

    Second, you eliminate almost all grants given by these Departments and Agencies. Far to many of these grants are given to NGO allies of the agencies, then are used to sue the government on behalf of toads or bait fish. These grants are also used by “impartial” groups who furnish “studies” detailing the horrors of whatever that are used by the granting agency to make “appropriate policies and regulations”. Stopping this funding and the behaviors it subsidises reduces both the effectiveness of the government departments and reduces the size and deleterious effects of their NGO allies.

    Cowboy poetry is a line item in a budget you don’t have abolish a Dept. to get rid of that.

  • http://treeofmamre.wordpress.com/ John Scotus

    I agree with Jacobson: When I saw Perry’s performance, I thought it was bad. Now, in retrospect, I think it is much worse. It is getting near time for Palin to enter the race, and I am glad she is waiting. Let the others tear each other apart, while she keeps her focus where it belongs–on Obama.

  • Anonymous

    Like I said, I’m sick of RINOs giving cover to Copperheads. Let them own it all.

  • DaveO

    Cain had THE message of the night when he personalized how terrible SCOAMFCare will be to non-elite Americans. That was pure gold.

  • DaveO

    Huntsman is the DNC’s favorite, as was McCain. Once the Ronulans start throwing their votes to Huntsman, and attacking conservatives as per usual, Huntsman just may become the next GOP candidate for POTUS.

    It’s worked once before. 

  • http://thepagantemple.blogspot.com/ ThePaganTemple

    I didn’t realize there was a “Department of Cowboy Poetry”. Are you sure that isn’t just an Agency of the Interior Department?

  • http://thepagantemple.blogspot.com/ ThePaganTemple

    Let’s have a contest to see who is the biggest conservative between me and Cain, and you be the judge. Here goes-

    Cain-wants to repeal Obamacare; wants to slash regulations; wants to replace Social Security with a private accounts system (Chile model); wants a nine percent national sales tax, nine percent tax on individual income, nine percent tax on corporate profits. Wants to eliminate the death tax; wants to eliminate capital gains tax.

    And he’s black

    Me-wants to repeal Obamacare; wants to set a target of reducing regulations by seventy percent; wants a fourteen percent corporate tax, including businesses that file as individuals; wants a 21 percent flat tax on private income to be gradually lowered to fourteen percent when the debt is paid down; wants to end the death penalty; wants to eliminate capital gains tax and replace it with a 7% sales tax on the sale of stock.

    And I’m white

    So who’s more conservative John, me or Cain?

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