Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Republicans’ Got Talent: Mitt, Newt, and Rick

by Nomad

Although, for the sake of my sanity, I have managed to avoid most of the debates- sticking mostly to the summaries and highlights- it suddenly occurred to me why there have been so many debates. I mean, who thought it was necessary? Who on earth thought it was a good idea to let the American people get THAT close and familiar with this year's GOP candidates?
In the end, I decided that it had to have been some marketing "genius" who decided to hijack the competition show format, used in TV programs such as American Idol and Dancing with the Stars in order to promote the 2012 Republican politicians. It would go a long way in explaining the unexpected howls, cheers and appalling applause. If that was the notion, then it was disastrously ill-conceived. 
Looking at it from that perspective, however, I began to see things in quite a different light.

The early stages of the 2012 election show, Republican's Got Talent, now appear to be complete and when you look over the surviving Republican candidates for 2012 presidential election, it’s quite easy to pinch your nose, make a face in disgust and walk away. Still, all of the top three have won some kind of prize and three (four? or was it five?) are now gone- hopefully- their respective political graveyards. (Note, however, that Republicans are fond of their zombies.)

To be sure, these are not normal fellows. It doesn't take a genius to figure that out. They are driven- nearly to a masochistic degree- to satisfy their ambitions and the demands of their egos. 
Apart from that, I would argue that these are actually talented people. That’s right, damn it. Talented. Let’s look at them individually.

Contestant Newt
Let’s begin with Newt Gingrich- that un-endangered dancing polar bear with the icicle of a wife. He is a perfect example of the kind of political figure that rises, against all odds, to the top of the pile. Newt is, in my opinion, a man of considerable abilities which need to be highlighted and for which. I think, he deserves a certain amount of recognition. 

First of there's his character. Oh, I know that numerous others have cited his many examples of moral lapses and labeled him as unfit in varied ways;  untrustworthy as a marital partner, disreputable as a politician, and disrespected as a scholar. But there’s another aspect of his character that shouldn’t be overlooked.

One of his notable characteristic is his perseverance- some would say, obstinacy. With the exception, perhaps, of Richard Nixon, no other man has been given as many pink-slips by voters and farewell handshakes by his own party as Mr. Gingrich. For various reasons, he has been told again and again that his brand of politics has no place in this nation. Yet, behold the man. He clearly has a bulldog’s grip on the neck of American politics and doesn’t plan to let go until he has strangled the life of it. Through bombast and by exploiting a number of particular weaknesses in the political system, he has managed, to re-emerge from the scummy swamp over and over. His past scandals, both public and private, would have destroyed an average political career. Obviously, Gingrich is a man who is willing and able to go beyond the limits, to overcome any obstacle and regulation to satisfy his ambitions. Impressive, is it not?
And, equally extraordinary is Gingrich’s indisputable mental and rhetorical dexterity. His ability to make a laughable position on nearly any issue seem perfectly sensible is indeed dazzling. At least for that moment.  Gingrich’s talent to reshape, to twist and to formulate a defense for his indefensible past behavior puts him far above your average political hack.(In comparison, Sarah Palin tends to make her hollow and insincere opinions sound merely incoherent.)

Contestant Mitt 
In the case of Mitt Romney, he too is a man of some brilliance. In the corporate sphere, he was able to amass a sizable fortune, to utilize every possible tax loophole and to hide from prying eyes that vast sum in offshore accounts on some balmy Caribbean island or under the snowy Swiss mountains, all apparently without breaking any enforceable law. 

His masterful manipulation of capital and commerce- without that heavy burden of conscience- puts Mitt Romney in a league of his own. Even among the Republicans. 
By buying up company upon company, by borrowing heavily on whatever value the company had and then by impersonally dismantling each and every one, Romney coldly and boldly reaped the rewards. That’s the capitalist system, my friends. 
In the amoral world of Big Business where Darwinism is not merely a theory, Romney has proven consistently he is capable of making the tough decisions. He has, without the slightest twitch of guilt or hesitant second-thought, refused to let the welfare of his fellow citizens stand in the way of profit-making.

We can all rest assured that, should he be elected president, when considering public policy on such complicated issues like health care, like unemployment benefits, or like civil rights issues, that the heavy burden of humanitarian considerations will not be a drag on the Romney decision-making process. 

Like Gingrich, Romney is definitely a man who is able to change his mind about the important issues. For example, in late 2002, Romney described himself as “a progressive-on-social-issues governor of Massachusetts.” Today- this week, at least- he has magically taken on the appearance of a conservative. When you think about the extremes and the sheer stretch involved, you have to admit that Romney may not be a man of great depth, but he does have a lot of elasticity. 

Contestant Rick
Among the lesser performers on the Republican stage is Rick Santorum, a man with an ability to make fanaticism seem reasonable and clever and wholesome. Ok, as a talent, it’s not much but other than that, Rick also does a passable a imitation of a 40-year old virgin. 
And, clearly that's enough to win an Iowa caucus and to keep his supporters on the Christian Right pleased as non-alcoholic punch. With an exceedingly low level of tolerance, winning the endorsement from a group of prominent evangelical Christian leaders shouldn’t be underestimated. They seem to hate almost everybody. I suppose trying not to offend any of them must be like walking on Easter egg shells and as difficult as squeezing your belligerent camel through the eye of a needle.
I am always one to give credit where credit is due. Santorum has his talents. After all, it’s not easy to wrap religious bigotry in a flag and pass it off a social conservative policy. After Rick Santorum, we can assume it will become a whole lot easier. 

It’s not a question whether these men are worthy of our grudging respect. No doubt, some people might believe they are. Nobody should be naive enough to expect our leaders to “aspire to imitate the perfection of angels” as Gibbon wrote. Still there are important questions voters should be asking themselves. 
  • Talented though they may be, do any of these candidates possess the kind of qualities that we look for in a president
  • Are the characteristics of these particular men the traits of the leader of a great nation, with a long heritage of idealism and a low tolerance for corruption? 
  • Can we even trust these men to represent all Americans? 
  • What will the world really think of us as a nation to have these men as either our representation or our commanders in chief? 
  • And finally, are these men problem solvers or merely symptoms of the problem?
As frustrated as many voters are with Barack Obama’s struggles, there is always the possibility of things becoming much worse. The good people at Fox News would not like voters to think too much about that possibility, of course. (Weren't these the very same people who thought the war in Iraq was a splendid idea and got all flustered when France thought otherwise? Remember Freedom Fries?)
Given the Republican talent show on display, these contestants are a hint of what "worse" might actually look like.

Too bad it’s not a beauty pageant. Being bereft of any talent whatsoever, Sarah Palin might still have a chance. She’s certainly no rookie.. on the catwalk.
As in 2008 she could, at least, be a November runner-up.

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