Monday, April 04, 2011

So the Strong Republican Contenders Are....

Ross Douthat offers a list of Repubican Presidential contenders he deems to be lightweights. Having told us that the party's "biggest names and brightest lights are mainly competing to offer excuses for why they won’t be running in 2012", by implication the lightweights are:
  • Mitt Romney,
  • Newt Gingrich,
  • Tim Pawlenty,
  • Haley Barbour,
  • Michele Bachmann,
  • Jon Huntsman,
  • Ron and/or Rand Paul,
  • Rick Santorum,
  • Donald Trump, and
  • Sarah Palin.
Douthat doesn't do much to explain his reasoning, save for lamenting that "if Romney is the front-runner and Pawlenty the freshest face, the Republican Party will have let both its own constituents and the country down." (I'll grant, many of the names on the list are self-explanatory; but others seem to be included because they espouse different philosophies of conservatism than that favored by Douthat.)

So who would Douthat have us believe are the heavyweights - those he would like to see enter the race but who lack the courage? He mentions Chris Christie, but it's difficult to tell if he's suggesting that Christie should run or making fun of his false bravado:
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, for instance, is convinced that he could capture the White House. “I already know I could win,” he told National Review earlier this year. But he’s apparently too modest to vindicate his boast: “I’ve got to believe I’m ready to be president, and I don’t.”
He makes a similar reference to Mike Huckabee, a man whom it is difficult to regard as anything but a political lightweight. Who does Douthat appear to be suggesting as serious potential candidates?
Then there’s Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana, who came to Washington in February and delivered the kind of speech that conservative campaigns are built on: a dense and fluent argument for limited government, rooted in the premise that America’s fiscal liabilities constitute a “survival-level threat.”
That's it? Douthat sees the man's only accomplishment of note to be the presentation of a single speech, a Republican version of Jimmy Carter's "Malaise Speech", and asserts on that basis that he's qualified for the White House? Who else?
Paul Ryan, the House Republicans’ rising star, shares Daniels’s view that the United States faces a pivotal moment in 2012 — a historic choice, as he likes to put it, between the American tradition of limited government and a “European-style social welfare state.” Naturally, he’s already ruled out a run for president. So have lesser lights like Senator John Thune of South Dakota and Representative Mike Pence of Indiana. So has the Republican politician with the most famous name and strongest executive record: former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida.
Lost in all of that is Douthat's tacit admission that he thinks the best person to lead the Republican ticket would be Jeb Bush. The Republican revolution, it seems, has eaten its own children.

Douthat apparently would prefer to live in an alternate universe. He acknowledges a bit of reality:
The public loves to vote for leaner government and then recoil from the reality.
But rests his thesis upon a fiction:
The unpopularity of President Obama’s agenda, the obvious unsustainability of blue-state spending habits (evident in budget battles from California to New York) and the looming entitlement crisis have created a remarkable opportunity for conservatives to reimagine government’s role....
Let's leave aside for a moment the fact that when deeming President Obama's agenda to be "unpopular" people like Douthat lump together those who criticize Obama for having gone too far with those who believe his reforms did not go far enough. This notion that state budget deficits are a "blue state" phenomenon? Transparently false. (Consider also foreclosures and unemployment.)

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