The Republicans’ current non-Romney stand-in, former senator Rick Santorum, is widely regarded as out of touch and a little bit 14th century, even among mainstream pundits used to grading G.O.P characters on a steep curve. But one thing they all agree on is how devoted he is to his faith. Sure, Santorum may want to improve the Land of the Free by requiring all public policies to be based on Rick’s faith, but gosh darn it, he really believes in it, unlike those “cafeteria Catholics.”
But then how to reconcile Santorum’s love-thy-neighbor religion with his stance on, well, Jesus, nearly anything? Wanting states to have the right to ban birth control? Equating gay sex with child rape and bestiality? Blaming priests’ abuse of children on progressive culture?
What’s more, while he obsesses over what’s happening in people’s bedrooms, there are at least ten significant Catholic church teachings which Santorum (and fellow-Catholic Gingrich) violate (see Juan Cole’s piece at Informed Comment).
So perhaps those so-called values voters responsible for Santorum’s surge should stop looking for the anti-christ in the White House and take a closer look at the guy atop their shoulders.
(In fact, if you plug Santorum’s recent campaign schedule into Google Earth you see a highly disturbing pattern…)
A sane person might think that in a race for the presidency of the United States, the challengers would be asked about the big issues of the day. Like, “Mr. Romney, what do you think of the big issues of the day?” And if no one thought to ask them, you might think they’d speak up for themselves. But somehow, the Republican party is trying to choose the right wealthy white male to end the tyranny of President Obama without asking a single substantive question on war or the financial crisis.
Like, “If elected President, would you return this great nation to its panicked state of 2008 when insolvency ripped through banks like wildfire and no one knew where the contagion would end?”
Wait, that was a loaded question. How about, “Mr. Romney, you criticize the Obama administration for not having restored the economy fast enough. Yet you’ve called for the repeal of the Dodd-Frank bill, the only serious attempt since the crisis to restore oversight of the banking industry. How would restoring the conditions that gave birth to the financial crisis not encourage the same reckless gambling?”
Instead, debate moderators leave Romney and Gingrich to dance in sideshows — their demonizing of Freddie Mac, for example (the G.O.P.’s favorite housing-crisis scapegoat, whose mortgages were better secured than those of private banks). And when the two admit during the last Florida debate that they’re both investors in Freddie Mac, they snipe back and forth about who earns more interest.
“…It’s easy to see why the G.O.P. won’t revisit the early days of the crisis. It would force the nominees to either oppose the Bush bailouts — thereby losing the confidence of business — or support them, thereby losing the Tea Party and (even worse) having to agree with Obama.”
The current nomination battle is doing nothing to inform voters whether a different president would speed up the economic recovery or hasten the arrival of another crisis.
Imagine the economy is a big ship. In the 90′s and after, investment bankers in the first-class cabins are bribing successive captains (Clinton, Bush Jr.) to deregulate their industry. President Bush is at the helm when the ship hits an iceberg. It starts taking on water fast. He initiates a massive bailout, followed later by a stimulus package, and manages to slow the water gushing into the ship’s hull. Bush’s party is relieved of duty, and Barack Obama takes the helm. The ship is still listing badly, so Obama signs a second stimulus bill, and eventually signs a bill restoring some (but not enough) oversight of the banking industry. Finally the hole is patched (though not fixed), and while there’s still too much water in the hull for the ship to regain full speed, its pace is slowly increasing.
What would a Romney presidency do to the recovery? Let’s ask him.
Mitt, so you want to be president? You’re running on your knowledge of how this ship runs, but before you can reach the helm and challenge Captain Obama to a fight there’s a big Newt Gingrich blocking the passageway! He’s sweaty and mad and he wants to throw you overboard (he’s thrown two others over the railing already and he was married to both of them.) You need to get Newt out of the way by showing the passengers that he doesn’t understand ships and that he’d be a bad captain. The microphones are on and you can expose him for the charlatan he is.
What would you ask him? Maybe what Newt would have done if he were in charge in 2008? Would he have bailed out the water or not? If not, how would he have stopped the ship from sinking? And what would he do to make sure such a disaster doesn’t happen again?
Instead Romney asks, “Newt, you earned money advising one of the corporations that financed some of the cabins on this ship, you’re not a conservative, are you?”
And Newt, for all his “big thinker” thinking, won’t look at the big picture either, preferring instead to attack Romney’s business, as if the cause of 9% unemployment were venture capital rather than unregulated investment banking. (That confusion alone should be enough to disqualify Newt.)
It’s easy to see why the G.O.P. won’t revisit the early days of the crisis. It would force the nominees to either oppose the Bush bailouts — thereby losing the confidence of business — or support them, thereby losing the Tea Party and (even worse) having to agree with Obama. And discussing the causes of the crisis would be even more inconvenient. All the major candidates still support the kind of anti-regulation fundamentalism that allowed the banks to bet on a bubble with taxpayers’ money in the first place.
The nomination battle is just as removed from other big issues. How all the G.O.P. candidates can wave off the most serious long-term threat to the nation’s environment and economy — climate change — is a question no one on Fox (or CNN for that matter) is asking. Climate change only comes up as a tool for Romney to beat Gingrich with in front of conservatives — as in, “See you guys, why, Newt once agreed to work with Speaker Pelosi on something, Newt’s not one of you! (I mean, not one of us!)”
In matters of war, anyone challenging Obama from the right is in the awkward position of finding fault with him for killing Osama bin Laden or bringing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan towards their long overdue ends. Instead, you’ll hear Romney criticizing the president for “apologizing for America” — a silly diversion that PolitiFact thoroughly disemboweled.
On Libya, Gingrich criticized Obama for not intervening, until Obama did intervene, at which point Newt criticized him for intervening, saying it reeked of opportunism. (Oh irony of ironies!) Obama then went on to assemble a coalition to overthrow Gadaffi with an effective combination of speed, multi-national co-operation, local support, international legitimacy, and low casualties — an operation that today’s Republicans praise in theory only.
It’s a strange election, this race to overthrow a successful (if over-hyped) president. Republican voters tend to agree that the most important thing is defeating Obama (who has been such a “disaster,” they all say), but his challengers can’t verbalize what he’s actually done that’s been so disastrous (besides not more quickly reviving the economy that deregulation destroyed). As for how their fatal allergy to regulation will prevent the next major crisis, no one will say.
Or even ask.
In last night’s G.O.P. debate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich renewed his promise that as president, he would eliminate judges that He (Newt) decides have gone beyond the Constitution, citing the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision several years back that the line “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance violated the Constitution’s establishment clause.
That decision, to Gingrich, was radically un-American. Putting aside for a second the radical ignorance of the concept of separation of powers which his opinion betrays, the idea that the words “Under God” are central to the nation’s founding principles is ridiculous. There is no mention of God in the constitution (zip; zero — search for it). The first insertion of the phrase “Under God” didn’t occur until 1948, and was not officially incorporated into the pledge until 1954 (178 years after the nation’s founding), a symbolic and political move borne out of fear at the height of anti-Communist hysteria.
All of which is irrelevant anyway. A president firing a judge for a decision he disagrees with would be an egregious violation of separation of powers which — unlike that two-word amendment to the pledge — is a founding, American principle.
It all makes you wonder, if Newt is prone to dramatic, dictatorial decisions based on personal political whims, what other executive fiats would a President Gingrich unleash?