Earlier this week National Review, the girly-man journal of American conservatism, posed on the beach behind a carboard cutout of a heavily-muscled body and endorsed Mitt Romney for President of the United States. Now, remember, National Review is not a Republican magazine, but a conservative one. It can be both nice and not so nice to Republican politicians.
And I am a conservative, with a similar view of Republican politicians, who I rather generally can’t stand. But I do turn to them somewhat routinely after forcing myself to listen to Democrats like Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid.
But back to National Review and Mitt Romney. As a conservative I can have a considered sympathy for those who espouse ideas from the great and varied garden of conservative ideas.
Here’s what I feel, as a conservative, when I listen to Mitt Romney: Absolutely nothing. Zero. Zip. Nada. It’s worse than being left flat by him. Being left flat would imply that he leaves even a two-dimensional impression on me.
It’s not a case where I don’t believe a word he says. It’s that I have no sense that he is saying anything at all. In a field like politics, where “saying something” has such a low standard to meet in the first place, my reaction to Romney really does say something. As I wrote the other day, he has the affect of a game show host, and he has less texture than Alex Trebek at that.
Do I believe that the editors at National Review were fooled by Romney? No, not at all. I just think that the editors are fools. Nor do I think that Romney could fool even some of the people some of the time, to reference the first part of the old three-part apology for the failings of democracy.
Well how did he get elected governor of Massachusetts, you ask? We ain’t talkin’ about no governor’s job here, I answer. And Massachusetts elects Ted Kennedy to the Senate every six years. How the hell does that happen? Just be thankful that a certain magical wisdom of the American people as a whole has prevented him from ever being elected president.
Now, that’s all that I have to say about Romney, for the moment. On to the Republican dillema.
Mike Huckabee? He’s the latest GOP “hopeful” to offer hopelessness to the party. I refuse to consider any candidate who is less qualified to be president than I am. Forget about Huckabee. The last thing America needs is another corn-pone hustler from Arkansas in the White House.
Rudy Giuliani? Not a conservative. Not even a real Republican. Has no business even seeking the nomination. Plus, he would destroy the Republican coalition and spell the end of the party.
John McCain? The fact that he’s looking better because of the sad state of the competition is a temptation that should be feverishly resisted. I actually started to tilt in his direction, and then I remembered that McCain is a disaster waiting to happen.
Ron Paul? Sure. Nominate him and it would be the first time that a major party candidate got less than 20% of the vote. Though I suppose a Kucinich vs. Paul contest would make it the first time both major party candidates each got less than 20% of the vote.
That leaves us with one candidate, who could conceivably both be a conservative and win the election:
Fred Thompson? He has cancer, but it’s not a bad case that is likely to kill him. He is very bright. He is something of a conservative. And he has a sort of hip avuncular personality to which voters could easily be drawn. My problem with him is that he seems not to want to get on the bad side of his friends in Hollywood, and that could spell trouble. But all things considered he doesn’t have the word “Embarrassment” tattooed across his forehead.
That’s the field, folks. And by my calculation Thompson is the only candidate with anything approaching the complete package. He appears to be a serious man, and to at least understand the job he’s running for, which is about the most we can expect in terms of qualifications these days. He doesn’t appear to be powered purely by ambition. He’s not a goofball, and he doesn’t give a hint of being a disaster waiting to happen.
His campaign strategy appears to be to hope that primary voters wake up to the fact that he’s the only viable candidate in the field. He might want to try a little more than that.