Andy Stone: A Stone’s Throw
As we wade through the endless bog of the Republican candidate debates, questions come to mind.Is the circus in town? Is this the political version of How Many Clowns Can Fit in a Volkswagen?Or, more simply: Are these guys for real?Or, more seriously: Is this the best the once-proud Republican Party can do? Where are the actual, top-tier candidates? Given Barack Obama’s obvious vulnerability, you would think the best and the brightest from the GOP would be desperately eager to get in on the action.And yet, all they can come up with is this bizarre cluster: Cain, Perry, Bachmann, Gingrich, Santorum, et al. Collectively just about one custard pie short of the aforementioned Volkswagen-load of clowns.And yes, Mr. Mitt is the cherry on top – the only non-clown in the bunch. We’ll get back to him in a minute.Meanwhile, again I ask, where are the GOP’s best and brightest?Resisting the urge to suggest that the GOP doesn’t have anyone who qualifies as “best” or “brightest” (which would be a cheap shot and make for a very short column), I think the answer is simple enough.The smart ones are all too smart to run right now.Only a fool (see clown references, above) would want Barack Obama’s job right now.Any intelligent Republican has to realize that in their relentless effort to destroy Obama’s chances for reelection, they have also backed themselves into a no-win corner.A serious government stimulus might pull this economy out of recession, but Republicans have declared that a stimulus won’t work. In the GOP Dictionary, “stimulus” is only half a word – the first half being “failed.”So if a Republican is elected in 2012, he will be stuck with his party’s official Economic Repair Tool: Keep slashing jobs to bring back full employment.Hey guys, let’s poke a few more holes in this flat tire and see if that helps it hold air.They’ve got nothing else.Drilling for oil will not bring back full employment. Destroying the government will not bring back prosperity. Fouling the air and water, killing off a few more endangered species, cutting taxes for millionaires and shutting down the Commerce Department just won’t do the trick.And they know it.So the collective reaction of the GOP’s actual Best & Brightest is, “Don’t hand me that flaming bag of dog poop!”They’ll cheerfully sit this one out, thank you.If Obama wins, that’s fine with them. In fact, they’re probably hoping Obama wins. Then they can trash him for four more years and wait until 2016. The economy’s bound to be looking up by then – and if it’s not, well, people will be so desperate, they’ll be willing to try anything.Hey! How about a stimulus? Great idea!And off they’ll go.They won’t be soiled by the Great Recession (which, let us not forget, began – definitely, unarguably, unquestionably – under the administration of George W. Bush, after, in fact, eight long years under the administration of George W. Bush).And, perhaps even more importantly to any serious Republican politician, they almost certainly won’t be soiled by having to kowtow to the brain-damaged loonies of the Tea Party.Sorry if I’m not showing proper open-minded respect to said loonies, but, really, what politician – what sentient human being – wants his or her public image to be defined by obeisance to a bunch of weirdos running around in three-cornered hats? Over-weight, out-of-shape, middle-aged losers pretending to be revolutionaries. If the people at the original Boston Tea Party had been anything like this bunch, we’d still be singing “God Save the Queen” before baseball games – except that we’d be playing cricket, not baseball.But right now, pretending to agree with said weirdoes is a requirement for anyone who wants the Republican nomination for president.That’s why we’ve seen this bizarre succession of front-runners:Donald Trump, who’ll say anything to get his way.Michelle Bachmann, who’ll say anything that crosses her mind (and what a quick trip that is).Rick Perry, who’ll say anything he can remember (which isn’t much). Herman Cain, who makes it clear that he has no interest in about 90 percent of the job of being president. And now – can it be? – Newt Gingrich. Newt. Gingrich. (Words fail me.)Actually, Cain and Gingrich have both made it clear – inadvertently – that they’re really only in the race in order to sell books and make a few bucks.When Rick Perry’s front-runner status began to evaporate (for the minor sin of being unable to put together a coherent sentence), Herman Cain surged to the top of the heap – and immediately took off on a book-promotion tour, far away from any of the states that hold early primaries. And Gingrich – who destroyed his one brief spurt of political power and glory in the 1990s with a mixture of ego, anger and petty pique – knows he has no chance of winning anything. So he just shamelessly hawks his books every chance he gets.And so, finally, that leaves us with Mr. Mitt.Mitt Romney is a real candidate who might or might not still be trying to become a real human being.He knows he’s crammed into that Volkswagen full of clowns.It isn’t comfortable in there, but most of the time he avoids wearing the bright red nose and the clown shoes. And when they start throwing pies, the custard rolls right off his shellacked hair.He’s been running so hard for so long that he can’t quit now.So he’ll stick out to the end. Flipping when he needs to flip. Flopping when he needs to flop. Waiting, patiently, eagerly, shamelessly for the nomination – like a dog waiting for that scrap that he knows he’s going to get when everyone’s finished eating dinner.And then he’ll take a long, hot shower and wait for the clowns to leave the Big Top, so he can pretend he’s won a hard battle for the nomination against the field of worthy foes.As he flicks the last bit of custard off his highly polished shoes.
Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address email@example.com.