Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sunday Reading

Eating Their Own — George F. Will lights into Mitt Romney for being the pretzel candidate.

The Republican presidential dynamic — various candidates rise and recede; Mitt Romney remains at about 25 percent support — is peculiar because conservatives correctly believe that it is important to defeat Barack Obama but unimportant that Romney be president. This is not cognitive dissonance.

Obama, a floundering naif who thinks ATMs aggravate unemployment, is bewildered by a national tragedy of shattered dreams, decaying workforce skills and forgone wealth creation. Romney cannot enunciate a defensible, or even decipherable, ethanol policy.


Romney, supposedly the Republican most electable next November, is a recidivist reviser of his principles who is not only becoming less electable; he might damage GOP chances of capturing the Senate. Republican successes down the ticket will depend on the energies of the Tea Party and other conservatives, who will be deflated by a nominee whose blurry profile in caution communicates only calculated trimming.

Republicans may have found their Michael Dukakis, a technocratic Massachusetts governor who takes his bearings from “data” (although there is precious little to support Romney’s idea that in-state college tuition for children of illegal immigrants is a powerful magnet for such immigrants) and who believes elections should be about (in Dukakis’s words) “competence,” not “ideology.” But what would President Romney competently do when not pondering ethanol subsidies that he forthrightly says should stop sometime before “forever”? Has conservatism come so far, surmounting so many obstacles, to settle, at a moment of economic crisis, for this?

Mr. Will is at his Brahman best when he gets all stuffy like this, and it’s a joy to read such indignant diatribes (“Floundering Naif” would be a great name for a deep-sea charter boat), but especially when it’s directed at one of his own kind. After all, Mr. Romney is the perfect GOP establishment candidate; he’s the 21st century Thomas E. Dewey, but without his charm or conviction.

What’s missing from this lovely piece of fratricidal vitriol against Mr. Romney is Mr. Will’s promotion of an alternative choice for the nomination. Unfortunately, all of his druthers have left the party, so to speak, or have no chance of getting the nomination, and he appears to be way over his brief crush on Michele Bachmann that he elaborated on in October 2009. So, who’s left? Will he go for Herman Cain, who can’t articulate a position on abortion but stands up for the smokers? What about Newt Gingrich, who is getting another look now that the rest of the field is falling apart? After all, Mr. Gingrich once predicted that after all the other candidates have been found wanting, they would turn to him.

This is what happens when you make the campaign solely about beating the other guy. That may be the way to win the nomination or even an election, but at some point the voters want to know what you stand for, not against.

(Photo: Saturn Devouring His Son by Francisco Goya)

More below the fold.

Defining “Exile” — Myriam Marquez of the Miami Herald comes somewhat to Sen. Marco Rubio’s defense about his fudging of his family’s arrival from Cuba by saying that being an exile is a state of mind rather than a legal status.

Because they arrived in 1956 and sought a green card, technically they were not exiles. But exile is based on more than a date of departure. It’s a mindset, an ache in the heart, a pride in one’s principles to not return until a tyrant leaves.

In that sense, Rubio’s parents were undeniably exiles, while others who left Cuba post 1959 and now travel to and from the island may not see themselves through that same lens. Ask many of the new arrivals from Cuba if politics was their motivation for leaving. It’s not always the case. They want a job and “jama,” Cuban street slang for food.

It’s complicated.

I don’t agree with Rubio’s ultra-conservative politics, but to turn this slip of a date into a “gotcha” visa-gate insults most Cuban Americans.

In discussing Cuba with Cubans, I’ve often heard that “it’s complicated” and “you’re not Cuban, so you can’t understand.” That may easily be. I’m not Cuban nor did my immediate ancestors leave their native land to come here, although some of them did it under similar circumstances from countries like England and Wales (and perhaps France and Holland; we’re not really sure). But since that was over two hundred years ago, my family has pretty much gotten over it. The thing that is problematic is that some Cubans (not all) make it sound as if they are the only people who have fled their native land under political or economic pressure or threat of persecution. That’s clearly not the case; just ask some folks in the Jewish population.

It’s risky to draw parallels, but if a Jewish candidate for office presented himself as the son of Holocaust survivors and a fine example of what the American Dream offers for people like him only to find out that his parents actually came to the United States from Germany in 1933 instead of a DP camp in 1946, his career would be finished, even if he claimed he didn’t know when they landed on Ellis Island. Whether or not Mr. Rubio honestly can claim “exile” status and it’s all a mindset, the plain fact is that he allowed both his campaign and himself to present misleading information, and it wasn’t until he was caught on it that he corrected it. There’s a name for that kind of mindset, too.

DIY 1965 Mustang — For those of you who have the skills and wherewithal, you can build your own classic 1965 with factory-authorized sheet metal.

Ford Motor Co. will soon sell brand-new 1965 Ford Mustangs for just $15,000 each. The only hitch: There’s some assembly required.

As part of its Ford Reproduction business, Ford revealed today it had approved a new stamping of the steel bodies for first-generation Mustang that buyers could then build into their own 1964 1/2 through 1966 Mustang, using whatever engine, axles, interior and other parts they can find on their own.

The first-generation Mustangs rank as America’s most-restored vehicle, and the cottage industry of reproduction parts has grown to where it’s possible to build a Mustang just as it would have appeared on the showroom floor in the mid-1960s, down to the pushbutton AM/FM radio.

Ford says the new body shell built by California-based Dynacorn has been improved only slightly with modern welding techniques and rustproofing, and comes out of the crate nearly ready for paint and assembly. The company already offers metal bodies for Mustangs from 1967 through 1970, and has been in talks with Ford to remake the original body of the Ford Bronco. There’s still life in those old horses yet.

You can also buy a very nicely restored 1965 Mustang for about the same amount of money. But hey, if you want to build it yourself, go for it.

[HT to Reader Jerry.]

Doonesbury — Fox hunting.