Monday, March 7, 2011

Snob Appeal

You really can’t appreciate what a complete snob George F. Will is until you see him turn on the people in his own party. In his column on Sunday, he sizes up the putative candidates for the GOP presidential nomination in 2012 and, after dismissing the rubes (Huckabee), the loons (take your pick), and the womenfolk (Palin), he comes down to the five that he thinks have the best chance of winning the nomination and giving President Obama a run for the money.

Let us not mince words. There are at most five plausible Republican presidents on the horizon – Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former Utah governor and departing ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, former Massachusetts governor Romney and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty.

So the Republican winnowing process is far advanced. But the nominee may emerge much diminished by involvement in a process cluttered with careless, delusional, egomaniacal, spotlight-chasing candidates to whom the sensible American majority would never entrust a lemonade stand, much less nuclear weapons.

That may easily be, but they each have a flaw that could make them either unpalatable to the primary voters or to the general electorate. Mr. Daniels was the budget director in the Bush administration and oversaw the deletion of the surplus and the implementation of the tax cuts that got us where we are today. He also said it would be a good idea for the GOP to call a truce in the culture war, which did not go over well with the base of the party that makes its living by gay-bashing.

Mr. Barbour’s recollections of growing up in the segregated South are more reminiscent of Rhett and Scarlett. That may play well to the Southern Strategy, but good luck with that north of the Mason-Dixon line. Mr. Huntsman has just finished two years working for the Obama administration; try dancing around that at a Tea Party, and Mr. Romney will have to explain how the healthcare law he promoted and signed as the governor of Massachusetts bears no resemblance whatsoever with the law that it inspired and was passed last year and is known as “Obamacare.” And Mr. Pawlenty is perhaps the blandest candidate on the field — and that’s saying a lot. He has recently made noises about appealing to the Tea Party base by casting his eyes towards the birthers, but in his case, it’s like putting Tabasco sauce on oatmeal.

Notice anything else that the five have in common? They’re all white straight men; John Boehner has more melanin in his right thumb than all of them put together. As David Letterman said about the 2008 field, they all look like a bunch of guys waiting for a tee time at a restricted country club. The only reason Mr. Will likes these candidates has nothing to do with whether or not they can win. It’s because they all, to some degree, look and sound like him.