February 18, 2007
The major Republican candidates are squaring off, defining themselves, and generally trying to look Presidential while carving out firm constituencies. None has emerged as unbeatable, but any one of them could beat Hillary Clinton in a general election.
Take John McCain. Please. This man’s day has come and gone, and while he suffered a painful trouncing at the hands of Karl Rove’s Fundamentalist Christian kneecap-breakers in the South Carolina Republican primary scene in 2004, he was the candidate who had the nation’s respect and would have won the country in a landslide in a general election that year. You remember that Al Gore won that one, and the Supreme Court gave it to Bush in some kind of shell game that has not fully been explored or expiated.
McCain had his fans from both parties, and I was one of them. This was a man of principle, who talked straight and saw things clearly. Supremely human – he could be prickly and he could be amusing – but he was a man who clearly had the country’s best interests at heart and had the fire in the belly of an honest-to-God leader. If his party had not seen his very integrity as a threat, he would have been President for 9/11 and it is likely he would have gone after Usama bin Laden instead of Saddam Hussein. The country would be better for it.
But this time around, he has seen the inevitable light – that the only way to get the job he wants and deserves (or did at one time) is to knuckle under to the enemy. After all, he didn’t want to be seen as a sore loser, and he needed a party behind him or he would have gone the Third Party route a few years ago. He has trusted the Republican Party and he has laid down his high standards in order to get the mantle this time. Religious Right? Oh, yeah, he’s with them. Bush hacks? Bring them over, we can use them! He has taken a stance in support of widening the war against Iraq, even though he seems to know it is too little, too late; he is seeking the nomination of the party that got us into this, and he will not make a statement against that untenable position.
He has even gone so far as to hire the ad agency that created the Swift Boat debacle and also the man behind the racist ads that sank Harold Ford. He’s gonna play hard ball this time out, and, although he is not a Republican’s Republican, he is going into the fight of his life, and he’s going in swinging.
Rudy Giuliani, who has always gone in swinging, has had a worse time of it with his party. A tough mayor of one of the major cities of the world, he alienated its Liberal Establishment, apparently by force of his abrasive personality. I no longer lived in the city when he was mayor, but was perplexed that when I visited and found it clean, pleasant and thriving, yet my New Yorker friends abhorred the man who made that happen. I still don’t understand it. New Yorkers reacting negatively to someone who is opinionated, combative, and arrogant?
It was more than that, of course. His politics was harsh, Conservative, pro-police and seen as anti-citizen. Never mind that such was needed and that his policies improved the city, he was still not a local hero until his take-charge stance on the 11th of September, 2001, while the sitting President and Vice President ran for cover.
Giuliani has a way of rubbing everybody the wrong way even when doing the right things. He has strong stands which are in opposition to those of other Republicans; namely gay rights and abortion rights. A brilliant mind, a ready smile, but very little charm to win over the ever-important religious wing of his party, he will make the race interesting although he has little chance of winning its nomination.
Mitt Romney is the mystery candidate at this point. He is youngish and good-looking, and clearly looks like the man for the Vice Presidential nod. His opponents cite his Mormonism as if that would matter in a national race. I think that type of battle has long since been won. It’s not as if he supports bigamy.
Although his opponents suggest he has flip-flopped on crucial issues, this has not hurt a candidate since the days of George McGovern. We don’t know anybody who hasn’t changed his mind in his professional life. The fact is, at the present time he espouses all his party’s positions – he doesn’t believe in homosexual marriage, nor in women’s right to choose to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, or in open national borders. He has succeeded in business and in politics and comes across as a can-do kind of guy, which suits him for high office, and, as far as Republicans are concerned, would make him a very appealing Vice President.