Our political Quote of the Day comes from the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin who notes how Texas Gov. Rick Perry smothered his own flat tax proposal with his goodbye-independent-voters comments on CNBC gleefully saying how using the birther issue against Barack Obama is politically useful and “fun.” She also notes that he has also been denounced by some conservatives. It is very important in these polarized times to note that YES there are serious, thoughtful, serious conservatives who don’t view politics as the equivalent of professional wrestling where it’s all about good guys and bad guys and whipping up often dangerous emotions. She writes:
It should have been Texas Gov. Perry’s first step back in a long climb up from political oblivion. But instead of the tax and spending plan the day will go down in political history as “Remember when Perry blew himself up on CNBC?” It’ll be a consolation to every political consultant that ultimately races are about the candidates. No amount of staff work and no amount of money can compensate for a candidate with fatal flaws.
The image of today will remain long after people forget whether an optional flat tax was a plus or a minus will be this:
She then quotes a conservative who is upset with Perry’s comments and notes that some GOP bigwigs stepped up to gently but firmly suggest Perry give it a rest (the two most prominent were Jeb Bush and Haley Barbour — serious conservatives whose rhetoric can’t usually be confused with Donald Trump’s, Michele Bachmann’s …or Rick Perry’s). Then she writes:
We’ve come to a point in the presidential race where Newt Gingrich may be the candidate with relatively little baggage compared to his loonier competitors. While Perry was rendering himself a clown, Herman Cain jumped the shark with a bizarre ad featuring his smoking campaign manager. Moreover, the reality of Cain’s unpreparedness may begin to seep in…
(NOTE: As someone whose father and several other relatives had lung cancer or lung problems, I need to say I can’t understand what all the fuss is over the Cain ad. If anything it was boring and would not move one voter to vote for Cain. But unusual? Exotic? An outrage? Strange? No.)
After noting a major bungle by Mitt Romney in Ohio, she writes:
The only Republicans who sounded presidential today aren’t running — Jeb Bush, and Govs. Terry Branstad and Bob McDonnell. Perhaps they should reconsider. It was not a day to be proud of the GOP field.
And herein is the tragedy for the Republicans and conservatives.
If there was ever a year when a THOUGHTFUL conservative who is focused on issues and not personalities, who talks like a policymaker and not like a Rush Limbaugh or Fox News show host wannabbe, this is it. A THOUGHTFUL conservative could lay out programs in detail and then the American public could decide whether the arguments are stronger than what Barack Obama has delivered so far. Most of the Republicans running for President and the smug talking heads on cable shows who do the spin only seem interested in throwing red meat zingers to The Converted and don’t seem to care about how this kind of rhetorical bilge turns off independent voters — and some people who have since left the Republican party.
I am now on a 9 month car tour that will take me all over the U.S. until the end of May. I recently spent time in the Northeast and was amazed at the number of people I met who said they were once proud Republicans but are now utterly turned off by the hate, political zingers and — the used the word often — “extremism” of people in their own party. They said they were either now independents or Republicans who may stay home or not vote Republican.
Even with what clearly is Republican obstructionism in Congress — Republicans seem to have been following Limbaugh’s “I hope he fails” comment as policy since the talk show titan made it — a THOUGHTFUL, SERIOUS conservative who talks issues could go into the election the favorite or even if the economy improves a serious challenge to Obama. With a tepid economy that has led to a new generation of young people who are now finding even dreaming about the American dream elusive, a THOUGHTFUL, SERIOUS conservative could find many people willing to consider his ideas if the presentation was stripped of the increasingly tiresome political polemics and rhetoric that seem to be the end of today’s American politics, not just the means.
Right now 2012 is shaping up as a lesser of two evils election.
And I’m betting the kind of rhetoric Perry employed will NOT be forgotten, no matter how he does in the primaries or no matter how big his bankroll is.
He is damaged goods.
He may be anything – but he is not a THOUGHTFUL conservative.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.