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Wednesday, January 04, 2012

The One True Anti-Romney

While other candidates were busy rising and falling, sinking and swimming, reaching out to experts and promoting themselves to insiders, Rick Santorum did things the old fashioned way. He campaigned. And the candidate whom the insiders ignored and disdained, came within a hair of winning Iowa.

So now it's another round of Pile on Santorum. After the previous round of Pile on Gingrich. Which is how  we ended up with a match between Romney and Ron Paul. What exactly is the point of destroying Santorum I have to wonder? These attacks aren't really based on ideological opposition. Not for the most part. The war on Santorum in being waged to clear the way for some other candidate. And so every non-Romney candidate is being destroyed to make way for the one true Anti-Romney.

Who is the one true Anti-Romney? To some it's Perry, to others it's Gingrich and to others it's anybody but the candidates actually running.

There are many furious headlines being written castigating Santorum for somehow having sneaked under the radar without paying his dues by being lambasted by the conservative establishment for a week. The consensus is that he only almost won because all the other candidates crashed and burned. That might be true, but who tanked the other candidates? Aside from Cain, the liberal media hardly had to lift a finger. It was the gatekeepers of the establishment who did all the heavy lifting.

The National Review, which helped sink Gingrich, fires its biggest shotgun at Santorum by putting up a photo of him together with George W. Bush. It used to be Democrats that tried to sink Republicans with photos like that. But if we are going to disqualify any Republican who had his photo taken with Bush, the primary season just got a lot simpler.

The case against Santorum is that he is a "Big Government Conservative", all capital letters. That is the official talking point. But assuming that Santorum is a big government conservative, who are the small government conservatives? Romney, Perry, Gingrich?

When your competition are two state governors, one of whom was responsible for RomneyCare and the other for proposing a health insurance program for Mexicans, Santorum's transgressions like "national service, publicly financed trust funds for children, community-investment incentives, and economic-literacy programs in schools" don't seem that great a sin. What's left then for small government conservatism? Newt Gingrich? I like Gingrich, but he's not exactly immune to that charge by about a mile.

Worse still we are told that Santorum "voted against NAFTA and has long opposed free trade. He backed higher tariffs on everything from steel to honey." Horrifyingly unelectable. How can anyone possibly support a candidate who opposes mass shipping of American jobs overseas. Americans might support such a candidate, but the Chamber of Commerce never will.

At the London Telegraph, James Delingpole asserts that Santorum is "so left on the issues that matter he makes even Mitt Romney look like a red meat conservative". So I suppose we have found our Anti-Romney and he is Mitt Romney. The only way to possibly stop Santorum's radical left-wing opposition to NAFTA and support for economic literacy programs in schools is by rushing to vote for Mitt Romney to save America.

Longtime readers know that I am not a strong supporter of any candidate. There are candidates that I like while acknowledging their flaws. Overall I have tried to be fair to any legitimate candidate in the field and tried to find something good to say about them. As the seemingly inevitable ascent of Romney continues, I will find something to like about him, if only that his name isn't Obama.

What irritates me is that the primaries have descended into the depths of personal destruction where spurious attacks are used by supporters of one side or another until the field is a mass of ridiculed and banished candidates, and our winner is the man with the least personality and the least interest in what we think of him.

Proxies and backers for one Anti-Romney or another, and for Romney, trade insults and undermine each other's candidates, and while they are often right on the facts, those critiques are context-free because they rarely compare one candidate to another. Unfortunately we are well past the point where we can hope for a perfect candidate or even a great candidate, all we are doing now is the dirty business of comparison shopping candidates, trying to decide which one fits in our budget and won't break down after a hundred miles. There is something deceptive about rival car salesmen tearing down every used Chevy because it doesn't handle like a Porsche, when all they've got to offer are used Fords and used Hondas.

This race has come down to three Anti-Romneys. If conservatives can unite around an Anti-Romney then Romney is in big trouble. If they can't then Romney is the nominee. It's that simple and everyone knows it. But who will the Anti-Romney be?

The proxies accuse everyone who isn't their candidate of secretly being in league with Romney, which gives the man a little too much credit. If Romney was that kind of evil supergenius then he would have won more elections. They emphasize the big government vices of the other side while underplaying their own man's big government peccadilloes. So let's lay all the cards on the table.

All three Anti-Romneys are flawed. Deeply flawed. Human beings are naturally flawed, professional politicians more so. They all have their strengths and their weaknesses and they aren't the same. They have all variously denounced big government while all serving in very big government positions. They all have electability issues. They have all screwed up and been the object of mocking laughter.

I am not here to endorse or promote any of them. I like two of them, but I don't know if either of them can win an election against the Community Organizer in Chief and his press corps, and that is what matters most to me. The third I dislike, but would still prefer over Romney.


This isn't about who you should support. You will all make that decision yourselves. This is about how the primary coverage has boiled down to a circular firing squad that is as dishonest as it could possibly be. There's nothing wrong with pointing out a candidate's flaws. It's a public service. What is wrong is pretending that a disqualifying flaw in one candidate is a minor blemish on another. That's not honest criticism, it's trying to sell a bad product by tearing down the competition.

There are no Porsches here. There isn't anyone who didn't exercise government power or fund government programs. And there also isn't anyone who isn't a critic of some forms of government power. Anyone who served in congress or oversaw a state and claims otherwise is a liar. And everyone is also jumping on the small government reform bandwagon with varying degrees of sincerity. And that means more debates over the difference between legitimate and illegitimate exercise of government power is. But the bottom line is that they're all 1989 Chevy's and all we can do is try to make a case for the car that will actually take us four years on one tank of gas without costing too much.

That means we all have to do the numbers for ourselves and decide what fits in our budget and look at our gut reaction to the product. You have to decide what you can and can't live with.What candidate's values fit yours and which of their positions cross the line.

We have had enough messiahs in tailored suits. We're not looking for a Greek deity, just a flawed man who can win an election and check some of the worst abuses of the past four years. That's not aiming very high, but barring the arrival of some wonderful third party candidate, it's what we've got. There are plenty of other options for checking government power at the congressional level and in other ways, but this is what we have in the way of options at the presidential level.

Will we come together around an Anti-Romney? Probably not. The same establishment that destroyed every potential Anti-Romney will do its best to finish off Santorum clearing the way for a Romney nomination. Gingrich has made one comeback after being destroyed by the establishment and another one can't be ruled out. Perry has been trying to make a comeback, but has lacked the forum to do it in. Any one of them can still become the Anti-Romney and history will change.

I can't predict the future, but there are lessons that can be taken away from the present. The establishment  has internalized too much of the media's criticisms and the preoccupations of its influential backers. It is not truly interested in changing things, only in perpetuating the status quo. Too much of the conservative media and new media has echoed them creating a circular firing squad whose only real purpose was to make it impossible for anyone who isn't Romney to make it to the nomination. How much of this was intentional and how much of it was an inevitable outcome of website traffic driven economics and the growing adoption of Huffington Post and Drudge like coverage of politics by conservative media is difficult to say. But the outcome is clear and clearly unpleasant. The gossip website ethos of sensationalism and a predatory appetite for human failings trumping all else.

It is hard for idealism to thrive or even receive a fair hearing in an atmosphere of constant media cynicism where the only reason to build up a candidate is to tear him down again, where a sneering version of 1984's Two Minute Hate is always playing in every theater. The triviality of the debates was nothing compared to the triviality of the right of center media coverage of the candidates.

If we truly want another Reagan to emerge, then the forum has to be there to make it happen. And that means a serious discussion rather than a two second ridicule reel of some obvious flaw. It means digging deep into a candidate's positions, rather than airing their commercials or their talking points. It also means honestly examining flaws, rather than tearing down any rival candidates for no other reason then that their name isn't Rick or Newt. And it means opening yourself up to inspiration from even flawed candidates who have the potential to be more.

In 2012 we may have to settle for an Anti-Romney or even only an Anti-Obama, but it doesn't always have to be that way. And the change in tone that can make it happen begins with us.

28 comments:

lgstarr said...

I agree, which makes me wonder if I should even post this...

I'd pretty much settled on Santorum (whom I heard speak this year at a local Republican Club) and then I saw this on a blog I've followed for several years now:

"Santorum's a fatally flawed candidate on the national stage regardless of anything the Gaystapo did to him and this liability is 100% Santorum's own fault. It's also something Santorum has never come clean about or taken responsibility for in the slightest.

The real reason that Santorum lost re-election in 2006 by such a wide margin is because of the residency scam and school tuition fraud he perpetrated in the state of Pennsylvania while he was a sitting United States Senator.

Read more http://hillbuzz.org/why-rick-santorums-pennsylvania-residency-scam-and-school-tuition-fraud-still-matters-and-why-he-cant-be-the-nominee-because-of-it-95754#more-39186

Then I posted that snippet on my Republican club's Yahoo Group just to find consolation and/or repudiation and got this reply:

"Whoever is at or near the top -- the long knives come out. The octopus has more than 8 arms...

Santorum's flaws have been well known here in Pennsylvania. Nothing near any one of several Democrats have done."

Seems like everyone gets crucified EXCEPT Obama who is the most viciously anti-American "president" I've ever seen or heard about.

Edward Cline said...

It’s a pretty poor gallery of presidential wannabes, isn’t it? The chief problem is that not a single one of them is willing to discuss ideas, except if an idea is in a pre-packaged bromide that sends zings through the hearts of supporters and if the candidate isn’t pressed to state his premises. Imagine any one of them – Romney, Gingrich, Perry, Santorum, Paul – in debate in 1787 with the Founders over Constitutional issues. Laughable, right? The Founders would have asked the sergeant-at-arms who let the imbeciles in.

Yael said...

This is the pot calling the kettle black. If it weren't such a terrible shame, it would be comical that you are now lamenting the "personal destruction" of Santorum because someone has run a photo of him with George Bush, when you yourself - just two days after Perry announced his candidacy - associated him with the greatest threat to our civiliation - ISLAM - writing in fact that he "celebrates it."

In that same post you prominently linked to Pamela Geller's post titled, Rick Perry "the Stealth Jihad Candidate," and your text was accompanied by a photo of Perry with men in Arab garb, and another one with other Muslims. It was the kiss of death, even though you said it was simply a "preliminary conversation," and you were only vetting him.

Perry was destroyed from the get-go, and it would be hard to deny that you had a share in that destruction. I don't think you're in any position to be complaining now that others are doing less than you yourself have done.

Edward Cline said...

Yael: Why are you piling on Daniel? He’s one of the most astute political observers extant. He was right to show a photo of Perry “with men in Arab garb.” Perry’s school textbook episode deserved to be exposed. We don’t hear much about that now, do we, and Perry certainly isn’t talking about it, either. And he was right to link to a Pamela Geller article on the same subject. Frankly, all the GOP runners are “stealth jihad candidates,” because not a one of them will condemn Islam, that is, call it a totalitarian ideology in religious garb. Not even Gingrich. They’re all afraid to name precisely what they’re afraid of: Muslim outrage, charges from CAIR and its Muslim Brotherhood affiliates of racism or bigotry and so on, and afraid that the MSM will simply ratchet up its campaign against them and repeat CAIR’s charges.

And I’ll repeat what I’ve already said here: it’s a pretty sorry bunch that’s running against Obama. It’s much like watching the Kentucky Derby when it’s a race between mules, burros, and retired trolley-car horses. No real race horses were allowed to enter. And I doubt that Daniel contributed to the destruction of Perry. With all due respect to Daniel, I don’t think his influence extends to the Iowa or even New Hampshire caucuses.

Marcel said...

I share a proverb from the wisest ruler who ever lived as to why 'Kingmaker 2012' is a futile waste of energy and time.
You can't straighten the mess from the top down with a mere mortal politician who tells the voters (fools) what they want to hear,it has to come from the bottom up,the people turning back to God from their evil ways ;

'Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a reproach to any people.'
Proverbs 14:34

The reproach won't go away with an election. That is not the solution
,just a cheap band-aid.

'But the bottom line is that they're all 1989 Chevy's'

The Tower of Babel Country Club elite find it easy to corner and captivate the voting peasants who foolishly think they have any real power.
All they have to do is deliver a 1991 Chevy like Jeb 'the fruit does not fall far from the tree' Bush to the now desperate and panicked pseudo conservatives and they will fall into the same trap that have fallen into again and again.
***
My vote is set in stone and I am not tossed by wave after wave.

Smooth and steady sailing all the way with the triumphant plan of the Master which almost everyone ignores as they chase after the latest lying idol.

Arise, O God, judge the earth;For You shall inherit all nations.
Psalm 82:8

peter said...

I don't know.... Romney is so much the quintessential back stabbing, weaselly, double talking, stereotypical politician that I just cannot bring myself to like him...AT ALL.
Promiscuity, greed, favoritism (all in moderation of course) are things I expect and accept. As you point out we are all flawed. An axiom to be sure. And...power DOES corrupt, so kept in check all these vices are OK in my book. But you can have flaws and still be a "stand up" guy, or gal. Don't be a weasel, don't offer back handed compliments, don't have a third party (that you are paying directly OR in directly)sling mud, and then claim ignorance.
Romney is a capitalistic liberal, dipped in vanilla, expensive suit wearing, good head of hair having..."please excuse my repetition", weasel.

Perry! is a wimpier, more handsome (I say in the straightest way possible...not that there is anything wrong with being gay :) version of G.W.Bush- not a good thing.

Santorum is a Christian version of "An Evil Muslim". I don't even want to know what a candidates religion IS, much less have there assurance that they will be guided by their faith. To do what? integrate it into our (MY) government? Bull scheisse!. All I hear is constitution this and constitution that, but when it comes down to it this country is run by "majority rule". We are a judeo/christain majority and nowadays Christians and Jews have pretty much crawled out of the dark ages, BUT, what if one day we have a Muslim majority? How will anybody be able to resist the sentiment and reasoning that "when we had a Christian majority" we had a Christian influence in the government. Now that we have a Muslim majority it is only right to have a Sharia guided government- Screw that!!! We need to have the right to practice our faith anyway we see fit-Privately- and in a way that harms no others...PERIOD.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

Yael,

Actually I am lamenting the personal destruction of all the candidates, not Santorum.

There is a difference between examining a candidate's position on an issue and attacking him over petty matters. You will notice I did not do articles on Perry's memory slips or anything of that nature.

The piece on Perry and Islam was accurate and relevant, particularly as other candidates in the race were stronger on the issue.

The idea that my article destroyed Perry is just plain wrong. Perry was in the lead until he wrecked his own candidacy.

Yael said...

Daniel, I didn't say that your post was responsible for the entirety of Perry's destruction - which would be wrong - just that it contributed. Granted, the majority of damage he did to himself but I think you underestimate your own influence. I've seen your post on Perry and Islam referred to all over the innernut. To my mind that was a far more vague-yet-potent accusation than what's being leveled against Santorum, that he's "big government." But you and I will just never agree on this one matter. Such is life in the free world.

P.S. Edward Cline need not resent my "piling on." I have all the respect in the world for Daniel's thoughts and writings. It is precisely because I think they are important that I take the time to read them, think about them and respond when moved to do so. You can search my blog for "Sultan Knish" if you don't believe me :)

Anonymous said...

Santorum Should be running for Pope not POTUS. He comes across whiny and self absorbed and got shellacked in 2006. Guys like Santorum is why so many people will not vote Republican. We do not need social conservative scolds and bitchers.

Elan said...

Yael’s criticism was entirely justified. Daniel’s post on Rick Perry was intended to destroy his candidacy by personally associating him – in an attack disingenuously labeled a “preliminary” analysis – with Islam. I checked Daniel’s links at the time and, in my opinion, they did not come close to supporting the conclusion he posted about Perry with an assurance that was much more than preliminary.

Unless I missed it, he never posted a “final” analysis. Now that Santorum is the last man standing, Daniel has become a goo-goo – no more preliminary analyses, please. His current post would have more credibility if he recognized that he helped set the standard he now criticizes.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

Elan,

"Destroy his candidacy" really?

If you have any specific issues with anything in that article that isn't supported by the facts, feel free to name it.

Considering the amount of hate directed at me for doing that analysis, I didn't proceed further.

Pieces on Perry's pandering to Islamists did not destroy his candidacy. He destroyed his own candidacy. Attacking me over Perry's implosion isn't even a matter of shooting the messenger, it's shooting someone three doors over.

This article is not meant to promote any one single candidate. And it doesn't. It recognizes that there are three anti-Romneys.

It doesn't say that people should avoid analyzing their policy positions, but that they should do them in context with those of the other candidates.

Finally partisan supporters of any and all candidates might take a serious look in the mirror and consider whether launching attacks on anyone who doesn't immediately pay fealty to their man or woman isn't doing a good deal of harm to their candidate.

Edward Cline said...

I fail to see how anyone could come to the defense of Romney, Perry, Santorum, Gingrich, or Paul – or even to Bachmann’s. As Daniel has already noted, his purpose was not to promote or shill for any of the candidates, but to discuss their failings, lackluster, and alleged but wholly blurry pluses, and why they’re all so damned dismal. I would say that what he was attempting to say was: Here’s Michael Corleone (aka Obama), gang chieftain who gets things done; and here’s his brother, the wimpy Alfredo (aka Romney, Perry, or any other Republican candidate you care to name), a weak, sniveling crybaby who’s afraid of his own shadow. If any of the candidates are hurt, as Daniel explains, they hurt themselves. This is aside from the issue that the MSM is out to hurt any Republican candidate who seems to threaten and foreshorten Obama’s reign of error.

Marylou said...

I remember when Reagan first ran for president, conservative Republicans were wringing their hands moaning, “I don’t know – he’s read lines for the cameras for so many years, how do we know he’s not just reading lines for us?” A reasonable fear, but not one that ever materialized. No candidate comes with an insurance policy or a money-back guarantee. I think we should be grateful that there is a Rick Santorum and, yes, a Newt Gingrich. Whatever human failings these men might possess, at least they’re patriots, and outspoken ones at that. And, oh yes, each comes with a track record, a verifiable past, and a birth certificate.

Gil said...

Yael is correct in her assessment of Daniels article.

Santorum is well known here in Penna for his fraudulent behavior and deals. His religious nutcakery is also well known.

David said...

I freely admit my ignorance of politics but have recognized it is the way to fight peacably against things I feel strongly about. I've seen Newt in a couple Q & A sessions and he is the only candidate that gives smart, factual answers instead of politi-speak. Is there some dirt on him that I'm unaware of?

lgstarr said...

Re: Edward Cline's first comment that none of the candidates will condemn Islam--you are wrong, at least about Rick Santorum ==>

Rick Santorum: Sharia 'is evil'
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0311/51166.html#ixzz1icjbVmrB

John Diorio said...

@Marylou
And lo and behold he was just reading lines.

Leah said...

I realy think that Daniel is correct for laying down what needs to be seen and read. If not? Where are you going to be? In the line at the polls come November saying, "Hmmmmmm....which one, which one?" From the get go this election holds incredible weight and it jumps to quickly to be let loose out of the stalls to flop in the faces of the American people. Americans need to know all that is out there with the candidates- no sugar coating allowed. Just because we want Obama out doesn't mean the choice will be easy to elect his replacement.

Lev Tannen said...

Daniel. It is hard to say better. It is a huge difference between proper vetting a candidate and throwing dirt at him. It is terrible that Republicans resorted to throwing dirt. The net result will be all are dirty and Obama is the president.
My humble opinion is that sinking an opposite candidate in dirt is a dirty trick that should be widely rejected as immoral. Instead it is used and used successfully.
On the other wave, may I ask you what is wrong with Gingrich? Why people supporting Israel like your-self does not rally behind Gingrich in drones? All candidates except for Ron Paul support Israel, but only Gingrich speaks specifically about the danger of Islamic fundamentalism. Only Gingrich have said that Palestinians are invented people and only Gingrich have said that one of his first actions after he will be sworn in the presidency will be moving the US embassy to Jerusalem. Does not that means that he deserves a special support? Or I do not know something?

Keliata said...

Unless another candidate comes out of the shadows I will be supporing Rick Santorum. I've never cared for Romney. The clincher for me was when Romney sang bits of America the Beautiful and Santorum talked about how his father worked in a coal mine.

Sure it's shallow and dodges the issues over which candidate stands on the issues facing our country, but Santorum's comments were more sincere than Romney's.

Gingrich IMO is a serial adulterer to quote a pundit I saw on TV. I've always held to the belief that if a candidate can't be loyal to his family he is less likely to be loyal to his country. A myth probably but I know many people who think along those lines.

Thank you for this article. The majority of blogs, mainstream and even alternative media outlets are too confusing to understand and make an informed decision, which I am really trying to do this time around.

Keliata said...

Lev, I understand what you're saying about Gingrich and Israel. That said, it is a sad reality that some Republicans are outspoken in their support of Israel simply because it that it plays well among many evangelicals:(

It would be wonderful to have a president that is truly supportive of Israel but I believe in some cases it is merely a political ploy, a sad joke at the expense of Israelis who truly believe these candidates. Not to generalize but I've read enough on pro-Israel blogs and news sites to come to this realization.

It's impossible to know who really supports Israel and those who pretend to for various reasons.

That said, I do hope Gingrich is sincere in what he says about Irael. I really do.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

Both Gingrich and Santorum have been the strongest on Israel and Islam. Not counting Bachmann who dropped out.

Lev Tannen said...

First of all I am not against Santorum. I believe both (Gingrich and Santorun) are sincere in their support of Israel. The reason, why I believe them is simple: one can say:"I support Israel",- and wink an eye, but he cannot say:"Palestinians are invented people", and hope to convince the other side that this is just to be elected. It is an unforgivable sin. I want only to note that Gingrich sounds more knowledgeable, more specific and more aggressive.

Keli Ata said...

We both want the samething Lev:)

dorothynoonan9 said...

I must say I had to laugh when, after reading just two of your articles, I can see such blatant hypocracy. Didn't you just do to Ron Paul what you are complaining about here?

And by the way, the standard by which to know how much government is too much is the Constitution and there is only one candidate even purporting that he intends to abide by it. ;)

Thanks for the interesting reading!

Anonymous said...

This process is a nightmare. We are slicing and dicing our own candidates. The liberals must be sitting back and just loving the show. As we continue to try (impossible) to turn the field of candidates into a perfect line up, we complain, bash them, pick every issue apart ad nauseum, hone in on one or two specific issues while losing a sense of the big picture, and do everything and anything possible to make sure that we will hate whoever our nominee is. It's like we've all become mentally ill. Stop it already! Work hard for your candidate of choice. Then work hard for our nominee (presuming it's not Paul) and make sure the first and foremost number one goal is achieved: Defeat Obama in November.

Daniel Greenfield @ the Sultan Knish blog said...

I did say legitimate candidates. Which naturally excludes Paul.

NAHALKIDES said...

I agree with the major thrust of Greenfield's article - that we're stuck with a bunch of 1989 Chevys - but I don't think that National Review represents the "establishment" or that Establishment Republicans want Romney and so destroyed Gingrich. First, however many negative commentaries on NR and negative ads run by Romney-affiliated (and Ron Paul-affiliated) PAC's there may have been, most of them were based on the actual facts of Gingrich's record and personality. That is precisely why they were so effective in reminding Republicans of things they had forgotten about Gingrich, and once that happened, his numbers took a nose-dive.

I feel a little sorry for Newt - you could see he was genuinely hurt by the attacks, and he isn't a bad man. But he also isn't the right man to lead the Republican Party, and his feelings are less important than removing the most anti-American president in history from office in 2012. Newt's response to his drubbing in Iowa - setting out to destroy Romney by offering to take on Santorum as a junior partner(!) even though it won't help him (Gingrich) win the nomination - is further proof of his vanity and unsuitability. It brings to mind his shutting down of the government because he had to take a back seat on Air Force 1.

I think we need to re-examine who or what the Republican "Establishment" really is. To me, it consists of those inside-the-beltway politicos who would rather join the Welfare State than fight it, who would rather just get along with the Democrats rather than seriously oppose them. These people are not conservatives in any sense of the word, and given a choice, would probably much rather have a progressive or big-government Republican than Romney, whom they probably think is too conservative! Remember, these are the same people who favored McCain over Romney four years ago, and Romney hasn't moved to the Left since then.

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