Nuke (m) Gingrich vs. Milk (toast) Romney?
The Pre-nomination Assessment by Jay B Gaskill
“We’ve come too far to turn back now.” … “No bailouts, no handouts, no copouts.”
Barack Obama, in yesterday’s State of the Union Speech
Three critical assessments form the backdrop for this year’s GOP selection marathon: (1) that the current administration has squandered the baseline trust needed to govern; (2) that the country needs a fresh economic team in the Oval Office; (3) that these new movers and shakers need to be much more tuned to the needs of the private, job-creating, profit-making, productive, commercial economy than to the dependent interest groups nurtured by the current democratic establishment.
When President Obama delivered his latest State of the Union Address last night (quite possibly his last as POTUS), most knowledgeable observers understood that this was really a State of the Presidency Address, and by that measure his presidency is in trouble. Here are some samples:
“No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important. We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same set of rules…”
“We are poised for progress. Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again. … The future is ours to win. But to get there, we can’t just stand still. ….With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. …. We’ll put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges. …. [W]e set a goal of doubling our exports by 2014 because the more we export, the more jobs we create here at home. Already, our exports are up.”[i]
From the GOP response by Governor Mitch Daniels:
“As in previous moments of national danger, we Americans are all in the same boat. … If we fail to shift to a pro-jobs, pro-growth economic policy, there will never be enough public revenue to pay for our safety net, national security, or whatever size government we decide to have.”
The rhetorical contents of speeches like these warrant no comment here. More to the point is that 2009 interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer in which the very same president said: “I will be held accountable. I’ve got four years and … A year from now, I think people are going to see that we’re starting to make some progress, but there’s still going to be some pain out there … If I don’t have this done in three years, then there’s going to be a one-term proposition.”
One is tempted to paraphrase Mr. Obama’s rhetoric from last night, “I promise no more bailouts, no more handouts, no more copouts…really.”
In other words, the decisive thing will not be rhetoric but results. In an earlier post, I quoted former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, an Obama liberal, who opined that by Election Day, November, 2012 – “there’s a better-than-even chance that unemployment will be back to 9 percent.”
Given the three assessments listed at the beginning of this piece – they are ones that as a center-right democrat I happen to share – and the condition of the economy, what are we to make of the fact that most GOP voters seem to be increasingly cranky and spoiling for a fight? Is it, as some pundits are saying, a circular firing squad?
Or…might this turn out to be a good thing?
(a) If it prompts candidate Romney to come out of his closely managed bubble with a strong insurgency campaign against this well-entrenched incumbent. And make no mistake – this is an insurgency campaign, a complex uphill struggle that crucially depends on educating, motivating and reassuring a broadband majority of the American people to reverse course during scary and unsettling times;
(b) If it enables candidate Gingrich, who is a natural insurgent, to achieve that so-far elusive balance point between combat and stability, between inner crankiness and reassuring confidence;
(c) If it spurs the incumbent Obama to make an authentic, durable shift to much more centrist policies, much as Bill Clinton did in his second term;
(d) If it leads to an open GOP convention capable of producing the ideal leader who then actually wins in November.
But what are the real world probabilities?
Scenario (d) is unrealistic, although it would be great theater. We hear rumbles of support for Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. Each candidate X scenario involves an almost impossibly late entry into the delegate hunt, an open convention that drafts one of these figures and, somehow, the creation of a national campaign organization and governance transition team with all too little time to spare before the general election. I would love to be wrong, but I’d not bet on it.
I believe that scenario (c) is wildly improbable. It is painfully apparent to this old-fashioned democrat that Mr. Obama’s heart and mind belong to the arch left on domestic policy and to the Jimmy Carter left on foreign policy. I fear we are being governed by a political chameleon whose surface appearance changes as needed, but whose core agenda does not. I might be wrong, but don’t bet on it.
Scenario (b) is plausible in the sense that a volatile, ill-tempered Uncle Blitzkrieg might, just might, get through at least one Thanksgiving dinner without driving all of the women out of the room. I would love to bet on a kindly, loveable Uncle Newt, but….
Scenario (a) is clearly possible. The question is whether Governor Romney can rise to the occasion without appearing mean spirited and offputting. In that connection, I noted Romney’s remarks to a group in a Florida metal fabrication factory after last night’s State of the Union speech. “The detachment between reality and what he says is so extraordinary, I was just shaking my head at the TV last night. This is a president who talks about deregulation, even as he regulates. Who talks about lowering taxes, even as he raises them, who talks about expanding energy resources, even as he tries to shut them down.” [<http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/romney >]
I also noted that that the Rasmussen Poll now shows that GOP primary voters prefer Gingrich (53%) to Romney (28%), Santorum (16%) and Paul (10%) and that 33% hope someone new enters the race. <http://www.rasmussenreports.com/ > …And also that that in Florida Romney leads Gingrich among Hispanic voters 35% to 15% in the Univision, ABC News and Latino Decisions survey.
This is anybody’s game at the moment. And we may be asking too much of any candidate. Those who agree with my three assessments really need to ask themselves just two questions: Who has the makings of a really great American president, one who will bring the country together around the critically important policies? Who can not only get elected, but also has the best prospect of getting reelected?
The dirty little secret of 2012 is that the real US economy is far too deep in the crater for any leader or combination of leaders to dig us out easily or quickly. The Great American Recovery Project may not take the decades it took to dig the current hole, but it definitely will require a disciplined effort over the course of more than one four year presidential term.
Copyright 2012 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law, as first published on The Policy Think Site and the Dot 2 Dot Blog. As always links and forwards are welcome and encouraged. For everything else, contact the author directly – firstname.lastname@example.org .