Growing up my father would sometime remark how he would like to put my brother and me into a blender so as to combine the best attributes of both of us.
I am reminded of this as I reflect upon the slate of candidates running for President. I could do with a large size blender to combine the best attributes of each of them into one candidate I would actually like. Lacking such a blender I am stuck with the candidates as they are.
When it comes to the presidential candidates I have no dog in this fight as they are all dogs in this fight.
My evaluation regards voting in the primary. My primary picks are almost never the same as the person who wins the nomination. My primary picks are often Don Quixote types who I like but never successfully tilt at the presidential windmill. Unfortunately applying a simple filter like “no candidates who support intrinsic evils” wipes out almost the full slate. While the pro-life credentials of the various GOP candidates are fairly good, there are also a lot of caveats involving exemptions for rape and incest. Or they support ESCR to some degree such as allowing the used of so-called leftover embryos – a human life is never a leftover. Remove the candidates who say waterboarding is not torture and what am I left with?
The other problem is that it is not always easy to evaluate a person’s presidential performance by their record. For example Ronald Reagan was divorced, liberalized California’s abortion law, and also made it easier for people to divorce. While he later apologized for his support of liberalizing abortion, there were certainly things to give conservative pause before he was elected. Yet he turned out to be a very good president, not perfect, who had an very positive impact on the world.
Ideally for a candidate I want somebody who has displayed leadership in the past and has though deeply regarding to political philosophy. Governors are able to display such leadership . Congressman and senators don’t develop this skill set normally. Looking again at Reagan he was both a Governor and political philosopher. His diary certainly shows how much he though things threw and his radio show also displayed his knowledge. He was able to joke so easily on the role of government since it all flowed from his political philosophy. Too often candidates seem to go with the flow of what might be expected of a conservative candidate without really having the philosophical base where their opinions are derived.
Out of the slate of candidates normally my Quixote pick would be Sen. Rick Santorum. His me-too-ism in supporting waterboarding disqualified him. There is much I like about Mr. Santorum, though his Sen. Specter support marred his record and I am also not quite at ease with his Iran militarism. When it comes to pro-life issues and talking on the culture I have almost always been pleased with what he had to say when speaking out despite the negative reactions. But if you support intrinsic evil like torture, you just can’t dismiss it.
As for Newt Gingrich I think Peggy Noonan’s recent evaluation is spot on. Gingrich Is Inspiring—and Disturbing. There are things I like about Newt and things that give me serious pause. A person who has to pledge to not cheat on their wife if elected has some serious problems. I mean that is right out of an Onion parody. When adultery can become a broken presidential promise you know something is wrong there. As both a Catholic and a sinner I am quite glad that Mr. Gingrich is now Catholic and that his marital situation has been regularized. This does not mean though that I can just dismiss a pattern of behavior as inconsequential now. His recent life begins at implantation – no I mean conception debacle does not assure me either. Plus he is another one who denies waterboarding is torture.
Coming to Gov. Mitt Romney. A governor and a family man with no scandal – check. Deep political philosophical – not so much. Plus it is always difficult to determine how valid somebodies political conversion is. Coming myself from a wacky liberal and pro-abortion background I know first hand how people can change. The problem with Mitt is I don’t really see the fruits of his change of opinions other than rhetoric. For example concerning the pro-life cause he signed into law Romneycare which included state funded abortions after his “conversion”. During the Obamacare debates he had nothing to say about federally funded abortion and just hasn’t been active in the pro-life cause in any meaningful manner. I tend to see him as another Charlie Crist who became pro-life when convenient and then jettisoned it when it wasn’t. I could certainly be wrong here, but I just don’t trust Romney. He also supports experimentation on frozen embryos and waterboarding.
As for Michelle Bachman, I really like the idea of her – the actual Michelle Bachman is another story. Somebody who I probably agree with on many things, but is prone to mistakes and then doubling down on them. For example her comments on the side effects of the HPV vaccine were just plain nutty and unfortunately this type of thing is not an isolated example. Here pro-life credential are excellent, but also supports waterboarding.
Gov. Perry is another one I can’t get fired up about. He just seems to me not ready for prime time. The whole mandatory HPV thing shows he does not understand the role of government and his apology missed the point on why he was wrong. His pro-life credentials are also pretty good, but he is willing to ignore them. Such as when he was a pro-life Democrat he still supported Al Gore and then last election supported Mayor Giuliani. Foreign policy-wise I get the feeling he is cribbing from “Foreign Policy for Dummies”, though I also get that feeling with the other candidates at times.
Rep. Ron Paul is one of only two that calls waterboarding torture. As a candidate he passes my not supporting intrinsic evils filter. Though maybe not considering his non objection to legalizing drugs and prostitution. He might even be my Quixote primary candidate, but it won’t be with any great enthusiasm and only because the alternatives are worse. Like Peggy Noonan’s phrase “Inspiring and Disturbing” in regards to Gingrich, I think this also applies to Ron Paul. Doctrinaire libertarians are often interesting, but they often have the same consistency of a madman. I say this thinking of Chesterton’s explanation “The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.” There is much prudentially I disagree with Rep. Paul on, especially concerning foreign policy and the role they played with the 9/11 attack. Ron Paul might make a very interesting president, but it might be interesting as in the Chinese curse of living in “interesting times.”
I haven’t given much serious thought to Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr, but he doesn’t seem to have given much serious thought to conservatism either. One thing though that set me off of him from the start was one of his Facebook ads positioning himself as the guy who likes science and contrasting the other candidates as anti-science. It is stupid enough when liberals make this charge, it is doubly-stupid for a GOP candidate to do the same. You can disagree with anthropomorphic climate change without being anti-science especially when the consensus is not all that consenting. He has all the signs of being a maverick like John McCain and I don’t say that with affection. Huntsman also supports the rape and incest exemptions for abortion. At least he calls waterboarding torture.
If we are getting the candidates we deserve, then boy do we need to repent. Will that is a good idea to do regardless. For primaries I like to be able to vote without any moral qualms, I would love to be able to do the same with general elections. Voting for the greater good and reducing evil is certainly required, but it does not mean that we minimize the evils. A lesser evil is still evil. Yet we keep putting up with these lousy choices because they are not as evil as the other guy. When it comes to being less evil than the other guy, President Obama sets the bar very low for a GOP candidate to rise above. But being less evil is not the campaign motto you should go for.
Living in Florida and remembering how close the Bush-Gore election was and I could almost wish I lived in a heavily Democratic state so I could just vote for Donald Duck or another mythical creature such as a virtuous politician.