Saturday, September 22, 2007

Mike I Like, and Fred I Don't . . . However . . .

One of the more important columns I've written in the past year is the one below questioning Fred Thompson's fitness to be President. A nice lady from Tennessee wrote me an angry e-mail indicating that Thompson had been "a great Senator." I don't believe there is one person in America who could say that with a straight face. There is no significant piece of legislation with Thompson's name attached to it. During his several years in the Senate he left no footprints.

Thus, I'm forced to agree with the Rev. Dobson -- a person I disagree with regularly -- that Fred is man who lacks "zeal and passion," two words which basically mean the same thing. (Dobson believes it's okay to hit small children with wooden spoons, and I -- like most sane people -- don't. I do believe it's fine to hit Dobson with them.)

I'm also ending my consideration of Mike Huckabee as a realistic candidate for the nomination. I believe Mike was one of the few evangelical Christians who ever spoke candidly to his co-religionists -- about life (and it's not ending at birth), about immigration reform, about anti-Catholicism among some evangelicals, about taxes, about poverty, about equal voting rights for citizens in D.C., and many other things.

But Mike's chances of winning the nomination are very slim, in large part because his supporters are strong on prayers for him and short on cash for his campaign. Any candidate who doesn't have $30 million-plus on hand in January of next year had better seek another line of work. That's when the "campaigns" will become indistinguishable from a blizzard of television advertising in America's most expensive media markets.

I hope Mike has a great future -- he's only in his early 50s. But that future will not involve his getting the nomination or winning the election.

In politics getting "half-a-loaf" should be an occasion for joy. Heck, getting a crust of bread is better than nothing. Politics truly is the art of the possible. It's also the art of learning how to live with the imperfect, which is all we're usually going to get in this lifetime. Heaven is way over yonder, and earth is right here beneath our feet.

Stephen R. Maloney

On Monday, I'll reprint John Hawkins' pro-Thompson e-mail, as well as my response. I have major problems with Fred Thompson as a candidate for the GOP nomination.

To me, he's the "designated conservative," in much the same way as frauds like Duke Cunningham (in jail for bribery and extortion as a congressman), Bob Ney (accepted money for votes from Jack Abramoff), Mark Foley (you know about him), David Vitter (of D.C. Madam fame), and Larry Craig (of men's room notoriety). These people discovered that being "pretend conservatives" (often with reflexive gay-bashing and lots of sentimental nonsense about "traditional families") was the key to winning elections. Those conservative voters who prefer rhetoric over reality backed them without question.

Being a responsible activist and voter means being realistic about the world in which we live. It means understanding that the U.S. is not -- and will not be -- a theocracy. It means recognizing that tens of millions of voters have shifted from Republican to Independent and Democrat.

Being realistic involves understanding that there will never (at least in our lifetimes) be a constitutional amendment outlawing either abortion or gay marriage. There are not 50 votes in favor of such measures in the Senate, and a constitutional amendment requires 67 votes. Candidates who talk about such things as possibilities are pandering and, worse, lying to the public.

In the 2008 election, there will be 22 Republican-held Senate seats up for election, and only 12 Democratic seats. Some of those Republican seats (including the one in Virginia) -- perhaps many of them -- will be lost. The probability is that the Democrats will hold all 12 of theirs.

Changing demographics and the political naivete of some evangelicals will make it almost impossible to win the Presidency. James H. of Louisiana has mentioned that the Republican nominee will have a very hard time being competitive in Florida and Nevada. He could also have mentioned Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona, among others.

Ohio, traditionally a Republican bastion, is now a strong Blue state. A liberal Democrat, Strickland, soundly defeated social conservative Ken Blackwell in the 2006 race for the governorship. A very liberal Democrat -- much more so than Hillary Clinton -- named Sherrod Brown won an Ohio Senate seat in 2006.

I keep hearing people who say that people in their church (evangelical) or neighborhood (affluent) "can't stand Hillary," so she will be beatable in 2008. Right now, it appears we would magically need to double such churches and neighborhoods to beat her.

The Gallup Poll shows the most popular male politician in the country is William Jefferson Clinton. The most popular female -- politician or otherwise -- is Hillary Rodham Clinton, with the second most popular being Oprah Winfrey.

Mike Huckabee is a good man, but his bland "goodness" will not enable him to overcome the raw political power of the Clintons. Fred Thompson presumably is a good something, but his cornpone style, vague federalism, and reputation for being the laziest man in D.C. don't augur well for a campaign against Hillary.

I hear the refrain that goes "Run, Fred, run," and all I can think is, "Hide, Fred, hide." In this electoral season, we need not fantasy but rather a brutal honesty about the political situation.


matt said...

The reason I support Huckabee is because for some time I have believed what he so eloquently has spoken. I'd like him to win, but sometimes when a movement is started someone blazes the trail for others but loses in the process. Huckabee could be the modern Goldwater for "Practical Conservatism." Those of us coming after can expand on it at a later date. Still, I want him to win but I also think that Giuliani or McCain would be good for the party, and they have crossover appeal.


Stephen R. Maloney said...

Matt, thanks very much for taking the time to comment. As I've suggested a couple of times, there's a lot more going on in Mike's head and heart than appears on the surface. Many people believe the way to get the nomination is to nurture people's prejudices. Mike hasn't been doing that, although he does want to hold onto his evangelical base. It's appropriate for you to raise the Goldwater example. By the way, he was pro-choice and pro-gay-rights (the same was true of Reagan, although that's another story). Goldwater fought hard and well against the "collectivist" trend that began prior to and just after the 1936 election. In the current "Imprimis" (Hillsdale College publication), Amity Shlaes writes about the Roosevelt-Landon election and how FDR shifted the balance from the states to the federal government. As for Mike, for him to get his ideas across effectvely, he would need to get the nomination. Apparently, there's no chance that will happen. However, I deeply believe that people who have decided Mike is the best choice for the country should support him. If he withdraws from the race, which may happen after Iowa, then I hope his supporters will back another GOP cnadidate, presumably Giuliani or McCain.

Again, thanks for the thoughtful comment.

steve maloney

Sanity102 said...

Steve, I agree with your the absolutes continue to offend the main stream Republicans and Independents, I believe that voters intent on keeping a Dem out of the WH in this time of war, will retaliate by backing the only guy they think can beat Hillary.

From the Anchoress to Sandra, most Republicans and Independents are reasonable is not reasonable to allow someone who has no respect for our military to be their commander nor is it reasonable to anger the largest racial voting block.

The party has been taken over by people who claim no loyalty to the Conservative party and appears racist and intolerant...these people have made it impossible for good men like Huckabee to win.

Stephen R. Maloney said...

I believe it's not only possible but perhaps even probable that Rudy will choose a running mate that will not be afraid to run a ferocious campaign but also not be afraid to speak up when SHE disagrees with him on issues. I believe Mike Huckabee has a future at the national level, and I think the Republican Party will be better off without the "absolutes." It's not The Evangelicals that are the problem. It's the extreme, My-Way-or-the-Highway types that are way out on the right edge. Mike Huckabee has been trying some creative ways to speak sense to them (about sanctity of life, about immigration, about the responsibility of government), and he deserves all sorts of commendation for that. Hillary is going to be a very formidable opponent, and Corpone Fred is not the guy to put up against her.