Tuesday, October 27, 2009


A sentence I never thought I'd write: I think William Kristol is on to something here.

[The] Republican presidential nominee in 2012 ... seems unlikely to be a current officeholder. Right now, the four leading candidates for the GOP nomination are private citizens. In a recent Rasmussen poll, the only candidates with double-digit support among Republicans were Mike Huckabee (at 29 percent), Mitt Romney (24 percent), Sarah Palin (18 percent) and Newt Gingrich (14 percent). These four are running way ahead of various senatorial and gubernatorial possibilities. So a party that has over the past two decades nominated a vice president (George H.W. Bush), a senator (Bob Dole), a governor (George W. Bush) and another senator (John McCain), now has as its front-runners four public figures who are, to one degree or another, outsiders.

Well, it makes sense -- because what the ever-more-right-wing, ever-crazier GOP base wants is everything on the wingnut wish list plus the proverbial pony: an end to the economic downturn without government intervention or regulation but accompanied by (in fact, magically brought about by) tax cuts, an aggressive and bellicose foreign policy that quickly and decisively smites all enemies (maintained by a strong military that's fully financed despite even more tax cuts), and, oh, while you're at it, get government out of health care ... but don't you dare lay a finger on Medicare and Social Security. And more tax cuts, please. And, also, crush socialist fascism and force that usurper to go back to Kenya where he came from. And then -- after lunch -- do something about ACORN and that damn mainstream media! And drill, baby, drill! And seal the borders and ship all the illegals back where they came from -- immediately! And more tax cuts!

Who could possibly be a current officeholder and point to a record even remotely resembling this pipe dream?

Current officeholders, even Republicans, have to act with some reference to objective reality. That's not a problem if you left elected politics behind months or years ago -- you can just say anything. So of course the Republican electorate in 2012 is likely to go for someone who isn't currently part of the lawmaking process.

How do you make wingnuts happy? Talk like Chris Christie, who was a U.S. attorney but has never been an elected official, and is now the GOP candidate for governor in New Jersey. Here's Matt Bai of The New York Times writing about Christie's economic plan at a time of budget shortfalls and declining tax revenues in the Garden State:

He says he would repeal all the sales taxes, toll hikes and surcharges imposed by Corzine and cut income taxes as well, while at the same time somehow offering more property-tax rebates -- a feat that would seem to defy the laws of economics, if not physics....

I was eager to press Christie for details as to how he was going to accomplish all this when I caught up with him earlier this month. But Christie was ready for me, and rather than allow himself to be pinned down with lots of facts and numbers, he pulled a bit of political jujitsu instead. "New Jersey has had a string of politicians, Jon Corzine the latest, who made all types of specific promises that they knew they couldn't keep," Christie told me. "New Jerseyans want to know what direction are you going to take the state in, what philosophy are you going to pursue. They're not looking for specific promises that can't be kept." Hai-yah! Christie was turning the traditional notion of political accountability on its head: not only was it not unprincipled to make a bunch of vague campaign promises that had almost no chance of becoming reality, but in fact it was also the only truly principled thing to do, because politicians never followed through on the details of their proposals, anyway. When he gets to Trenton, Christie assured me, "We'll get in there and make it work."

"We'll get in there and make it work." That's basically Step 3 in the Underpants Gnomes' business plan. And the structure of the Underpants Gnomes' business plan is basically the structure of wingnut pipe dreams, all the way up to the wannabe-presidential level.

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