Shortly after the 2008 election Governor Palin was interviewed by Greta Van Susteren. Toward the end of that interview, Van Susteren asked the Governor about her 2012 plans. Governor replied thusly:
Show me where the open door is. Even if it’s cracked up a little bit, maybe I’ll plow right on through that and maybe prematurely plow through it, but don’t let me miss an open door.
And if there is an open door in ’12 or four years later, and if it is something that is going to be good for my family, for my state, for my nation, an opportunity for me, then I’ll plow through that door.
After Thursday night’s debate, it’s more clear than ever that the door is more than cracked: It’s wide open. The two so-called frontrunners are both fatally flawed candidates. Mitt Romney is so utterly unmoored by anything approaching conservative convictions or, let’s face it, any convictions at all (other than his desire to be president) that it’s impossible for him to speak on an issue without contradicting the multiple positions he’s taken. Rick Perry, it’s increasingly clear, has his own issues and is simply not ready for prime time. William Kristol, after watching Thursday night’s “debate”, had one word to describe the current GOP field: “Yikes“:
Reading the reactions of thoughtful commentators after the stage emptied, talking with conservative policy types and GOP political operatives later last evening and this morning, we know we’re not alone. Most won’t express publicly just how horrified—or at least how demoralized—they are. After all, they still want to beat Obama—as do we. And they want to get along with the possible nominee and the other candidates and their supporters. They don’t want to rock the boat too much. But maybe the GOP presidential boat needs rocking.
…no front-runner in a presidential field has ever, we imagine, had as weak a showing as Rick Perry. It was close to a disqualifying two hours for him. And Mitt Romney remains, when all is said and done, a technocratic management consultant whose one term as governor produced Romneycare.
But, we do ask (again!), with a month left before filing deadlines: Is that all there is?
This assessment of the pathetic slate of declared GOP candidates is, for Kristol, surprisingly accurate. John Podhoretz, in a piece in the New York Post, also critiqued the two supposed GOP frontrunners, Perry and Romney. First, he assesses Perry’s debate performance:
Awful. Just awful. After the first half hour he seemed unable to speak a coherent sentence, even when he was carefully prepared — and he made a cringe-inducing bungle of a rehearsed soundbite about Romney’s flip-flopping.
Perry also had a highly problematic moment substantively, when called upon to defend his support of a measure that allowed the children of illegal immigrants living in Texas the right to pay the same low college tuition at state universities as in-state citizens.
Perry’s defense was unfortunate, to put it mildly: “If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they have been brought there by no fault of their own,” he said, “I don’t think you have a heart.”
That might be an acceptable thing to say about those who opposed mandatory elementary and secondary schooling for illegals, but to say that it is heartless to oppose an in-state tuition subsidy to illegals is unquestionably offensive.
As bad as Perry’s performance was, Podhoretz was even more critical of Romney. Romney, Podhoretz allows, is stylistically a much slicker debate performer than Perry. This is, undoubtedly, a by-product of the fact that the Mittster has been running for President since about 2002. However, as Podhoretz writes, debates are about more than just style: They also reveal character flaws, and on that count Romney came off about as you’d expect the serial panderer and flip-flopper would:
Do they stand up for what they believe? Do they believe in anything, or are they just willing to say whatever their audiences want to hear?
And in that regard, Romney did not perform well at all.
In the opening of the debate, Romney went after Perry for statements in his book, “Fed Up,” about Social Security and the problems with the direct election of senators. And Perry lowered the boom on him. Romney, he noted, changed his line on his own health-care plan in the text of the paperback version of his book “No Apology.”
Words poured from Romney’s mouth like smoke from a wildfire. He zoomed through sentences impossible to follow as he tried to deny that he had done what he had in fact done, which was scrub his own book as his own position changed.
The speed with which he spoke recalled the flim-flam salesman Harold Hill, clouding the minds of innocent Iowans as he raced through the song “Trouble in River City” in “The Music Man.”
This whopper by Romney at Thursday’s debate deserves further clarification. In the hardcover version of Romney’s book, No Apology, in the midst of touting the wonders of his signature accomplishment as Governor of Massachusetts, Romneycare, Mitt wrote the following:
We can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country.
When the paperback version was released, that line had miraculously disappeared. When Mitt was confronted with this at Thursday’s debate, Mitt…er…did what he usually does:
“I actually — I actually wrote my book, and in my book I said no such thing.
Dude. After the debate, Romney’s spokesman confirmed Romney’s obvious lie, but bent over backwards to explain why the aforementioned lie wasn’t in fact a lie, but rather a natural by-product of the vagaries of the publishing industry, or something:
After the debate Romney’s staffer Fehrnstrom went into greater detail to explain what Romney was trying to say during the debate. Fehrnstrom said that line was indeed removed because there was more information when the second version of the book came out. The line was originally written, according to Fehrnstrom, before Obamacare was on the books.
“Every time a book goes from hardcover to paperback there are updates that are made,” said Fehrnstrom after the debate. “When Mitt Romney wrote his book “No Apology” it came out before the health reform law passed and the stimulus bill passed came so of course there were updates a year later when the paperback edition came out. That’s not unusual in the publishing industry.”
“They were simple updates to reflect that we had more information at the time the paperback came out,” said Fehrnstrom.
So, in the hardcover version, Mandate Mitt thought Romneycare would be popular and thus suggested it could be accomplished for “everyone in the country”. However, when it became clear that Obamacare and its antecedent, Romneycare, were anything but popular, Mitt was free to flip flop on the issue and remove the line. Nowhere in Fehrnstrom’s “defense” of Mitt’s actions did he address, or even try to rationalize, the fact that Mitt lied, albeit smoothly, at Thursday night’s debate. Perhaps Fehrnstrom should have just told the truth: Since nobody, other than Mitt’s PAC, actually bought the books, Mitt didn’t think anyone would notice. There were plenty of other flip flops between Hardcover Mitt and Softcover Mitt which National Review’s Deroy Murdock discusses here.
Remarkably, this wasn’t Romney’s only documented lie at the debate. Podhoretz continues:
Even more telling, Perry hit Romney for speaking well of President Obama’s “Race to the Top” initiative, as implemented by Education Secretary Arne Duncan–which Romney absolutely did in Miami on Wednesday. “I think Secretary Duncan has done some good things,” he said, as reported by Politico. “I hope that’s not heresy in this room.”
Romney denied it–a huge blunder, because this contradiction can be thrown back at him daily until the campaign is over. And because it speaks to precisely the reason Romney has been unable to make the sale with Republicans despite his incredible persistence in wooing them over the course of five years. He comes across as false, somehow.
None of this is new for Mitt, but it should be noted that Perry also had his difficulties with the truth on Thursday night. Obama, due to his disastrous tenure as president, can be defeated in 2012 despite his institutional advantages as an incumbent. However, if either of the above two characters is the Republican nominee, Team Obama and their billion dollars will have a field day as they will easily be able to shift the focus from Obama’s inept stewardship of the economy to the obvious shortcomings of Romney and Perry. This is not a fight Republicans can win.
Yet the current beltway conventional wisdom is such that the field of potential Republican nominees has been narrowed down to these two jokers before a single vote has been cast. If that isn’t a sign that the door about which Governor Palin spoke in 2008 isn’t wide open, I don’t know what is. Romney’s hilarious 59-point plan is a monstrosity that only a Washington bureaucrat could love, and nobody believes he’d do anything other than rearrange the deck chairs more efficiently on the Titanic. Perry, for all his conservative bluster, simply has no history of taking on the system and, indeed, is deeply enmeshed in it. This is not acceptable at a time when the current, corrupt system needs to be completely demolished and replaced with something more closely related to what our Founding Fathers had envisioned.
This process begins with the defeat of Obama. However, as Governor Palin has said, what we replace him with is at least as important as the singular act of replacing him. The unprecedented challenges America faces demand nothing less than bold visionary leadership, not technocratic nonsense. We no longer have the time for the latter, nor can we afford a “victory” without a clear mandate for change. Obama and “Obamaism” are ripe to be consigned to the dustbin of history in 2012. We just need the right candidate to do it, and the door has swung wide open for her to enter the race.