I don’t mean to suggest a similarity of temperament or judgment. The question occurs to me solely in the context of electability.
The situation is far different now than it was in November of 2008, of course. John McCain suffered from a number of disadvantages, not the least of which was a campaign in which instances of ineptitude on the part of himself and his staff frequently manifested themselves at inopportune moments like so many dead goldfish floating to the surface of a stagnant ornamental pond during an outdoor wedding reception. McCain’s biggest drawback, however, was his ill-disguised hostility to the conservative base, and the lingering fear among many conservatives that, in any contest with Democrats in Congress, McCain’s almost totemic veneration for compromise would encourage him to sell his – and his fellow citizens’ - birthright for a mess of pottage.
And then there was the spectacle of Barack Obama, sailing along easily on the trade winds of a story-book liberal narrative, crafted by his political machine and assisted by an adoring media. He was the healer, the “light worker”, the cosmopolitan brainiac who would miraculously cure the ills of the planet and its peoples, the man who was so conspicuously not George Bush. Possessing nothing in the way of tangible accomplishments, he was nonetheless armed with the indispensable tools of success in this know-nothing era : an obscure history buried under a mountain of hagiographical applesauce, a sonorous baritone and the borrowed trappings of a divine afflatus. It was all so impressive, so momentous, so promising, so…transparently fraudulent - but this last, unfortunately, only to voters who were both (1) paying attention and (2) not entirely unmoored from common sense (which is why, in the end, I grudgingly cast my vote for McCain, the lesser, by far, of two evils).
Fast forward, and today it is clear that even many of Obama’s dizziest fans, fetched early during his skyrocketing rise to national fame by all the glittering hype, have figured out that he is not a high lama of the Yellow Hats or the 12th imam, so his campaign for reelection has been brought back down to earth and is now taking the form of traditional demagoguery, garden variety mendacity and government baksheesh scattered among his well-heeled donors and favored constituencies. The economy limps along under the crushing weight of excessive government borrowing, unemployment is maddeningly high, the leftist satraps of the executive branch’s far flung regulatory network continue to chip away at our liberty, the Department of Justice has assumed a high place among our leading criminal enterprises, and the world beyond our shores is an increasingly dangerous environment in which this administration’s diplomats have proved to be ominously unsure guides.
In short, the banner of leftist ideology, carried by its boldest and most well-favored champion, has been shot to doll rags by reality, and there is a yearning among the people for a return to truth, justice and the American way. But is Romney Superman?
I am skeptical. While Romney’s organization is more competent and efficient that McCain’s ever was, his historical flip-flopping on a number of issues, and present reluctance to tip his hat to, let alone embrace, the concept of genuinely limited government, have cast him in the role of the much-maligned RINO. Does he have deep-seated beliefs – in anything – or is he truly a mere weathervane of establishment opinion? I have written before about the tendency of “moderate” Republicans to content themselves with serving as nothing more than a mass of barnacles on the Ship of State, slowing down, but not altering the course, of our apparently ineluctable voyage to socialism. Does Romney have settled conservative convictions, and the courage to defend them? Or is he just the Un-Obama?
Because if he’s simply the latter, I’m not sure that’s going to be enough. Romney has been running for president for years, and has never been able to break out of the 25% range of support among Republicans - largely, I believe, because of the slipperiness of his worldview. Is he really the person we want to send into the ring to duke it out with a weary, but still determined, foe? One who, moreover, is not averse to delivering rabbit punches and who will draw strength and confidence from a cheering press section?
Mark Levin has stated on many occasions that he would vote for a can of orange juice if that were the only alternative to Obama. So would I, and so will I vote for Romney if he is the Republican nominee – after all, if nothing else, at least he doesn’t burn with a desire to remake the country according to the hallucinatory visions of Richard Cloward and Frances Piven. But, aside from the absence of radical impulses – and even that virtue is suspect, given RomneyCare and the candidate’s refusal to back away from the individual mandate (which is akin to spiking one of our biggest guns in next year's battle, incidentally) - does Romney have more positive substance than the otherwise delightful breakfast beverage? And if not, will he still be able to beat Obama? In the meantime, I pray for a boost in the fortunes of Santorum or Perry or even Gingrich.
Update: Bryan Preston - a Romney endorser who isn’t reluctant to criticize the candidate – has some thoughtful observations on the Republican field.