You all have no idea how long I've wanted to write this. For the reasons set forth in my next diary, I can, and am; but I've been saving this up for a while. Pardon the spleen.
Dear Senators Thompson and McCain; Governors Romney and Huckabee; and Mayor Giuliani: You all suck.
Read on to see why. Or don't; I figure only two of you are smart enough to care why a conservative, Mass-going Catholic would personally drive the buggy to take you all to Hell.
Before I go any further, to any outraged supporters of any of these candidates: Toss it. So many of you have spent so much time shilling for your preferred choices, you've lost track of first principles. I have no time for far too many of you, and those of you with the brainpower to actually merit notice have picked the wrong company in which to travel.
Let's start with my favorite: Mayor Rudolph "Voting for Me is Material Cooperation with Evil" Giuliani. I owe you a sincere and hearty congratulations: You have taken what should have been a commanding lead in the primaries and run it into the ground through a combination of provincialism (you're a New Yorker, I guess I shouldn't expect any better), leftism on social principles, and the sort of rare political sophistication that comes from thinking that because you've faced down what New York has to offer, you are entitled to support. But what you've really done -- where you've truly shined -- is offered Republican voters a lesson in why not to vote for a liberal Catholic, a lesson they heretofore always thought could be summarized as "because he's a Democrat." Bravo, cretin.
The problem, at base, is two-fold: Part One: Your policy positions and natural inclinations would have left you a Democrat anywhere but New York City or San Francisco. Being honest with yourself is the first step on the road to recovery: Admit it. Deal with it. Move on. You are not a fiscal conservative (hint: fiscal conservatives do not adore the progressive tax structure). You are not a social conservative (oh, you are not a social conservative). You are not a small-government conservative (never, ever that). What you are is some guy who decided he didn't like crime and disorder. Bad news, buckaroo: This isn't the 1970s. 'Round these parts, even Democrats figured out -- heck, even the Clintons figured out -- that criminals are bad people years before anyone called you anything but "challenged by a combover."
You're a Democrat running for the Republican nomination. Admit it -- yell it to the Heavens -- and move on.
The second part is related. You are a liberal Catholic. I know, I know, my identification of this disqualifies everything I say hereafter; that's why you're not one of the two candidates smart enough to understand that there's a problem.
The problem with liberal Catholics is a flip of the problem with conservative Catholics who seek ecclesiastical support for their every preferred policy position: Instead of trying to stick a square peg in a round hole, as the latter do, the former insist that the peg is really round, and that it's their right to change the entire structure of everything in Creation to fit their preferred outcomes. This is a problematic attitude to hold in a Church that teaches that things simply are sometimes, and it's a horrible attitude to carry into trying to be the national standard bearer for an American political party.
Now, Republicans know that to run a campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination in the post-Reagan era, one must do at least minimal obeisance to the three pillars of modern Republicanism: Strong national defense, fiscal conservatism, and social conservatism. We also know that we have to speak in optimistic, glowing terms about the American Republic, because it really is the best nation on God's green Earth, and people would like to be reminded every so often; and following from that, our national candidate must speak of national beliefs and goals.
As a liberal Catholic Democrat with a bad tendency to provincialism, you have spent your entire campaign going on about the "two legs" of the Republican platform, omitting social conservatism, and your entire campaign has been spent talking about New York. You have tried to insist that the peg is really round, refusing to even speak of its angles, and you have run with the sort of provincialism that kills a political campaign. I know New Yorkers are convinced that they are uniquely qualified to be God because of where they live; and I know that you are convinced as a theological matter that everything should bend before you; but grow the Hell up.
We are a coalition defined by conservatism of every manner and method. We expect our only national candidate to at least sorta pretend or at least kinda project a vague belief in all the kinds of conservatism, of which, bad news, Mayor, social conservatism is a vital part. What we require is so damned minimal it's not funny: We don't ask that you support executing abortionists, that you tattoo gay men with bar codes, that Federal marshals enforce Bible study time in public schools: We ask that you support the right of the people to choose socially conservative practices for themselves, or not. But because you're a Democrat (and a liberal Catholic), you just can't swallow that, can ya?
I personally know very smart people who have advised your campaign on how to avoid all of the problems your social policy preferences would yield, and because the freaking peg is round, their advice wasn't given the time of day. That worked out well, huh?
Relatedly, there's the whole "busted family" thing. One of the critical insights Republicans have offered is that a private life is suggestive of how a public life will work. It's something a lot of people instinctively understand. Now, your personal life is, let's put this delicately, FUBAR; but your decision not to deal with it early in the campaign is, as near as I can discern, not a function of dengue-fever level stupidity, but rather an insistence that the world reorder itself to you. That, too, has worked out pretty well.
The net result is that you have paved the way for Mitt Romney (below) to slide to the nomination, and to drag us all to the bottom of the ocean against Queen Thickankles. Oh, and if you somehow get the nomination, you'll break the Party in twain. Wonderful. Thanks, Mr. Mayor.
Now, for Governor Willard "Mitt" "Astroturf" Romney: God, what a waste you are. You know, I actually could have supported you, and have toyed with it. You seem like a nice, competent fellow. Were you like this the whole time, I'd have been with you from day one. Somewhere in there is a real human being, with real fire in his belly, and I would be proud to call that man "Mr. President."
Unfortunately, that guy's not running. Instead, we have Al Gore's anima infused in a Ken Doll, and gifted with actual business sense. You're clearly smarting from your Dad's self-destruction all those years ago -- an understandable impulse -- and so you've decided to be all things to all Republicans, and to run your political campaign like a modern business enterprise. Bad idea.
Our own Dan McLaughlin has extensively covered the numerous reasons you'd give us heartburn (here, here, here, here, and here), and on those counts, I don't think there's any point in repeating, less eloquently, what he's said. Instead, I'm going to tell you why a lot of grassroots Republicans want nothing to do with you, and it has nothing to do with you being Mormon.
Stephen Green, or perhaps Jonah Goldberg, noted that watching you campaign is like being asked, What do I have to do to put you in this BMW today? I think that's emblematic of the way your campaign has been run, and it's why those of us who pay attention to these things (and those of us who, unlike I, actually have the ability to influence opinion, have turned off on you) want nothing to do with the cult you've founded.
You sent astroturfers out into the blogging world, as bloggers, commenters, and, here, diarists. On its face, this sounds like a good business practice: Build demand and awareness for the product, then unleash the product. In real life, this is stupid. Like the fake websites that some PR companies set up for large corporations, anyone who's actually paying attention sniffs these things out in short order, and then you end up with egg on your face.
Your campaign is run like a cult-of-personality version of Amway. I don't want to steal anyone's thunder here, but let's just say it's possible to criticize your policy positions or record without caring what your religious beliefs are; it is, however, impossible to criticize your policy positions or record without being called a bigot, or having your livelihood threatened. (Oh, and Stephen, if you're reading this: You're part of the problem.) I loathe everyone and everything associated with your campaign, and by extension, this means I have to hope to Almighty God you don't take the nomination, because I know you will not only die in the general, you will do enormous collateral damage in your death-throes.
You lie about your record and your past. Don't do that. That's Al Gore's way of dealing with a disappointed father. I understand that this is an attempt to rebrand the product, but you aren't [bleep]ing Coca-Cola: We don't care about New Coke, we care that you pretend that public funding of abortions is taking a pro-life stance.
And yet, we're probably stuck with you, because of the incredible incompetence of your opponents. On the Wonder Years, an otherwise awful and highly forgettable show, the narrator once noted that his parents faced a conundrum when deciding how to decorate the kitchen. Dad would insist on some tile he liked. Mom would insist on some tile she liked. They'd compromise on some tile no one in our species liked.
You are that tile, Mitt. You are the "Eh," Candidate. Congratulations.
Now, for an old nemesis: St. John the McCain. Man, you just never got it. You were, by rights, the front-runner. You had your shot in 2000, missed, said and did most (but, critically, not all) of the right things, and you lined up for your coronation. But you never really internalized that there is a difference between saying what a reporter thinks is a good thing, and saying what the average Republican voter thinks is a good thing. I would say this is merely a form of error, but repeated over the course of eight years, I'm forced to conclude that it's actually a form of powerful stupidity. This sucks, because I think you're our best chance to beat the Hildebeest.
Think it through: Does the average Republican voter like that you helped form a compromise on judges that left some very good judges out in the cold? Does the average Republican voter like restrictions on his political speech near election time? Does the average Republican voter like that you've all but accused American soldiers of torturing others? Does the average Republican voter like that you side with the Democrats on global warming? Does the average Republican voter like that you've all but called anyone who disagrees with your immigration stance a bigot? If you've answered any of these questions (or, apparently, all of these questions) "Yes," then I'd respectfully submit that you deserve the drubbing you're about to get.
You're going, I'll bet, to win New Hampshire, thereby proving once and for all that New Hampshire Republicans aren't. And after that, you're going to go down in flames, helping The Chief Astroturfer take the rest of us down. You're going to do this because you've so enjoyed playing up the maverick part of "maverick Republican" that you've neglected to show Republican voters that you're actually much more Republican than maverick. Instead, these last seven years, instead of publicly mending bridges burned in 2000, you have Schumered to every camera you could find whenever you wanted to share your latest deviation from the Republican Party. As a way to get free press, it beats everything but public human sacrifice to Moloch. As a way to win the Republican nomination for President of the United States, it's up there with public human sacrifice to Moloch. (And, as you at one point endorsed worship of Moloch for scientific purposes, you already lost that portion of the base that understands the allusion.)
That you're clearly nuts isn't the problem; I don't know that we'd mind a nutter for the Presidency. The problem is that, to paraphrase a wag at the Washington Post Online seven years ago, you keep alienating a key constituency in the Republican Party: Republicans. Put differently: The general election happens second. You have to win the primaries first.
I really think you could have squared the circle and made everyone understand what you brought to the table; but history is sometimes prologue, and for you, it's every damned chapter.
Now, for the second coming of Huey Long: Governor Huckabee. I'd like to congratulate you on getting a core component of the Republican base to forget one of the most vital lessons of modern American politics: Never vote for the governor of Arkansas for anything. Now, as Texan, and son of Louisiana, I have to confess I'm perhaps disproportionately amazed at this feat, as we get to see you and yours on an unfortunately consistent basis. But credit where due: You're offering a lot of my fellow conservatives a cyanide pill, and they're begging for the chance to swallow it.
Your problems are two-fold, and in a sense, it's not fair for me to criticize you: You've only been on the radar for a little while, and haven't had the chance to lie yourself into a pretzel the way Mitt Romney has.
But, let's just get them out there: Your foreign policy instincts smell like Matt Stoller. I don't care what your positions are: You can, if you somehow miraculously secure funding, hire gurus to tell you what to think on each policy position; heck, hire a whole Potemkin Village of eminences grises for foreign policy, much as Giuliani has done for judges. Your instincts -- what you say off the cuff -- suggest to me that you should never be allowed near the big, shiny red button, and that you cannot be trusted not to Carter your way through foreign affairs.
The second problem -- and why I'm frightened you could win with enough funding -- is that I think real populism sells. The Democrats' immoral approach to human life and the social ills of our nation probably only buys them about a third of their general election support. Where they cash in is being massive redistributionists, and, as a son of Louisiana, I can see that healthy sparkle in your eyes. Combine an economically liberal approach to the world with social conservatism, and I think there's a guaran-damn-teed election winner right there.
And I'll go to my grave before I support you. Because even if that blood-marker Roe is overturned on your watch, I'll be fighting that war all over again in two decades. The growth of the welfare state and Federal power was a necessary precondition to Roe's dark birth. When you trust the government to tell you what rights you have and have not, it will give you whatever will keep you most passive. And dead children don't spark revolutions.
I stress that I don't doubt your pro-life bona fides in the slightest. I simply know as surely as I know the gray in my beard that your success would spell the death of the modern Republican Party, and that in turn would lead to the death of the Republic, together with those altars to Moloch I mentioned above.
No dice, preacher man.
And now, most painfully, we come to Fred! Ah, Senator Thompson. I say painfully because I would have loved to support you. Now I'm glad I didn't.
I have only two questions to ask.
(1) What the Hell is wrong with you?Let's deal with the first. You had a ready, built-in, national base of support begging you to run. They waited. You waited. They waited. You announced and...
(2) Why are you running some weird amalgam of Phil Gramm's and Bob Dole's 1996 campaigns?
...let everyone decide you didn't want the job.
Now, before I go any farther: I think not wanting the job is a good thing. Part of what scares me about Mitt Romney, as with Al Gore, is that they have clearly wanted this job for basically their entire adult lives. That is unhealthy, and frightening. Bless you for not being unbalanced.
But the morons need to think you want the job, in no small part because they are morons. Humans, depressingly, want to be led. They want to think their leader wants to lead them. And unfortunately, far too many of these people watch the evening news, and vote in all sorts of elections where, were we a sane polity, we'd give them toy voting machines to use instead of allowing their votes to count. (All upside: Flashing lights and bells go off when they pull the lever, so they feel good, and their votes don't count, so we feel good.) And you have allowed the evening news to portray you as lazy and uninterested. You slept through the first debates after you entered.
Aphrodite's teeth and painted toenails, what is wrong with you? I mean, all of this bleeds into your campaign and how it's been run. (Second question segue.) Do you maybe remember that neither Gramm nor Dole won the Presidency, against one of the weakest Democrats to have the Presidency in a century? Your ideas and your positions are simply awesome. Your campaign is the weakest, most directionless, poorly organized thing you'll see outside of Ted Kennedy's bathroom every morning. Your run to the Presidency is not a coronation, and the media must be manipulated as any good campaign -- Hillary's, George W. Bush's, Ronald Reagan's, even the first Bill Clinton campaign -- does.
One of our Contributors, Bob Hahn, noted that how one runs a campaign tells you something about how the man at the head will run his Administration. (A better reason to stop Mitt Romney I can't imagine.) If this is true -- and the longer I think on it, I'm sure it is -- this is not only a searing indictment of every man running for the nomination from our side of the "v," it is a giant, glowing warning sign about your potential Presidency. We have had seven years of a Presidency that doesn't do message control. We don't need four more years of that.
In order words, with the last shreds of the respect I once had for you: You don't deserve to be on the stage with the other men, poor, sad, and wanting though they may be, because they did their homework. You have not.
I could go on like this for days. I'd like to finish by noting where the fault for all this truly lies: In the voters. We allowed these men to think they had a chance. We encouraged them to be as weak and pathetic as they are, when on paper, we should be sitting in our best position in decades.
On our own heads shall be the results of the 2008 election. God have mercy on our souls, though we don't deserve it.