Sunday, November 27, 2011

GOP Straight-Face Sweepstakes

A tipping point in the Obama-bashing competition has now cost Mitt Romney endorsement by the only paper that counts in New Hampshire.

“Newt Gingrich is by no means the perfect candidate,” says the Union Leader, adding “We would rather back someone with whom we may sometimes disagree than one who tells us what he thinks we want to hear.”

This follows last week’s debate, where Ron Paul seemed beside himself at what others were saying, and even Michele Bachmann, Our Lady of the Ludicrous Claim, was moved to call Rick Perry “highly naïve.”

Gingrich is moving up in the straight-face sweepstakes, largely because he has the most experience in telling public lies with the utmost sincerity, or as New York Times columnist Frank Bruni puts it more politely:

“This presidential race is shaping up to be an especially mean and mendacious ride, and not just because the two Republicans currently in the lead, Romney and Newt Gingrich, have demonstrated a formidable talent for improvisation, starting with thorough revisions of their own positions on health care, climate change and such. They’re a limber duo, primed to teach classes on political yoga...

“But their specific contortions and distortions are no more worrisome than the backdrop against which this campaign unfolds, one of toxic partisanship and breathless hyperbole.”

When Republicans have finally settled on their least-worst option, the President’s campaign will kick in, undoubtedly under pressure to respond in kind. But Barack Obama, who has lost political battles with Congress by hesitating to go for the gut, will be facing a crucial character test in how he responds.

His opponent will have survived a contest for the hearts of a mean-spirited minority of primary voters, who represent a fraction of Americans. Will the President recognize the opportunity not only to win reelection but bring back some civility to the political landscape?

Politics ain’t beanbag, goes the old saying, but does it have to be mud-wrestling? We’ll find out next year.

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