Jonah, you are absolutely right when you say that Obama and the Democrats would like nothing better than to have a Republican front-runner scoot off with the nomination as early as possible, in order to give them a big fat target on which to train their fire. As the first two-plus years of this administration have amply demonstrated, Obama is far more interested in running for the job and enjoying its perks than in discharging its duties. He’s a one-trick pony who’s been campaigning for one office or another for most of his adult life — the apotheosis of the career politician — a man who seems to think that governance consists of giving one speech after another, to increasingly diminishing effect.
What Obama needs in order to function is an opponent. That’s why he’s done his best to keep the ghost of George W. Bush alive since Inauguration Day, to give him a shadow warrior against which to strike heroic poses in the Bunraku play that has been his presidency up to now. He desperately needs the Republicans to play true to form, nominate the old ball and chain, get it over with, and get on with the business of just standing there while Axelrod & Co. whale the tar out them on every level imaginable — personal, professional, policy, family — by any means necessary.
The fact is, this is not a bad field of Republican candidates at the moment — for real yucks, just look back at the Democrats in 2008, whose competitors included John Edwards, Mike Gravel, Chris Dodd, Dennis Kucinich, Bill Richardson, and Hillary. And yet the Democrats, assisted by their enablers in the media, are stamping their tiny feet and demanding that Republicans hurry it up, already.
The media’s motivation is twofold: a) it’s helpful to have a news peg on which to hang their investigation/destruction of the candidate on the right (although that hasn’t stopped them with Sarah Palin, the succubus they love to hate) and, b) the only political story they’re really comfortable telling is the horse-race narrative, so the sooner that starts the quicker they can forget about everything else and get back on the campaign bus.
This, I think, explains the strange phenomenon of the illusory Jon Huntsman candidacy, which is almost entirely a figment of Morning Joe’s imagination.
The last thing the Republicans need is “a real Morning Joe candidate.” Instead, they need someone who’s battle-tested, vetted and ready to rumble. Just handing it to Mitt or Huntsman because the media has declared them “electable” (translation: designated loser) is a luxury the country can’t afford. Whoever it is, he or she has to earn it the old-fashioned way: in the rough-and-tumble arena of ideas. As Milton writes in the Areopagitica:
I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary but slinks out of the race, where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat.