No More Turkey Poop

by John Derbyshire

One bright spot in the selection process for a GOP presidential candidate is that, to a very high probability, none of the candidates will promote “compassionate conservatism.”

There is a sort of a case to be made for comp-con, or at least for making comp-con noises on the campaign trail. I made the case six years ago here, though I concluded that post with the observation that: “Philosophically, intellectually, and metaphysically, ‘compassionate conservatism’ is of course turkey poop.”

Rick Perry sure won’t be talking comp-con:

“The branding of compassionate conservatism meant that the GOP was sending the wrong signal, that conservatism alone wasn’t sufficient or worse yet, was somehow flawed and had to be re-branded,” Perry wrote in his 2010 book Fed Up.

The fact remains, though, that among independent voters there is a large cohort, some part of which a candidate needs to win, who want the federal government to be their Mommy. The GOP candidate, once we have one, will have to find some way to address them. Please let it just be empty words, not GWB-style sincerity.

Randall Parker touched on this in an interesting post over at ParaPundit the other day.

We need leaders who will govern as if we aren’t as wealthy as we imagined ourselves to be. The next President doesn’t necessarily have to know we are poorer than we’ve imagined. He just has to be cheap and not easily emotionally swayed to try to relieve all suffering with social programs. While an accurate understanding of where we are headed would help it is too much to expect of our elites to have an accurate model of human nature or natural resources or the effects of globalization. An accurate understanding requires too big a willingness to reject the prevailing consensus on multiple topics. Someone like that is unlikely to make it into the Presidency.

With that “cheap and not easily emotionally swayed” consideration in mind, I am more and more looking for the SOB factor in the candidates. In a 2007 column I attempted to quantify a candidate’s SOBness with the Cardigan Coefficient, a measure I invented based on an anecdote about The 7th Earl of Cardigan.

SOBness doesn’t quantify easily, though, as I pointed out at the time.

Once you start trying to quantify the SOBness of presidents … you realize that you may be looking at something multidimensional. There are strong reasons to believe that Jimmy Carter is an SOB in private, but he was pure mush as a chief executive — presidential CC surely less than 10. As Nixon illustrated, you can be an SOB in some policy areas but not others …

A reader, recalling that 2007 column, recently asked me to rate the Cardigan Coefficient of the current GOP field. For the eight stepping up on Wednesday evening, I’d score: Perry 80, Romney 65, Paul 90, Bachmann 75, Gingrich 60, Cain 55, Huntsman 40, Santorum 70.

I’ll allow there are some oddities there: Yes, I really think Rick Santorum could be that big an SOB in office; and no, I don’t think Gingrich’s private SOBness (is it a secret?) would translate into presidential SOBness. The thing is, as I said, multidimensional.

And there is that nagging problem of the voters — and they are legion in this sissified, feminized age — who want Uncle Sam to be Nanny Samantha:

Psephologically … SOBness raises some problems. There is likely a big gender gap in voters’ responses to SOBness. Men, speaking very generally, are more receptive to SOBness than women. In fact, the female equivalent of an SOB, which is of course just a B, is viewed differently by women than an SOB is by men.

Paging Mr. Giuliani, paging Mr. Giuliani, …