In the last few months, I’ve noticed something weird in the media, including the conservative media: Rob Portman, the Ohio senator, has been turned into a moderate. Maybe even a squish. A younger Bob Michel, or perhaps even Olympia Snowe in a coat and tie. Where did that come from? If Portman’s not a conservative — a true-blue, “full-spectrum” conservative — no one is. He is one of our brightest lights in politics.
“Vanilla,” they say. Portman is “vanilla.” What a bizarre putdown, in more ways than one. First, as I’ve said before, vanilla is one of the best and most beloved flavors in the world! Any yogurt-buyer knows there’s a big difference between plain and vanilla. Couple of months ago, I was in the grocery store, hurrying, and mistakenly picked up plain instead of vanilla. After the first bite, I almost curdled and died.
Furthermore, isn’t this charge of “vanilla” a kind of . . . hate speech, as the Left would say? Where are the language cops? You also hear, “Can’t have two white guys on the ticket.” Oh? What if someone said, “Can’t have two black guys,” or, “Can’t have two Hispanic guys”? Would that be kosher? Why can’t people simply be people, without regard to race, ethnicity, or sex?
Think of Dennis Kucinich and Paul Ryan: Are they “two white guys”?
Some people on the left believe you can’t be a true conservative unless you’re dumb, hateful, and cloddish. Some months ago, I was seated across from a liberal journalist at a lunch, and he was saying that Chris Christie was no conservative. Why was that? “For one thing, he doesn’t hate gays.” That’s the attitude — the lefty attitude — I’m talking about.
But there are righties, too, who are skeptical of politicians who are a little — cleaned up, let’s say. Have you ever met such conservatives? Rob Portman is smart, smooth, articulate, and polite. These are not disqualifying traits. Bombast and invective have their place. (No one who reads me can doubt my affection for bombast and invective.) But so does a more refined style.
What’s more, Portman is super-capable, famously capable — the kind of person you would appoint as president, if you could appoint a president.
I don’t know whether he’s the right choice for VP this year. I could argue for about five of them. I could probably bump that up to about eight. But the idea that Portman’s not a real conservative — the genuine article, a child of Reagan — is nuts. “He doesn’t excite me,” people say. Well . . . different people are excited by different things. A superb conservative leader who can help keep this country from swirling down the drain? Not unexciting.
I am now in Europe, where an ignoramus lectured me last night about the U.S. presidential election. We must reelect Obama, he said. Obama is intelligent, Romney is dumb. Romney has never been abroad. (You know those insular Mormons: never going abroad, never learning foreign languages. You know how insular high-flying businessmen are too.) Obama accepts American decline. Obama realizes that America is no longer anything special in the world.
Friends, there are people who are perfectly delighted with an America that is weak. With an America that is, as Bush 41 put it, just “another pleasant country on the U.N. roll call, somewhere between Albania and Zimbabwe.” Let’s beat ’em.