The Corner

George Will Is Incandescent


In case anyone forgot that George Will can be one of the best writers in the business, I would urge readers to check out his new column. It’s an attack on Huckabee and Gingrich for pandering to birtherism and the Kenya obsession. Will concludes with the following:

Let us not mince words. There are at most five plausible Republican presidents on the horizon — Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former Utah governor and departing ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, former Massachusetts governor Romney and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty.

So the Republican winnowing process is far advanced. But the nominee may emerge much diminished by involvement in a process cluttered with careless, delusional, egomaniacal, spotlight-chasing candidates to whom the sensible American majority would never entrust a lemonade stand, much less nuclear weapons.

I cheerfully concede that George Will knows much more about politics than I do, and that his analysis of the GOP presidential field may, for this reason, be correct. But I remain troubled by his assertion about this “sensible American majority” that is supposedly able to prevent the “careless” and the “spotlight-chasing” from being entrusted with lemonade stands and nuclear weapons. Does Will believe that this sensible majority made the right decision on Barack Obama, and his qualifications and suitability for the office of president? (Don’t get me wrong: I’m not an Obama-hater who’s taking a cheap shot at Obama here. I didn’t vote for him, but I hoped that his enthusiastic backers were right, to at least some extent, about his capabilities. But he has since proven to be a great disappointment, as even many of those backers have come to admit.) Or does Will, as a long-time critic of John McCain, think that — despite Obama’s obvious weaknesses – electing McCain would have had greater negative long-term consequences, and thus the majority were sensible in favoring Obama over McCain?

Which brings me to the broadest point: Just as the judgment on Obama in 2008 was not made in a vacuum, neither will be the judgment in 2012 on some of the candidates Will is criticizing. In November 2012, the majority — sensible or not — will be comparing the GOP nominee not to an ideal standard of sanity and trustworthiness, but to the incumbent. And it’s the winner of that comparison who will be entrusted with the nukes, and the lemonade, and everything else.

Supporters of particular candidates Will is critical of may take this as encouraging news. Other concerned Americans may have a different perspective.