A bunch of obnoxious, freakish-looking people made a spectacle of themselves in downtown New York. You don’t say.
“There is a tide in the affairs of men / Which taken at the flood leads on to fortune.” If New Jersey governor Chris Christie knows his Shakespeare, those lines must have thundered in his head as seemingly everyone in the GOP, from audience members at his speeches to Nancy Reagan, urged him to join the presidential race. He decided not to — his commitment to his uncompleted term, his relative inexperience, and the lateness of the hour all arguing against; a week later he endorsed Mitt Romney. If Christie really knows his Shakespeare, he may also have reflected that the call of destiny is uttered to Cassius, conspirator and assassin; destiny always speaks to the impatient. Christie will have more time to build a record, and conservatives will have more time to assess it. Unless he has a personality transplant, he will surely be a factor in cycles to come.
Sarah Palin also took herself out of the running. Her waiting game, delicious torment for fans and media stalkers alike, ran counter to polls suggesting that her prospects have steadily sunk. They sank because a pack of enemies, from home-state backstabbers to demented liberals, spent three years running her down; and because she herself found stardom more congenial than administrative nuts and bolts or self-education. Great comets sometimes blaze over the political landscape, without ever touching the White House. Palin is one of them.
Businessman Herman Cain is the latest Republican presidential candidate to catch the eyes of voters squinting at Romney’s smoothness and wincing at Perry’s bumbles. Cain’s trademark feistiness shone in his response to Occupy Wall Street: If you’re really bothered by the lousy economy, he said, protest at the White House. Cain is infectiously likable and also appeals to tea partiers irked by accusations of racism. He has the lone new policy idea in the field — his 9-9-9 tax reform — that has made an impression. But as Richard Brookhiser has said, the presidency is not an entry-level position. Cain, a former Burger King and Godfather’s Pizza executive, regularly makes remarks that evince lack of thought as much as lack of experience (e.g., supporting a Palestinian right of return to Israel; speaking as if Jefferson’s “wall of separation” language were part of the First Amendment). He has yet to prove he’s ready for the White House.
Look who is recording generic Republican campaign commercials: the president of the United States. Speaking to an NBC affiliate in Orlando, Obama said America “didn’t have that same competitive edge that we needed over the last couple of decades. We need to get back on track.” “Couple of decades” takes us back to Reagan and his successor, Bush the elder. And “competitive edge” could be an applause line for job creator Rick Perry or ex-businessmen Mitt Romney and Herman Cain; for President Nine Percent (as in, unemployment), not so much. In the Orlando interview, Obama also indulged in a strange bout of what shrinks call projection. “This is a great, great country that had gotten a little soft . . .” What looks softer just now, the country, or hope-and-change?
Introducing Governor Perry at a conference held by the Family Research Council, Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress said that voters should choose a “genuine follower of Jesus Christ” as president and that Perry qualified. In multiple interviews after the event, Jeffress — whose selection was approved by Perry’s campaign and whom Perry praised for his introduction — explained that Mitt Romney did not qualify, Mormonism being a non-Christian “cult.” The theological view that the Mormon church stands outside the historical Christian tradition is perfectly respectable. But the church is clearly not a cult in any ordinary usage of that word. Its distinctive doctrines have no conceivable relevance to how Romney would perform in office. The values it inculcates would be relevant: But these are sound and widely admired. Jeffress himself concedes that Romney would be preferable to Obama. The pastor is making a political judgment. But his judgment does not, on the whole, seem to be very good.