••can ye pass the acid test?••

ye who enter here be afraid, but do what ye must -- to defeat your fear ye must defy it.

& defeat it ye must, for only then can we begin to realize liberty & justice for all.

time bomb tick tock? nervous tic talk? war on war?

or just a blog crying in the wilderness, trying to make sense of it all, terror-fried by hate radio and FOX, the number of whose name is 666??? (coincidence?)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

ny times
Heroes, Until They’ve Arrived

A little Rick Perry goes a very long way.

That was one lesson of the last few days, when this proud cowboy, whose stride into the presidential derby had been as lustrous and neatly styled as his mane, began to show more than a few split ends.

He fantasized aloud about the “ugly” justice that Texans might administer to the Federal Reserve chairman, whom I’d advise to connect through Chicago instead of Dallas for the time being. He questioned President Obama’s love of country, perhaps presenting a fallback position for birthers frustrated by that pesky certificate. He carped that a specific licensing requirement for tractors was “idiotic,” which it absolutely would be, except for one teensy, party-spoiling detail. It doesn’t exist.

And thus did a candidate who appeared so fearsome on the horizon — and who, for now, rides high in polls — come to look somewhat frizzier and patchier in the barnyard upon closer inspection. The hair is always thicker on the other side of the trough.

In politics, as in life, we romanticize what we don’t yet have, and once Republicans officially had Perry, the doubting flowered, each day bringing fresh worry about the blemishes on his record, like his chatter about secession.

The drumbeat within the party for more, better candidates has already resumed, with Karl Rove on the tom-toms, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page on the snare and the Web site Politico on the conga with this headline, stripped across the top of the screen late Tuesday: “GOP eyes new 2012 candidates.” The accompanying photos were of Sarah Palin, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan and ... Rudy Giuliani? Some Republicans never learn.

The party’s (and news media’s) yearning is understandable — and reassuring. Perry and Michele Bachmann, with their particular evangelical fervor, frighten many Republicans as much as they do Democrats and could be general-election arsenic. Mitt Romney has all that mighty morphin’ to explain, in addition to a passion deficit as striking as Perry’s and Bachmann’s surpluses.

But Christie, Ryan and Marco Rubio — to take three objects of idealization — aren’t dream candidates, either.

Christie, who reiterated Wednesday that he’s not planning to run, had great success muscling his agenda of pension reform and fiscal restraint through a New Jersey Legislature controlled by Democrats. But he hasn’t logged even two years as governor, and his prior experience in elective office is negligible.

Because his opponent in the governor’s race was the rich, relentless Jon Corzine, he has been vetted, but only in the context of a state job. Ask Republican leaders what his foreign policy positions are. They don’t know because he’d be producing them from scratch.

And then there’s the matter of his health. Although a Quinnipiac poll released on Wednesday found that only about one in five New Jersey residents was concerned about it, the intense focus on his recent asthma attack suggests that the news media, at least, would be ever braced for the worst. That’s a potential distraction from whatever message he’s putting out.

As for Ryan, he’s the face of a proposed Medicare retrenchment that met widespread public protest, forgotten only because the debt-ceiling showdown stole the stage. It would be remembered in a general election, and he’d have to campaign as the blue-eyed Grinch Who Stole Grandma’s Boniva.

In the primaries, he’d have to explain a record that challenges his Immaculate Fiscal Conservative image. Before the 2010 midterms brought a stringent new orthodoxy, he voted for the auto bailout. He voted for TARP. That’s now Tea Party anathema and was precisely the cudgel Perry used to flatten Kay Bailey Hutchison in his 2010 re-election race.

As for Rubio, he’s an opposite-side-of-the-aisle mirror of Obama, a minority who would be going from state legislator to newbie senator to presidential aspirant with perhaps too much hurry and too little seasoning. That reflection would be noted and noted by primary opponents.

The list of golden contenders who turned to dross once they contended is long. Remember Wesley Clark in 2004? Fred Thompson last time around? Jon Huntsman this time around?

Huntsman may bounce back. You never know. We should bear in mind that around this juncture four years ago, Giuliani was a plausible nominee, and pundits presaged a battle between him and Hillary Clinton. Oh, the memories!

And we should acknowledge the rose-colored glasses we don when pondering a hypothetical future — or a reconstituted past. Several political junkies have described Perry to me as the less polished George W. Bush. But Bush commenced his first presidential campaign with a bumper crop of gaffes. Perry has some catching up to do.

The arc, though, is foreordained. Now that he’s campaign flesh and bone, he’ll have to travel at least partway from Shane to shame.

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