Washington Watch: Send in the clowns

A befuddled Republican Party establishment is worried about the appeal of the likes of Trump and Palin and Bachmann at the expense of Romney and Pawlenty.

Trump buttons reuters 311 (photo credit: Reuters)
Trump buttons reuters 311
(photo credit: Reuters)
Every campaign has its theme song. FDR’s was “Happy Days Are Here Again,” Ronald Reagan chose “California, Here We Come,” George W. Bush liked “Takin’ Care of Business” and Ross Perot picked “Crazy.”
Surveying the 2012 field, it seems that Barack Obama’s should be “Born in the USA,” and for the Republicans, “Send in the Clowns.” The New York Daily News put Donald Trump on its front page in clown face – a comment on his transparent effort to grab leadership of the discredited birther movement. The billionaire showman is running first in many polls of GOP wannabes, right behind “none of the above.”
A befuddled Republican Party establishment is worried about the appeal of the likes of Trump, Sarah Palin and Rep. Michelle Bachmann at the expense of lackluster conventional candidates like Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty.
Remember how Republicans pummeled John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic candidate, for saying he was for the Iraq war before he was against it? Well, now that shoe – or flip flop – is on the right foot.
When Romney was governor of Massachusetts, he championed health care reform and was pro-choice. Now he’s running full speed away from the Bay State’s Romneycare law, and has become adamantly anti-choice.
Just a few weeks back, Newt Gingrich was demanding a Libyan no-fly zone – right up until President Obama was for it, and then Newt was suddenly against it. His only claim to consistency is that whatever Obama is for, he is against.
Minnesota governor Pawlenty was for cap-and-trade anti-pollution legislation, but candidate Pawlenty is against it. Sarah Palin has been on both sides of the infamous bridge to nowhere.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who has a Confederate flag signed by Jefferso Davis in his office and has defended the White Citizens’ Councils as a moderating influence, thinks he’s the one to lead the GOP against the nation’s first black president.
Barbour also wants “don’t ask don’t tell” reinstated because he fears gay soldiers might become too amorous in combat and ignore the battle.
That should put him in competition with another presidential hopeful, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who is working hard to lock up the homophobe vote (which is not insubstantial in the GOP). He wants to classify – and outlaw – consensual homosexual acts in the same category as adultery, incest, sodomy and bestiality.
Enforcing the adultery ban would quickly thin the field of GOP presidential candidates, starting with three confessed serial sinners: Trump, Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani.
Santorum’s top issue is abortion. He says Social Security is in trouble because the high number of abortions has kept the workforce smaller, with fewer people available to pay taxes (which he opposes anyway).
Santorum has also embraced the bigoted fear mongering of Glenn Beck. After listening to Beck’s warning that Islamic extremists are “working with communists and socialists” to establish a caliphate “all over the globe,” Santorum responded, “I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said.”
Alaska's former half-term governor, Sarah Palin, may be making too much money to afford to run for president – a job one of her admirers (right-wing blogger Andrew Beitbart) thinks is “beneath her.”
He said she should set her sights higher, and become the white, conservative Oprah.
Like Palin, Mike Huckabee is making big bucks just talking. His most recent contribution was to say – inaccurately – that Obama grew up in Kenya and thus doesn’t understand the United States; a spokesman later said Huckabee meant to say Indonesia (also false).
If Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minnesota) wants to be president, it might be helpful for her to know that the “shot heard round the world” to start the American revolution was fired in Concord, Massachusetts, not Concord, New Hampshire, as she told an audience in the Granite State.
Romney’s goal, according to aides quoted in Politico, is to lower expectations so far that he can easily exceed them.
That shouldn’t be too tough in a campaign where trash-talkers – Trump, Bachmann, Gingrich and Palin – overshadow and out-shout the serious candidates.
Trump has said the US is becoming a laughing stock to the world – he said the same thing about Ronald Reagan in 1987 – but if that is true, he bears considerable responsibility.
For now, Trump’s celebrity and showmanship overshadow an uninspiring field. His greatest contribution may be in making dull contenders like Romney and Pawlenty look more presidential.
And it may mean that several who’ve said they’re not running – New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, former Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush and Gen. David Petreus – will face increasing pressure to change their minds.
But if the GOP establishment is as worried as they’re whispering to pundits, folks are delighted over at the White House, where they’re quietly humming Stephen Sondheim’s tune, “Send in the Clowns.”