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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

GOP needs to pump it up

Published: September 2, 2011
Section: Opinions

Another year, another presidential campaign. Who are this cycle’s Republican contenders? Which determined politician will stand up to President Obama, whose approval ratings have been dragged down by a high unemployment rate and a fragile economic recovery? Here are my thoughts on the 2012 presidential race thus far.

One relative newcomer who has attracted quite a bit of attention, especially considering that he is topping the polls, is Rick Perry, the governor of Texas. I do believe that Texas’ combination of low taxes, regulation and cost of living has been a major factor in bringing in business, investment and new migrants to the state. More pertinent questions include whether Perry had a major role in shaping this economic model and whether he has the leadership skills and policy savvy to replicate such success on the national stage.

Another concern I have for Perry is not only that he wants to reduce the size of government as a matter of policy but that he simply loathes Washington. Among other things, he has called our nation’s capital a “seedy place;” deemed, albeit jokingly, Ben Bernanke’s actions as Fed chair “treasonous;” and entertained the notion of secession for Texas. If Perry becomes the most powerful player within the Beltway, this cynical attitude will simply not get him very far.

I view Mitt Romney, Perry’s chief competitor, more favorably. Yes, he has flip-flopped on just about everything from abortion to tax policy and introduced the state-level version of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise referred to as Obamacare in some quarters. Yet, deep down, Romney seems like a moderate, intelligent, business-friendly technocrat who would make a capable chief executive.

The media has already framed the narrative of a Romney-Perry showdown: the Texas Cowboy versus the East Coast Establishmentarian. Yet anything can happen during this campaign, so here is a quick rundown of some of the other candidates.

Firstly, Jon Huntsman is running in the wrong party and should become either a Democrat or an Independent. Frankly, he is not going to progress very far by bashing the party, for which he would like to serve as nominee, as anti-science and extreme. If I were applying for a job and directly insulted my interviewer to his face, think I would become his future colleague?

At the same time though, Huntsman may have a point, and Michele Bachmann is case study number one. Let’s be blunt: If Bachmann were president right now, the economy would have cratered due to her veto of a debt-ceiling raise. It’s easy to be an ideological gadfly; it’s more difficult actually leading a country.

Bachmann may only be outdone by Ron Paul, the libertarian hero. What particularly worries me about Paul are not just his domestic views, as wacky as some of them may be, but rather his isolationist foreign policy stance. This was reinforced during the last Republican debate, when Paul rationalized and justified an Iranian nuclear program. I’m sure he’s Jerusalem’s favorite candidate.

Otherwise, Herman Cain’s a non-starter, Newt Gingrich’s campaign is in utter disarray, Sarah Palin is a question mark and sayonara Tim Pawlenty! Nice knowing you.

Overall, the field is subpar. Conservatives long for a great right hope: a Chris Christie, Marco Rubio or Paul Ryan who will combine intelligence, experience and charisma and can excite the Republican base. I see where they are coming from.

At the same time though, I would advise that conservatives should not make perfect the enemy of good. Who would have known a couple years ago, for instance, that an inexperienced senator with no substantive record and ties to anti-American black liberationist theologians, Chicago socialists and other assorted radicals would have become president?

So the race is just beginning and the stakes are higher than ever. Grab the popcorn and the drinks, folks. This is going to be a long and bumpy ride.