Thursday, February 7. 2008
Mitt Romney dropping out of the Republian presidential campaign brings to a close one of the most shameful acts in American politics at least within my memory. He did it in typical style, as an act of self-sacrifice to forego dividing the GOP and letting the terrorists (i.e., Obama and/or Clinton) win. More likely his business sense finally kicked in, seeing the increasingly self-funded campaign as a dubious investment. I'm reminded of some pundit who when Giuliani dropped out said he didn't have enough respect for conservatives to lie to them. That, of course, was really a backhand at Romney, who disavowed every plank in his Massachusetts political platform to win the hearts of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter. Whether he was lying now or lying then matters little. You can't be that brazenly self-contradictory and expect anyone to ever trust you again.
When I said I expected McCain to offer Huckabee the VP slot, that too was a slap at Romney. Huckabee would provide McCain with a bridge back to the Christian Fascist party base, which he needs to give lip service to if he hopes to, say, do as well as another war-crazed Arizona senator did in 1964. Huckabee is nuts, but at least he's consistent and principled nuts, a trait he shares with McCain even if their conservatism is rooted and expressed differently. Romney, on the other hand, represents nothing but the Republicans's abiding faith in the big lie. In the end, it's no surprise that his last and most adamant supporters were the party's attack dogs, who know better than most that what counts isn't what you believe but what you say and how rabidly you say it.
I've long thought that the Republican money people were pushing Romney and/or Giuliani as sort of a Hail Mary pass to try to hold on to the White House by moving as far to the left from Bush as possible, but that's turned out not to be possible. The primaries have shown us that Bush's legacy and the Republican base cannot be separated. As they've come to realize that, they've reconciled to McCain as their last best hope. McCain has still managed to gather support from Republican moderates and independents, who continue to mistake him for a rational person despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. (Recall, for instance, that most neocons like Wolfowitz preferred McCain over Bush in 2000.) I expect that come November the Democrats should be able to convince even the most naive voters how dangerous McCain is. (Patrick Buchanan has recently offered a pretty quotable soundbite, saying that McCain "will make Cheney look like Gandhi." And who can forget the scene of McCain singing "bomb Iran" to the tune of "Barbara Ann"?) He'd even manage to make Hillary Clinton look antiwar -- hopefully she'll have the good sense to play along.
Meanwhile, McCain has to keep tacking to the right to try to hold down the rank and file party revolt. They don't like him because he has a nuanced position on immigration, because he has shown occasional deviations from the Bush administration line (including occasional qualms about their criminality, although he's never been caught saying as much). The upshot is that in order to prove himself to the Republican base, he has to discredit himself in front of everone else. That's what wiped out Romney, and now it's McCain's turn.