Very late on the night of Tuesday, January 3rd, I went to bed blissfully believing the people of Iowa had made my dreams come true by voting Rick Santorum to the head of his caucus class. It was quite a disappointment, waking up to find Mittens had won it after all, courtesy of eight Iowan spoilers. I shouldn't have been surprised, considering the lead had been flip flopping around all night, changing twice in the time it took to microwave my mushroom tortellini.
All of last week was like that though, wasn't it, for the GOP's presidential aspirants? So strange it veered into surrealism, from Iowa to New Hampshire, with an unscheduled stop in Austria, courtesy of the good Dr. Ron Paul.
Despite a third place finish, Dr. Paul seemed to think he'd won a massive victory, beginning what would in other hands have been a concession speech with the declaration, "We are all Austrians now!" While I'd happily sell my soul for an EU passport, I very much doubt Austria would be any more inclined to give me one in the wake of Paul's surprisingly strong showing than it had been the day before. Nor do I see the preference of 26,219 Iowans as a ringing endorsement of the largely discredited Austrian school of economics upon which Paul's economic policies are based.
The eventual silver medalist, Rick Santorum, offered the biggest surprise of the night in his speech. In a stunning departure from his usual hate speech, he made a stunningly persuasive attack on Mittens' only electoral advantage, his supposed electability. As I understand it, this supposition is based on his having won a statewide election as a Republican, in the largely Democratic state of Massachusetts. It doesn't seem to take into account the vastly different policy positions Mittens espoused at the time, instead credits him with some sort of electoral magic. Not counting this one, he's participated in three campaigns, winning just one. When does the magic start?
Santorum, on the other hand, reminded us of his own repeated victories in Democratic districts, achieved without soft pedaling his crazy train conservative agenda. Granted, Pennsylvania Democrats are not the most progressive of us all, but still, they are Democrats, and repeatedly sent Santorum to D.C., with full knowledge of his policy positions. That's the kind of magic more often found in Disney films, than Congressional campaigns.
For all he was the night's big winner, Mittens can't have been thrilled with his result. In 2008, when he came in second to Mike Huckabee, he received 29,949 votes, 25.2%. This year, five years and vast fortunes spent as a full time presidential candidate bought him 66 more Iowans, just 24.7%. It must be unpleasant, discovering you're too unlovable to buy even electoral love,at any price. Mittens is just too dull to love. He's isn't even interesting enough to bother hating. He's like the adults in Peanuts cartoons, an invisible presence, sort of squawking at us blandly.
He did himself no favors as the week progressed. He may believe his own claims of job creation, but no one else does. He must have known the business success of which he endlessly boasts would at some point face media scrutiny, but he didn't bother coming up with much of a response. There are those ethereal 100,000 jobs he created by downsizing and outsourcing other jobs first, but they're already heading back into the ether. He further explained, in an interview with Bloomberg Television,that,"every time we reduce jobs somewhere, it was to try and save the enterprise and make it more successful." Aside from his appalling grammar, this statement suggests a fundamental misunderstanding of the world within which most of the electorate, 99% or so, reside. Has anyone in the history of unemployment ever been consoled by knowing it was all for the good of the shareholders? And if, as he's always saying, we need businesses to expand to create more jobs, yet businesses need to cut jobs to expand, it's at best a zero sum game he'd have us playing.
I hate the word disconnect, but no other comes to mind to describe Mittens' response to questions about the extent to which his interests intersect with those of Wall St. He didn't offer any meaningful critique of Wall St. practices, or demonstrate any real understanding of why his ties to the financial industry might be seen as problematic. Nothing that could have made him the least bit more relatable to that pesky 99% of of potential voters. Instead, he assured us he was not, "dependent on someone else for my survival. I'm independent of Wall St. By the way, I haven't ever worked on Wall St. They were service providers to the business I was in." He's not independent from Wall St. as a matter of principle, or because, like many of us, he's found their practices personally detrimental, in one way or another. No, Mittens' independence springs from superiority. Wall St. firms are nothing more than hired help to billionaires, after all.
He apparently sees this as a selling point. In yesterday's debate, he astonishingly told us only the independently wealthy should ever run for office, citing his father's sage advice to, "Never get involved in politics if you need to win an election to pay a mortgage." Whoever's handling his debate prep should really try explaining to him the concept of the oligarchy, and its general unpopularity in this country.
The week's back to back debates gave us more of the evasions and incoherence we've come to expect from such events. Rick Perry vowed to reinvade Iraq,because Iran will be moving in on it, "literally at the speed of light." Maybe someone told him Dr. Who was a documentary. More likely, he doesn't understand the meaning of the word literally. He further distinguished himself on Sunday, displaying his ignorance of the definition of socialism by confusing it with policies of President Obama's. Doesn't a day of prayer in Texas or something require his personal supervision?
Ron Paul lost his place in time in Saturday's debate, trying to get anyone to care about Newt Gingrich's failure to serve in Vietnam. Didn't we decide to move on from such things when we elected draft dodging Bill Clinton president twice? Or surely when we allowed The Bush regime to take things over? If that's the best ammunition Dr. Paul can find to use against Newt, he needs to be watching more cable news.
Last week also brought us a special bonus preview of the general election, when a Georgia judge ruled to allow a hearing to resolve the question of President Obama's citizenship. Apparently his birth certificate does not suffice in Georgia. I assume we'd have seen any film footage of the birth by now, so I cannot imagine what proof the court will require. Even if Obama had been born in Kenya, which he of course was not, no one's yet questioned his mother's citizenship, have they? Isn't the son of an American citizen a, "natural born citizen," wherever he might happen to have been born? This is what happens when civics classes are removed from the curriculum.
This week promises more excitement. The New Hampshire primary, is coming up,of course. Mittens is so far ahead in the polling, anything short of massive victory will disappoint, and boost the runner up's momentum heading to South Carolina. I'm hoping for a repeat of 2008's New Hampshire surprise, turning all the pollsters on their ear, and finally giving Senator Santorum the victory of my dreams.