Now that Mitt Romney is pulling ahead, I’m saddened to see the greatest political show in years drawing to a close. When will we again thrill to the way Texas Gov. Rick Perry parachuted into Iowa and eclipsed Michele Bachmann briefly?
At that moment the nomination was Perry’s to lose, and he wasted no time in losing it. He entered stage right with Texas panache. Writers and broadcasters, including myself, who had the temerity to question the Texas mystique – that famous swagger – got an earful from Lone Star loyalists. One thought that I should be roped and dragged behind a cutting horse. Another volunteered to do it.
Texans with six-shooters on their hips were ready to defend the honor of their state with cordite. That was until their leader drew a bead on his own foot and fired.
It wasn’t so much that Perry forgot the government department that was bringing down the United States, but that he gave the impression he had never heard of any of his targets before they were whispered to him seconds before he walked to the podium. One prefers one’s political heroes to explode rather than implode. We want to be able to laugh out loud, not feel terribly sorry.
Poor Perry. When he had to substitute piety for swagger, it was over. We want our Texans loud and brash with belt buckles as big as lesser states.
A personal favorite of mine was Herman Cain. Damn it. I liked him; an original by any measure, I’d say. But he was brought down by something less than original: a roving eye directing a roving hand. Jobs-for-sex would not, one feels, solve the unemployment crisis.
I didn’t care that Herman the Lover didn’t know where Libya was. If it had had a Godfather’s Pizza franchise, things would have been different.
The guy was appealing. While pizza may not have the same ring as computers or pharmaceuticals, he had a great resume as a mathematician and naval officer.
It could be argued that Cain and that other roguish aspirant for high office, Newt Gingrich, at least have standard-issue libidos. The rest were, well, a little sexually hung up.
The lovely Michele Bachmann, the righteous Rick Santorum and oh-so-pure Romney, who apparently has been untouched by human temptation or anything else as messy as human beings and their needs, all suffer from moral fundamentalism. It’s hard to imagine Romney as evincing passion of any kind, even though he is the father of five.
Santorum is the most fanatically puritanical about sex. Especially gay sex. To Santorum, the family is the triumph of human achievement. Not since Oliver Cromwell, apparently, has anyone cared as much about the family or its sexuality as Santorum. For him it’s not the individual that builds the state, but only the family — unless it’s the gay family. Indubitably big government is dandy, so long as it’s in someone else’s bedroom.
The same anti-gay fundamentalism animates Bachmann and, apparently, her husband who has a clinic to “cure” homosexuals. What is it about these people that has them so frothed up about other people’s private acts?
Oh, let it go if they froth in private. Who cares now that the race is narrowing?
When Gingrich goes, I’ll be shattered. Gingrich and his wife Calista standing by him as immobile as a cigar-store mannequin, belong on the high shelf of American political bric-a-brac. Gingrich sprouting his version of history, his version of his own role in history; Newt magnanimous in his brief ascendency and bitter as oblivion threatened. This was the Man Who Would Be President unmasked. The consolation prize of National Grouch surely belongs to Newt.
Of course there was a bit player, an understudy, someone qualified but unsung: enter, stage center, Jon Huntsman. A brief appearance, exit stage left. No applause, no mention in the program even.
So dim the lights, bring down the curtain, strike the set – never have so many outrageous eccentrics so unsuited the highest office in the world so entertained so many of us for so long. Sadly, the long national farce is over. – For the Hearst-New York Times Syndicate