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A cluttered field

The field of Republican candidates for president is “cluttered with careless, delusional, egomaniacal, spotlight-chasing candidates to whom the sensible American majority would never entrust a lemonade stand, much less nuclear weapons.”This may sound like a rant from a liberal pundit, but it’s actually the view of the respected conservative columnist George Will. Will wants to see President Obama defeated next year but he’s worried about the “vibrations of weirdness” coming from Republican fringe candidates like Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, Michelle Bachmann and Newt Gingrich. Will didn’t mention any names except Huckabee’s,but it was clear whom he had in mind. He singled out the former Arkansas governor because Huckabee had just speculated on the president’s being infected by Mau Mau ideology while growing up in Kenya, which is not even a suburb of Hawaii and Indonesia, where Obama actually grew up. It explains why Will chose words like careless and delusional along with egomaniacal and spotlight-chasing to describe these awful candidates.While avoiding particulars about Palin, Bachmann and the rest, Will effectively read them out of the thinking man or woman’s Republican Party:“There are at most five plausible Republican presidents on the horizon — Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former Utah governor and departing Ambassador to China Jon Hutsman, former Massachusetts Gov. Romney and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.”I don’t know about Barbour, who can’t always suppress his affection for the Old South of his segregated childhood. His best hope might be to wait until secession really catches on and run for president of a reconstituted CSA.Nor can I see how the able Huntsman could overcome the taint of having been Obama’s emissary to the Chinese Commies. This won’t play in Iowa, whose unfortunate caucus system is dominated by the right and was won by Huckabee in 2008. It will also scare them in South Carolina, one of the earliest and most primitive Republican testing grounds.Which leaves us with Romney, who’s running hard, and Daniels, who may not run at all, plus Pawlenty, a seemingly sensible but unexciting conservative who has begun to sound more like one of Will’s weirdos in appearances in Iowa. Romney is the 2008 presidential candidate whose campaign is never recalled without the words flip and flop coming to mind, the candidate who would embrace any position to become president. This time, he has to distance himself from the unassailable fact that the health-care plan he passed while governor of Massachusetts is uncannily similar to the hated Obamacare. This he has done by claiming the program was great for Massachusetts but would be terrible for the United States. How this can be, he declines to explain. At the moment, Romney passes for front runner.That leaves Daniels. My hero among conservative writers is David Brooks, who points out that Daniels’ Indiana has paid down its debt by 40 percent since 2004 while the other 49 states have increased their debt by an average of 40 percent. At the same time, he has added jobs at twice the national average. In a talked about appearance before the Conservative Political Action Conference, he annoyed his audience by telling them they “will need voters who never tune in to Rush or Glenn or Laura in order to win.“Purity in martyrdom is for suicide bombers,” he told the audience of true believers, sounding for all the world like someone who doesn’t intend to run.“The country needs a substantive debate about the role of government,” says Brooks. “That’s exactly what an Obama-Daniels contest would provide,” but Daniels told some college students the other day there’s “an excellent chance” he won’t run.If Daniels doesn’t run, and even if he does, what the Republican Party needs now is a few more reputable candidates. President Obama has disappointed a lot of people who voted for him but he remains popular enough to win again unless disaster strikes.That may be why Republicans who might otherwise be inclined to run, like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and presidential brother Jeb Bush, seem to be candidates-in-waiting for 2016. They should think about that. Simsbury resident Dick Ahles is a retired journalist. E-mail him at dahles@hotmail.com.

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