Saturday, January 05, 2008

that unpalatable menu

The GOP's problem in a nutshell:

Great appeal to white evangelicals, but how electable is he, really? And then there's the "GOP's Jimmy Carter" accusation (did I get that line from Skippy? probably...).

Skews way too liberal on Iraq. Big minus.

Skews too liberal on abortion, gun control, and other domestic matters. Plain weird on immigration.

How often I've heard Republicans say: I'll never forgive him for McCain-Feingold. It's become something of a zombie-like mantra.

Already quoted as saying he doesn't "particularly want" to be president. Can't seem to shake his image as sleepy and unmotivated despite an awesome, YouTube-driven beginning.

I think McCain and Giuliani are the GOP's two best bets. Hardcore Republicans don't like thinking about the advantages of cross-party appeal, but McCain and Giuliani both come off looking, overall, like foreign policy hawks and social moderates without the Santorum stink about them. Both candidates are willing to work with members across the aisle. True, both are arrogant and temperamental in their own ways, but both are also gifted with good senses of humor. They're electable.

This is the political climate we live in, folks. I think most of the country would like to see a president who is (1) fiscally conservative, (2) socially moderate/liberal, and (3) hawkish in foreign policy. McCain and Giuliani, on the GOP side, come closest to this.

On the Dem side... well, I'd say that former Dem Joe Lieberman came closest to that ideal; he was and remains a foreign policy hawk. Hillary has the hawkishness down pat, but she's also (rightly, I think) been pegged as a big-time nanny-stater, which has little appeal for the right-skewing half (or more than half) of the country.

But for the Dems, the menu's no longer unpalatable. I suspect that Obama's got the charm to make people believe in him. He's certainly got the momentum to carry New Hampshire now. Americans like a winner.

Then again, Americans also like the underdog. It's one of those quirky contradictions in our national character, I think: we love the #1 dude, but we also root for the #10 guy who fights his way up the charts. There's room in our hearts for both types of people-- those who seem born to win, and those with the tenacity to win. Grace and grit. For the Dems, it's a choice between dynastic Hillary and earnest Obama. For the Republicans, it's... who, exactly?


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