…. Difficult as it is for republican supporters to watch in 2012, this is the way our political process is supposed to work. With even a shred of intellectual honesty , the Democrat party and the media would have to admit that had the current effort taken place in 2008, it is more likely that Hillary would be running for reelection and not Barack. For a number of reasons, candidate Obama was never truly vetted across the wide spectrum of salient topics to the degree that he needed to be. 2012 looks to be different as the Republican primary has been brutal for party members to watch.
A weekly changing leader board and the fluid nature of polling data that have marked the 2012 primary race piqued my interest in seeing how it compared to the 2008 campaign when the democrats employed their own debate and vetting process. During that campaign there were 26 debates involving Democrat presidential candidates. Few remember that there were eight candidates; Obama, Clinton, Biden, Richardson, Edwards, Kucinich, Dodd, and Gravel. It wasn’t too far into the primary season that it became clear it was a two horse race between Obama and Clinton. Good thing for American affairs as early favorite, John Edwards, was only months away from becoming occupied with other, more embarrassing domestic distractions.
The Republicans have formally fielded 10 candidates for the 2012 primary season. In a few hours the polls will open in Iowa for the initial primary contest. There are eight candidates still standing, no less than six candidates have held frontrunner status, and the seventh candidate has now surged to membership in the frontrunner club. All this comes amid an engaged electorate and a determined media intently interested in finding out as much as they can about the person interviewing to be the American CEO. There have been tough questions, probing investigations, and objective analysis of experience, resumes, history of relationships, successes, failures, positional debate, education, and suitability for the job. All must be exposed and probed – good and bad.
Difficult as it is for republican supporters to watch in 2012, this is the way our political process is supposed to work. If intellectual honesty were to be questioned in earnest, the Democrat party and the media would have to admit that had this effort taken place in 2008, it is more likely that Hillary would be running for reelection and not Barack. For a number of reasons, candidate Obama was never truly vetted across the wide spectrum of salient topics to the degree that he needed to be. 2012 looks to be different as the republican primary has been brutal for party members to watch.
What’s lurking beneath the surface usually provides a more compelling argument for choosing or rejecting one person over another to lead. This is only brought to the light of day through persistent grilling of each candidate in a position to make the short list.
Anyone that makes application for POTUS should expect that they will be twisted and torn by their own party before they ever have a chance to take flak from the opposing party whose opposition research teams laugh at what remains of Reagan’s 11th Commandment.
After rising to the top, unannounced candidate Donald Trump got labeled as a loose cannon following some pretty un-presidential remarks and positions. Tim Pawlenty held strong promise across the board but decided early on to jump out of the frying pan in favor of his family. Former frontrunner Herman Cain had the decision made for him amidst some pretty damaging accusations about his social past. Michelle Bachman got the message that despite a certain appeal and niche support her persistent gaffes rendered her not ready for prime time. Rick Perry’s resume and experience looked presidential on paper but it was just a mirage as people were greatly unimpressed when he showed up in person. After rising to the top, Newt Gingrich’s baggage (among insiders that know him best) remained bigger than his biggest ideas and more damaging than his accomplished counterpunching intellect. (Alas, this is the match-up I craved albeit for one misguided reason – Lincoln v. Douglass style debates between two well spoken pols – each with a well mannered tenacity and an inner thug that has no modern day rival … can anyone say …. “Let’s get ready to rumble”). Ron Paul’s populist star has dimmed as his core beliefs, proposed paradigm shift on major issues, and suitability come under a blistering spotlight. Rick Santorum, finding himself in the midst of a surge will soon find the temperature heating up around him. This type of intellectual/political warfare is therapeutic and insightful for the segment of the American electorate that still respects their vote.
In the end the process will likely yield Mitt Romney. He, in fact, may be the best Republican candidate. So far, he’s run the most efficient campaign and done the best job in the current vetting process. He’s got his own political issues that he must continue to explain as well as an air of political postcard coolness must be deflected in a way that tells people he’s not just another pretty presidential face. Then again, appearance and an image of eruditeness went a long way to getting the last guy elected in 2008. The subsequent exodus of moderates from the 2008 winner’s circle that fell for the marketing and sense of history will likely be paying a little more attention to what’s beneath the candidate’s covers in 2012.
It’s tough stuff; presidential primary season. The entry exam and application process are relentless. No wonder first stringers like Barbour, Christie, Jeb Bush, Daniels, Rubio, Jindal, Thune, et al are sitting on the sidelines in a year where the sitting president appears very vulnerable. This is the natural downside of truly vetting our presidential candidates. Bona fide political leaders and innovators will choose not to compete in lieu of giving away every bit of their time and privacy.
So, no more whining from the republican faithful about tearing each other up. When each party and the media do their job to research and question their candidates equally and the system works properly, it must never be seen by party loyalists as the animal kingdom equivalent of “eating their young”. It’s just business – and in politics, getting the most qualified and suitable candidate elected is good business. This can only be accomplished by doing intense, exhaustive and, at times dirty work of discovery and disclosure – no exceptions, not even for historical candidates.