The GOP Candidates. I Mean, I’m Really Trying . . .

OK, here it is, several days after the GOP Presidential Candidates’ Debate co-sponsored by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, looking as though he’s just accidentally walked into the Fifth Grade Girls’ Health Movie, complete with free product samples, and the Tea Party Express, which demonstrated, for those who’ve always wondered, what lemmings look like when they gleefully surge right off the cliff.

It was, early on, a spectacle-in-the-making; the arrival of the candidates only confirmed the sense of unease in the air beforehand. There was tension you could cut with a knife, if only you trusted anyone there with sharp instruments. As a debate, it was meaningless — even reasonably cogent, specific questions were answered with pallid sound bites and tired platitudes — but it was terrifically insightful as a look into what the GOP has to offer the American people in a presidential candidate.

Here’s my take on each of the candidates:

Rick Perry, with a permanent scowl that belies his pasted-on grimace of a smile, looks like he’s just itchin’ to kick ass and take names . . . but can’t remember how to spell them. Kudos to him, though, for his defense of the Gardasil vaccine and Texas’ version of the DREAM act for immigrants. There just MAY be a heart in there.

Mitt Romney looks like central casting’s idea of an executive, a leader, and a Captain of industry, but unfortunately he debates as someone who’s disgusted with the script handed to him. While I suppose that speaks well for him, given the chaos of the Republican Party, he has it in him, as a moral free agent, to write his own. The voice of Dwight Eisenhower clearly is nagging at him. I just wish he’d listen

John Huntsman clearly chafes at the restrictions he feels, and he demonstrated, with his reference to a Nirvana song, that he doesn’t know his audience and doesn’t particularly care to. So do the right thing, John: Stop with the not-at-all convincing paeans to Paul Ryan, et al, and just run as a Democratic centrist in 2016. Problem solved and conscience salved.

Michelle Bachmann demonstrated once again that the commandment to not bear false witness matters little to her. There is no evidence that the anti-HPV vaccine Gardasil causes, as she claimed the next day she was told by a woman in the audience, mental retardation. What it DOES do is protect girls from a disease, cervical cancer, that’s almost always caused by this largely, but not always, sexually-transmitted virus. Bachmann may not like the fact that the Gardasil vaccine’s addition to the list of mandated immunizations recognizes the reality that girls will eventually have sexual relations, but she ought not act as though the vaccine is equivalent to the sexual corruption of “innocent little girls,” many of whose lives could be saved by this vaccine. Also, she’s dumb.

Herman Cain is refreshingly unscripted, and with his Nine-Nine-Nine program, he’s at least offering something reasonably specific to address the economic crisis we find ourselves in. But I object — I STRENUOUSLY object — to his having been “anointed” as God’s choice by clergy prior to the first GOP debate. Cain may have a deep, personal faith, and good for him if he does. But his deep, personal faith must not ever echo the deep, personal faith in the Ayn Rand-inspired Tea Party that’s flocked to him. Cain’s faith is of no consequence — not temporally, not eternally — if it doesn’t comport to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. No matter how witty he is.

Ron Paul looks like he’d be the most compassionate, wise doctor you’ve ever seen, and I’d have him as my next-door neighbor in a heartbeat. But his Randian Libertarianism is frightening; it’s also entirely inappropriate for the Christian. I’d rather have a flat tire on a rainy night in front of Paul’s house than in front of anyone else’s, but I have zero trust in his followers’ sense of empathy, justice, and righteousness in the public square. In fact, I’m afraid of them, and I consider them a population that needs to be evangelized — not standard-bearers of evangelicalism.

I think that’s everyone, and all-in-all, it’s a pretty dismal group. I am an unabashed Obama supporter, even as I’ve been deeply disappointed by his failure to be the leader I know he can be in the face of the coming GOP self-immolation. This nation needs an alternative to simpering, impotent Democrats and Republican flame-throwers. A centrist-liberal — Obama is not a liberal, and he’s ineffective as a centrist — could not only survive the coming political disaster, but also regroup and rebuild the confidence of a citizenry stupified by wrong-headed rhetoric and devastated by a chaotic economy left to him by his predecessor.

It would — I speak in the conditional, not in the certainty of the future tense — be a good day if Obama reached deep down into his heart and put his formidable gifts in the service not of pacifying Democrats and enabling Republicans, but of leading this country to higher ground. He can, I know.

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