Saturday, March 5, 2011

George Will Winnows the Republican Field

I used to read George Will's columns on a regular basis. Even though I did not often agree with him, I found his arguments always intelligent and usually sensible. In recent years, however, I have become much less interested in what he has had to say. My sense is that he has become more polemical, angry, and reactionary, all characteristics I shy away from as a reader.

Nevertheless, Will's column in today's Washington Post (here) reminded me of the good old days of intelligence and good sense, even if he overreaches in declaring who are, and who are not, "plausible" GOP contenders. From his perspective the winnowing process  already is "far advanced," and the five serious contenders for the nomination are Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour, Jon Huntsman, Mitt Romney, and Tim Pawlenty. He then proceeds to warn the GOP of the potential political danger of treating seriously the pretenders, candidates like Mike Hukabee and Newt Gingrich. Specifically, Will warns that the eventual Republican nominee:
may emerge much diminished by involvement in a process cluttered with careless, delusional, egomaniacal, spotlight-chasing candidates to whom the sensible American majority would never entrust a lemonade stand, much less nuclear weapons.
That's a terrific line, a damning criticism, and a sensible warning all in one. What I find most interesting about Will's analysis, however, is that his distinction of plausible v. implausible GOP candidates tracks perfectly another distinction between candidates who work for Fox News (implausible) and those who do not (plausible). Somewhat less perfectly, because of Will's inclusion of Haley Barbour among plausible Republican candidates, it tracks another distinction between Neocons (like Will and, therefore, plausible) and Paleocons (sounds almost like "Palincons," who are implausible).

If the Republican Party decides not to follow Will's sage advice, and nominates a "non-plausible" candidate such as Huckabee or Gingrich, I wonder if he will throw his support behind Obama's reelection or merely retire. Or will he reconsider his earlier assessment of the Republican nominee and find him (or her) suddenly plausible?

1 comment:

  1. Will's criticism of McCain and Palin in late 2008 was insightful and provided the groundwork for people like Kathleen Parker to do the same as the campaign progressed. But while he still has the occasional insightful column, he's more and more frequently sliding off the rails. His Newsweek column this week, "Why Liberals Love Trains," projects the same paranoia he rails against in the WaPo article: http://www.newsweek.com/2011/02/27/high-speed-to-insolvency.html.

    As for Huckabee, it's a shame to see him stoop to this. I obviously disagree with him on most important issues, but he added important diversity of economic thought among Republican candidates; he alone among the major Democratic and Republican candidates trashed the tax rebates-only Bush stimulus of 2008. It was that socially conservative, economically liberal message that I thought could provide an opening for him in the primaries, but he's chosen to go the birther route.

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