Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Roosevelt and Hoover: Last Night's State of the Union

Our level of anticipation last night was not for the President’s State of the Union address (we knew he would do well), so much as for the GOP rebuttal, to be delivered by the esteemed Mitch Daniels, Governor of Indiana. Gov. Daniels has been ceaselessly touted as The One, The Man Who Could Have Been, a Republican contender who might have ignited a feeling loftier than boredom or disgust.

Which really is where the GOP candidates currently reside, with Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich having staked out terrain on opposing ends of that continuum. On Mr. Romney’s Greensward of Boredom we remember, vaguely, the forgettable faces of Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman. Over in the Slough of Disgust paddled, for a time, Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain. (The always anomalous Rick Perry managed to occupy an outlier position of Southern Fried Stupid.)

The Republican loyal, though they would probably not share our terminology, have sensed for months that something is Not Quite Right with their candidates, and have searched far and wide for a contender who would not embarrass them in the general election. They have pleaded with Chris Christie, toyed with Marco Rubio, and actively courted Mitch Daniels. (Rick Santorum, just clever enough to sniff the wind, has taken to referring to himself as the Goldilocks Candidate. As in "not too hot, not too cold," or, to fit the paradigm of today’s column, lying somewhere in the comfortable middle of the boredom/disgust continuum. We do not think this tactic will work for him – his poll numbers stagnate in the low teens, in Florida and nationally. And it is probably not wise for a man of such delicate appearance, who has fixated so greatly in his career on the vilification of homosexuals and their "agenda," to refer to himself using fairy tale terminology. Just saying.) The courting of Gov. Daniels continues, as the GOP lovelorn are, by turns, either bored or disgusted with the men in their lives.

Last night, Gov. Daniels frankly disappointed. He rests on the far end of the boredom scale, not quite a Pawlenty, but close. He gave a speech that Herbert Hoover might have been proud of, proclaiming that math might save us, or somesuch. We remained awake, just. Little more can be said.

One serious candidate runs who neither bores nor disgusts. The prediction markets ticked upward in his favor after President Obama’s State of the Union address last night, and downward for his Republican rivals. The rhetoric of a Roosevelt soared in overture to the tinny, tone-deaf Hooverism that was to follow.

After months of listening to the children squabble, it was a pleasure to spend time with the grown-ups.  Considering the current disarray of the GOP, we are increasingly certain we will be spending four more years with one.

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