Republicans act like Democrats?
It's a distressing suggestion, but that's what Jim Hoagland writes in Sunday's Outlook section of the Washington Post. He says Republican presidential candidates are behaving in the same way that Democrats used to: trashing each other in debates and sucking up to activist fringe groups in order to get their party's nomination. "That is what happens to a party that lacks a core consensus on priorities and navigates between sheer opportunism and survival." Ouch! Hoagland makes some very good observations about what ails the Republican Party, but most of his column is devoted to bashing Rudolph Giuliani (for fear-mongering on national security issues) and praising John McCain (for becoming a high-minded statesman who distinguishes patriotism from partisanship). Unfortunately, it's probably too late for McCain to rebound in this campaign.
One of Rudy Giuliani's biggest strengths is his experience as a top government executive, especially one who responded superbly to a crisis situation. (9/11, remember? Of course you do.) In recent weeks, however, a variety of people have voiced doubts about Giuliani's managerial fitness, suggesting that he is domineering, intolerant of criticism, and prone to playing favorites, a.k.a., cronyism. As the Washington Post pointed out, the indictment of Bernard Kerik, the man Giuliani appointed as New York police commissioner, is a blemish on Rudy's leadership credentials. How big of a blemish depends on how the trial turns out. In any event, Giuliani needs to grow thicker skin and/or make more frequent use of his big grin to fend off criticism.
Fred Thompson's campaign got off to a slow start in September, but he is sounding more impressive every day. I greatly appreciated his candid talk on the need to reform Social Security, i.e., cut back benefits to those who don't need it. Otherwise, we'll be back in crisis mode on this vital issue within another few years. His "Fred 08" Web site opens with a video clip in which Fred talks about the illegal immigration: police the borders, and enforce the laws. As he says, granting amnesty won't do any good, and indeed it would create immense anger by cheating the law-abiding people. This is one of the biggest issues that unites a broad range of Republicans, and Thompson makes the point without any hint of anger or resentment: fair is fair, period. On the other hand, some of Thompson's supporters in the House of Representatives are getting tired of Thompson's low-key approach to campaigning. To me that's not a problem, but for some people, Fred's lack of "fire in the belly" is a fatal flaw. See CQ Politics; hat tip to Josh Marshall.
Mike Huckabee has grabbed a lot of attention lately, and is giving Mitt Romney a run for his money in the upcoming Iowa caucuses. I like Huckabee's calm, straight-talking appeal to reason, and think he would make a great veep candidate. One major downside is his avowed religious belief the Biblical version of Creation in the Book of Genesis, which rules out the theory of evolution which was first advanced by Charles Darwin. (See, for example, Ross Douthat in The Atlantic Monthly.) I think it would be hard for a national leader with such beliefs to carry out public policy duties. Nevertheless, Huckabee seems 100% sincere and is not pandering to the Christian Right.