And then there’s Mitt.
After all the speechifying and handshaking and recriminations and commercials and countless debates, the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination ends pretty much where it began: with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney as the presumptive winner.
The most recent pretender to the Republican crown was former Senator Rick Santorum, who bowed out of the GOP contest in advance of an uncertain primary in his home state of Pennsylvania. For this, the party and the country should be grateful. Had he carried the Keystone State and somehow gone on to seize the nomination, Santorum would have remained a tough sell.
Simply put, Santorum is not suited to be president of the United States. That’s not a slight. The vast majority of us are not cut out to be president, including the guy who currently has the job.
The problem is not Santorum’s social policies — some of which have been amplified and even outright fabricated through the power of those pesky, worldwide interwebs — it is his demeanor. He is too intense at the wrong times. One could easily see Santorum as the guy arguing a call in a friendly softball game, and taking it way too far.
And so, it shall be Romney.
Despite being preferable to Santorum, Romney is nowhere near our first choice, and he is not even in our top ten list of prominent Republicans we’d wish to see as the GOP standard-bearer this November (Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan, Mitch Daniels, Newt Gingrich, Jon Kyl, Marco Rubio, Rudy Giuliani, David Wilkins, Bill Frist, and Mitch McConnell, please call your offices). But here we are. Romney personifies Ben Franklin’s axiom that politics is the art of the possible (or, perhaps more infamously, Donald Rumsfeld’s musings on America’s preparedness for the Iraq war) — since it is not possible to have the nominee we might wish for, we must do the best we can with whom we have.
As regular readers know, this column would rather light a candle than curse the darkness, so let us apply this philosophy to Mitt’s nomination.
One of the qualities that recommend him is that no one is ever going to get misty about the guy. There is no romance to Romney. If anyone ever faints at a Romney rally, the reasons will be purely medical, utterly unrelated to whatever charisma is emanating from the stage.
Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan opines that America is moving toward a “post-heroic presidency.” That is, we will cease to consider the president some kind of public sector demigod, and recognize him simply as a citizen with a job to do. If this is true, now more than ever, it will be a very good thing. Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign was embarrassing, what with the chanting and the race-baiting idol-worship and the “Yes we can” rhubarb that resulted in the election of this preening, ridiculous person as president. The intervening, desolate four years and the fatuity of his term of office permit us to call that phenomenon what it was: sheer, mass idiocy, demonstrating Winston Churchill’s aphorism that, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”
But, his acolytes and self-regard notwithstanding, Obama cannot be blamed for the layers of nonsense that come with the job. To wit, the modern presidency is a pompous absurdity. With its giant airplanes, its 17-car motorcades, its Praetorian Guard of a security detail and on, the office demands more deference than King George III ever did. It has taken longer than most — over two centuries — but the American Revolution has gone the way of all others: The revolutionaries have made themselves royalty.