Faithful readers may be nonplussed to learn that I am now verging on political optimism. An event as close in clarifying effect to a Damascene bolt of lightning alit on me last week as silently as a bat. It happened, as miracles do, as (political) despair beckoned, as I read the latest installment of the nasty turkey shoot of New York Times editors and columnists picking off the promenade of Republican presidential hopefuls like giggling snipers.
Whenever Mitt Romney looks like he has seen off the latest challenger, Seamus—the Romney family dog, and victim on his trip on the roof of the Romneys’ car from Boston to Quebec of the most demonized journey in American history since the Bataan death march—takes over Gail Collins’s lively column. Seamus was shouldered aside for a few weeks as Rick Perry’s jogging with firearms and vasectomy from his father-in-law were pilloried; and for one week by Chris Christie, whose obesity and liberal views on some issues were basted in the Times’ warm solicitude for Tea Party sensibilities. Then it was Herman Cain’s turn. Following levitations of hauteur about pizza, snufflings of incredulity about his alma mater, and sniggerings as if at a church bingo about 9-9-9, paydirt leapt from the rich earth: groping, lewdness, and “unspecific harassments.” That these charges were denied, were very stale-dated, and were legally inconsequential was all beside the point. (Not to be so lightly dismissed is the controversy’s trail leading to the Obama campaign, especially David Axelrod.)
This caused the dark lagoon’s hatchet ladies to come snorting out of the brackish water. Gail Collins and Maureen Dowd, reaching for the catechism of the damned, dismissed Mr. Cain as a man of such unfathomable turpitude and depravity that he could not be trusted to deliver a pizza to Anita Hill. They declared their latest Republican victim politically dead without checking his vital signs (which seem fairly vigorous).
There is already a clicking of bolts and a leveling of gun barrels at the upward flicker of Newt Gingrich’s polls. And always looming portentously at the end of the trail is Seamus, the heir to other great dogs, the incipient American itinerant victim (Mormon) dog, tail wagging in readiness. (I wish Gail Collins would tell us, in one of Seamus’s frequent cameo appearances in her column, whether he is still alive or has gone ahead to join Fala and Checkers.)
For me to achieve a degree of optimism from this procession of accident-prone Republican candidates might seem aberrant or a worrisome sign of cabin fever, but it isn’t. The grace of revelation came in a mighty flash of celestial light. Whatever obloquy may be rained down on the well-tended topknots of the Republican hopefuls, it will not excuse or reelect the administration described by a commentator a few weeks ago as “the worst since before the invention of electricity.”
This administration will have produced $5 trillion of deficits and greatly expanded the money supply without any serious effort to suggest how it is going to close the spigot, much less repay any of the accumulated debt. Only someone more familiar than I am with fiction’s most fantastic realms could find adequately recondite metaphors for this level of fiscal irresponsibility. There has not been a hint of entitlement reform; no interest in a reforming budget or in changing Social Security’s actuarial assumptions or vesting conditions; no comprehensive analysis of municipal, county, or state debt, as Harrisburg, PA and Jefferson County, AL went down in the last month like tenpins; nor an effort to tackle the $1-trillion student-loan debt bomb. The administration continues its glazed pall of official prevarication in a reassuring monotone.