Can anyone beat President Obama when he runs for reelection? The question seems to be on the minds of people whose job, or avocation, it is to ask. In other words, the people who write for, and read, Politico.
Well, if Obama is going to be defeated, it will have to be by somebody. We know this to be true because there is an old political proverb that goes, “You can’t beat somebody with nobody.” The line is sometimes credited to no less an authority than William Safire, and it is the kind of thing that football coaches and political insiders are admired for saying. Because it is so stupid and obvious, it must be . . . profound. Or something.
So, conceding the truth of this insight, is there a somebody out there who can defeat Obama in 2012?
So far, the consensus answer seems to be . . . maybe—even probably—not.
There is no shortage of names. It’s just that the people who belong to those names are all flawed in one way or another, usually having to do with “charisma.” Which, these days, means star power. Some, like Mitch Daniels do not have enough. Others, too much. Think Sarah Palin, who is a certified, high-octane celebrity but who makes millions of people grind their molars whenever she opens her mouth.
Newt Gingrich has name recognition but, then, his name is Newt Gingrich. And that is some heavy baggage.
Mitt Romney? He tries but no matter how you define it, “charisma” does not come immediately to mind. And, then, there is that little matter of what happened with health care in Massachusetts when he was governor.
Chris Christie says he’s not running and when he says something definitive, you can pretty much take it to the bank.
In short, no likely nominee in the Republican field can match up with President Obama on the charisma meter.
Which makes any one of them preferable to our incumbent superstar.
The more prosaic, I say, the better.
Has anyone noticed what’s become of the enterprise that the president is supposed to be in charge of? He is, after all, the first officer of the government and these days, it isn’t run as well as the average body and fender shop. The Government Accountability Office just released a report about waste, duplication, etc., etc. in the government that took even Washington’s wise men and ladies by surprise. And they had to have known that the government is busily engaged in blowing billions of taxpayer dollars. If they didn’t know, then shame on them. Because just about everybody else in the country did.
Still, the report was shocking.
This bad? Really?
The report is full of little jewels.
For instance, the government runs 80 programs dealing with “surface transportation issues.”
And there are 47 federal job training and employment programs.
So, you ask, are any of them doing any good?
Hard to say since only five of them have done the necessary studies.
Likewise, 11 of the 18 “food assistance” programs.
The list goes on and on and as you read, you remind yourself that this is a report from the Government Accountability Office. So it isn’t like a hostile audit. When the GAO says the government might be blowing a hundred or two hundred billion a year, that’s probably on the soft side.
Fixing this does not require charisma or vision. Those qualities are, in fact, antithetical to what is needed from the person in charge. We need a drudge and an ass kicker. Somebody who will skip the Academy Awards so he can go back to the office and find a few hundred million to sweat out of the Labor Department’s budget. Who will take a kind of grim satisfaction in knowing that after he is cold and in the ground, the Chinese will have to get by on smaller-than-anticipated interest payments from Old Sam because he found a way to save a few bucks. Someone who figures that if you do the necessary in the present, then the future will take care of itself.
We need a Calvin Coolidge or a Dwight Eisenhower. Somebody boring and disciplined and absolutely unfazed by the disdain of the political class. Somebody who realizes that the solution to our woes is not in clever new ideas; that salvation will not come through creative policies. Throw a rock in Washington and you will hit a policy wonk (which might be a good thing) and they keep coming up with ever more elegant solutions to problems created by the wonks who preceded them. Which might account for why we have 47 federal job training programs and an economy with 9 percent unemployment.
The candidate I want to vote for is the one who will ask President Obama, when they debate, “Mr. President, why didn’t you know the government you are in charge of was wasting all this money? And if you did know, why didn’t you something about it? Isn’t that your job?”
We need a somebody, all right. Somebody really dull who we can all get excited about.
Geoffrey Norman, a widely published author, edits the website Vermonttiger.com.