By J SWYGART
“It’s all fun and games ‘til someone gets hurt.”
Yeah, your mom issued that warning as a kid; mine, too. But who’d have thought that, years later, it would apply to a presidential election?
I mean, c’mon, you have to admit it: This dog-and-pony show that passes for a Republican presidential primary has been pretty funny so far, and only promises to get better as we march toward summer.
Okay, maybe it depends on which side of the aisle you’re seated, but from my perspective it’s been a non-stop giggle-fest. I mean, you can’t make this stuff up. From Rick Perry’s “oops” moments to Herman Cain’s love interests to Mitt Romney’s quest for a personality to Newt Gingrich’s daily reinvention of himself, this is good stuff. And how long will it take for the latest meteor — Rick Santorum — to flame off into relative obscurity?
Talk about your fun and games.
But then — just like the “someone is gonna get hurt” warning from Mom — you’re forced to stop and realize that ... one of these goofballs is going to be the GOP presidential nominee. Okay, maybe now it’s a just little less funny.
But surely it will be okay. Put any one of these intellectual lightweights up against Barack Obama and they’ll pale in comparison. Right?
Well, maybe. Or not. For reasons not fully comprehendible here, Obama is viewed by a significant number of Americans as not only the worst president in the history of mankind (how quickly George W. Bush has been forgotten) but also as a despicable excuse for a human being ... one with a Muslim-sounding name, no less. He’s probably not even an American citizen, he’s a closet socialist, and he put “Happy Holidays” on the official White House greeting card, for heaven’s sake.
Meanwhile, back at the GOP dysfunctional ranch, the party without an identity — well, except for that “just say no” thing — the five or six Republican presidential hopefuls (a number which may be trimmed further by the time you read this; Michelle Bachman dropped out following a dismal showing Tuesday night in Iowa, and Rick Perry may do likewise) to date have spent precious little time taking about policies and ideologies which make any of them sound even remotely presidential.
Courting — by sheer necessity — the tea party crowd, and at the same time keeping them at a respectable arm’s length, while attempting to appease Evangelicals and social ultra-conservatives is a tricky and potentially disastrous business. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving group of candidates, all of whom to this point seem willing to sum up their candidacies by who can best vilify Obama.
They will take turns bemoaning the Troubled Asset Relief Program that propped up failing banks (never mind that Bush initiated TARP; candidates seldom let facts get in the way) and the bailout of the auto industry. They will cite high unemployment numbers as a sign the current administration has failed the country miserably.
This should set the stage perfectly for Obama, who would do well to remind voters of the nightmarish mess — two wars, runaway spending and an obstructionist Congress — he inherited upon taking office. And lest he forget what probably is the most important lesson ever taught by former president Bill Clinton — “It’s the economy, stupid” — Obama has a platform upon which he could can make a convincing argument for re-election.
He can point to a current streak of 21 consecutive months of private sector job growth, during which time 2.9 million jobs were added, as evidence that the corner has been turned in the lingering recession. He can remind voters that U.S manufacturing has expanded for more than two years; that manufacturers ended 2011 with their best month of growth since the late spring; and that the struggling construction industry spent more on projects in November for the third time in four months.
While Obama’s salesmanship qualities to date have been severely lacking, he can be a master orator on the stump. And we have every reason to believe he will shine in one-on-one debates with whomever survives the current GOP nomination circus.
Has the Obama administration lived up to all our expectations? No, it hasn’t. But, given the current crop of presidential wanna-bes, his still looks like the best game in town.
The writer is the opinion page editor of the Decatur Daily Democrat.