Thursday, December 06, 2007

Holier Than Thou

Mitt Romney officially declared himself a Christian today, thus observing the unwritten third qualification to be president. (The Constitution puts forth the other two: at least thirty-five years old, and born in the USA. Sorry, Arnold.)

Romney's guilelessness can be debated elsewhere. It may be unseemly to question someone’s sincerity on a matter of faith, but Romney’s earned it, since he’s as sincere as a whore’s orgasm the rest of the time. As political theater, the speech was unmatched since Lloyd Bentsen told Dan Quayle, “I knew Jack Kennedy, and you’re no Jack Kennedy.” Of course, Bentsen went on to lose the 1988 election behind Michael “Helmet Head” Dukakis, so that might not be the image Romney hoped to convey.

On the surface, Romney’s move is brilliant politics. No one doubts his real audience today was Mike Huckabee, who’s hot right now, and misses no opportunity to coyly diss Romney as a Morman. Romney’s speech leaves Huckabee with a Hobson’s choice: welcome Mitt into the Christian tent, or risk becoming the candidate of exclusion. Tom Tancredo would seem to have that gig pretty well wrapped up, but there’s always room outside today’s Republican tent.

The real loser in this Romney vs. Huckabee jihad is Rudy Giuliani. He’s dropped off the media radar faster than anyone since Philip Michael Thomas when Miami Vice was cancelled. This might not be a wholly bad thing for Rudy, as most of his recent coverage had been of the Judith Regan-Bernie Kerik “can my associations be any sleazier” variety.

I almost feel bad for the Republicans. Romney believes in whatever he thinks will get him elected at the time you ask what he believes. (Sort of the Republican Hillary Clinton, with better hair.) Giuliani has more skeletons in his closet than Alfred Hitchcock. Huckabee may be the nicest guy in the world, but he runs the risk of being the Republicans’ potentially most divisive candidate in the general election. John McCain seems to have just enough support to do what he did in 2000; win a surprise primary, excite people for a few weeks, then pull a Howard Dean. Paul, Tancredo, and Hunter? Come on, that sounds more like a firm of ambulance chasers advertising on TV at 3:00 AM than three potential presidents.

The big implosion could be on the way. “Faith” has become such a litmus test for Republican politicians that the radical right could provoke a discussion it can’t win by waking up the sixty per cent of the population who don’t have strong feelings about it one way or the other. The possibility exists that the Republicans, having opened the Pandora’s box of religion, could nominate a candidate to walk into the biggest defeat since Reagan clipped Mondale in 1984. Not saying it will happen; if it does, you heard it here first.

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