Politics: The Man the GOP Should Have Nominated

Had They Done So, He Might Now Be Clobbering Obama

Underlying the muted enthusiasm – or lack of any – that Republicans (depending on whom you ask) feel for Mitt Romney is the almost palpable sense that many of them now harbor a buyer’s remorse for the guy.

We nominated the wrong man, you can bet many are now thinking, wringing their hands, grinding their teeth, in their homes, their offices, their country clubs, and at their $50,000-a-plate fundraisers.

The mistakes, the gaffes, the self-inflicted wounds. Jiminy! A campaign run as if by a cadre of rank amateurs that one suspects wouldn’t even know how to capably run a child’s lemonade stand.

An organization that has so zealously guarded their guy, controlled his media access, and kept press members at bay as if they were all infected with smallpox – yet somehow blundered into letting their star debutante’s coming-out cotillion to a national audience on convention night get hijacked by an octogenarian cowboy actor babbling to an empty chair.

The reluctance to release the tax returns. Oy vey! The regrettable foot-in-mouth utterances while abroad this summer. Dear lord! The clumsy reaction to the Libya killings. Heavens to Betsy! The secretly-recorded “47%” fiasco. Make it stop!

How could things conceivably go more wrong for the Romney candidacy? Is it even possible?

If only we could turn back the clock and hit a reset button on the GOP primaries, you can almost hear wistful, defeat-dreading Republicans nationwide wishing.

And if they could have a do-over, how different might the result be? Well, for one, 2012 presidential sweepstakes abstainers and dropouts like Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and Tim Pawlenty might have instead gotten into or stayed in the race.

Why, even sexual harassment scandal-tainted Herman Cain might have opted to decide, what the hell – I’m staying in.

If the polls, as they’ve been consistently clocking for months now, are correct, 33 days from now Mr. Obama will get his mandate for a second term while Mr. Romney is consigned to oblivion, to become but a footnote in the American political history book – chapter entitled “Losers” – alongside other president-neverbees like Wendell Willkie, Tom Dewey, and Walter Mondale.

It didn’t have to be this way. If only the GOP had broken free of its conservative wing’s vice grip and nominated the one candidate among the nine who competed in the primaries this year who had perhaps the best chance to knock off the beleaguered White House incumbent, owner of a droopy economy and lackluster approval ratings.

The one who could have wrapped up the support of all those wanting to vote the president out and who also might have been the most successful in simultaneously attracting the votes of independents and disenchanted Democrats.

The one who even the Obama White House was said to have most feared having to run against.

That would be Jon Huntsman.

The former Utah governor and Obama ambassador to China was the most thoughtful, intelligent Republican in this year’s race, one regrettably littered with a menagerie of underwhelming, vitriol-spewing imbeciles, idiots, and ignoramuses the likes of Cain, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Perry. Remember them? (Do you wanna?)

It was not a stellar field. “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight” and “the sorriest in memory,” I called them here last November.

Huntsman finished a disappointing third in New Hampshire, then promptly withdrew from the race. He “brought a woefully-scarce tone of civility to this race plus an erudition on the issues that, for this observer, made most of the others, from [Ron] Paul to Perry to Bachmann to Cain, seem like Mickey Mouse Club ninnies and half-wits, way, way out of their league,” I wrote here in January.

“He was too good for this modern GOP,” I continued, “a party doped up on too much Tea Party lunacy and reich-wing insistence that Obama is nothing but a foreign-born socialist, taxes are all bad, government is no good, and the medicine to what ails us is an ‘ignorance is bliss’ platform of slash-and-burn economics that would surely hasten – if the voters stupidly vote them in this November – The Great Depression 2 (or its cinematic equivalent, Titanic 2: Capt. ‘Mitt Hoover’ Steers the Ship of State Straight Into an Iceberg).

There was a perfectly good reason Team Obama dreaded a fall match vs. a class act like Huntsman, I explained then. Huntsman “was the sanest and most competent of the batch. Still is.”

Which means, within the GOP, he never had a chance.

From a column last December: “Huntsman, virtually the only one among the bunch who has yet to wear the front-runner tiara because – isn’t it all too obvious? – the hotheads, Obama-haters, Tea Party wingnuts, and Grover Norquist ass-kissers who have hijacked the GOP all value idiocy over intelligence, crack-pottery over competence.”

This year’s was arguably one of the most embarrassing assortments of GOP candidates to seek the presidency in any election year ever, but Huntsman was a refreshing standout above all the rest.

It’s hard not to like a guy – practically the only one left in his party – who would Tweet the following:

“To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.”

Or one who believes that “the minute that the Republican Party becomes the anti-science party, we have a huge problem. We lose a whole lot of people who would otherwise allow us to win the election.”

Earlier this year, Huntsman had the temerity to say on MSNBC that he thought a third party might be just what America needs to break the logjam of never-ending contentiousness in national politics.

In retribution, the GOP disinvited him to a party fundraiser in Palm Beach.

He declined to attend this summer’s convention in Tampa, or “any Republican convention in the future until the party focuses on a bigger, bolder, more confident future for the United States – a future based on problem solving, inclusiveness, and a willingness to address the trust deficit, which is every bit as corrosive as our fiscal and economic deficits.”

It’s impossible not to admire principled independence like that.

And so I resolutely remain as unshakable as ever in my support for Huntsman and my contention that he should have been the 2012 Republican presidential nominee.

Maybe, after the thrashing they get on Nov. 6, the party of which I used to be a loyal, card-carrying member –

(Yes, hard to believe, isn’t it? Yours truly used to be a registered, voting Republican until twenty years ago, a story I’ll have to tell you about another time.)

– will wake up on Nov. 7 and realize that they ought to dump the divisive rhetoric and positions that have ostracized them from many voters, repeatedly cost them the White House, and failed to win friends and influence people, particularly the voting kind.

Maybe they’ll smarten up and see that the way back to power is not by selecting a rabid conservative such as Paul Ryan or Marco Rubio or Rick Santorum in 2016 but by going with a middle-of-the-road-appealing man or woman like Huntsman.

Odds are, however, the party’s reich-wing Looney Tunes faction – driven schizophrenically despondent/mad/crazed/insane over a second consecutive loss of the White House, thanks to a moderate nominee in conservative’s clothing – will likely hoist an even more far-to-the-right, unelectable extremist upon the party faithful in 2016, one that voters will not be able to stomach, thus guaranteeing Republicans their third national loss in a row.

Good. Let them remain forever outside the White House fence looking in until they get the message:

No more Republican presidents. Not until the party moderates its positions on a whole range of social and economic issues. Not until it acclimates itself to an ever-changing electorate comprised of more younger voters, more minorities, and a growing segment of the population disposed toward the concepts that government should stay out of a woman’s womb, that same-sex marriage should be legal, that government can be a force for good and is not always an evil to be reduced or eliminated, and that neither the nation’s economy can now be revitalized nor its future economic security be fortified using a reckless recipe of drastic spending cuts compromising the social safety net combined with unwarranted, Treasury-draining, deficit-expanding tax cuts to a privileged few.

That is a hefty message to heed, and an enormous transformation for the GOP to adopt. But if they want to win future presidential contests, it’s a transformation they’d better consider making. Unfortunately, it’s too late for them this year as the hourglass sands run out on a hapless, ill-construed, catastrophe-prone Romney campaign.

Had the GOP nominated Huntsman in Tampa weeks ago, the party’s fortunes might be exponentially better. Huntsman, I think, might now be enjoying a lead in the polls that has eluded Romney throughout this race.

And I’ll go further and posit this: I think Huntsman would be – right now – the odds-on favorite to beat Obama. Could he do it? I think he could.

It’s not just the absence of Huntsman from this race that leaves me slightly crestfallen, though. The Democrats didn’t nominate the candidate I preferred in ’08, or else this would have been – as it should have been – the year of President Hillary Clinton‘s quest for reelection.

CONVENTION CENTER REDO A NO GO?

Incredible, but – according to a national architectural journal – the redevelopment of the Miami Beach Convention Center “will likely be scrapped.”

So says Architectural Record, in an online story posted just last weekend. It anonymously cites two “well-known” Beach developers, “speaking independently,” who believe recent corruption scandals tarnishing the Billion-Dollar Sandbar are enough to deep-six city leaders’ grand dream for a convention center renaissance.

Overlooking his repeating of the perpetually-committed mistake that all too many outsiders make – confusing Miami for Miami Beach – as well as his incorrectly referring to the Beach Commission at one point as the “Miami City Commission,” Fred Bernstein‘s report (“Corruption Inquiries Curb Miami Projects”) is one of the starkest pronouncements to come along suggesting that the billion-dollar project may be on life support and may be about to have its plug pulled.

“Bidding has stalled….two architects were in the running to design [it]….Now the project has been set back by charges of municipal corruption, and no one can say who, if anyone, will get the coveted commission,” Bernstein writes.

He excellently explains for readers what went wrong. In a nutshell, I’ll summarize:

City solicits proposals. Seven teams reply. City committee selects two winners: Robert Wennett (developer of Herzog & de Meuron’s boredom-busting parking garage at 1111 Lincoln) and über-developer Ugo Colombo‘s Portman-CMC firm. Colombo’s company gets nailed paying $25,000 to Walter Garcia, dubious pal of city purchasing director Gus Lopez, whose firing cues a criminal investigation into possible bid-tampering and bribery.

Meanwhile Lopez’s boss, then-City Manager Jorge Gonzalez, resigns under fire for what ArchRecord calls “an unrelated bribery scandal” (i.e., the FBI’s April bust of crooked code and fire inspectors).

Enter Lincoln Lane North – what the mag calls “another architecturally ambitious project…dogged by charges of municipal malfeasance.” Competing developer charges that selection committee held private meeting, a Sunshine Law no-no. City lawyers vow to investigate whether meeting should have been a public one. City commissioners postpone vote on the project.

Back to convention center: MBPD clears Colombo; probes of Lopez and Garcia continue. “No comment” while investigation is ongoing, City Attorney Jose Smith tells the mag. Kathie Brooks will wait till probe is over before making a recommendation to the Commission. I’ll permit one or more teams to move forward, suggests the interim manager. “All relevant agencies understand the importance of the project,” adds she.

So now you know what ArchRecord readers the world over have been told. And the project? “Will likely be scrapped altogether,” Bernstein concludes.

“If that happens,” he ends, “architects, who didn’t make the payoffs, will have paid the price.”

But the city whose voters only weeks ago overwhelmingly green-lighted a funding mechanism – the 1% resort tax – to pay for the overhaul will likely pay the bigger price if redevelopment gets the red light.

Stay tuned.

PEEVE OF THE WEEK

The increasing frequency of occasions when I’m at a checkout and the cashier – young, old, male, female, Anglo, Hispanic, the demographic makes no difference – fails to conclude the transaction with a simple “thank you” or “you’re welcome.”

Common courtesy is apparently becoming a rarer and rarer commodity these days. Everybody sure knows how to use a damn smart phone but evidently isn’t smart enough to deploy the simplest of social graces when interacting with a fellow human being. Interacting with a device? No prob! Interacting with another person? Duh.

Can you locate the app for common sense, morons?! And if found, would you even know how to use it?

MY FAVORITE NEW WORD

Teapublitards.

Now go dissect it and discuss among yourselves.

About Charles Branham-Bailey

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