Let there be no cheers for Rob Portman.
The Ohio senator is, pardon the tautology, a conservative Republican and last week, he did something conservative Republicans do not do. He came out for same-sex marriage. This is a man whose anti-gay bona fides were so pronounced that his 2011 selection as commencement speaker at the University of Michigan law school prompted an uproar among the graduates, many of whom signed a letter protesting his appearance as an insult to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students.
Yet, there he was, telling CNN he’s had “a change of heart.” And what prompted this? Well, as it turns out, the senator made his U-turn because of Will.
That would be Will Portman, 21, who came out to his parents two years ago. His son, the senator said, explained to them that his sexuality “was not a choice and that that’s just part of who he is.” As a result, said Portman, “I’ve come to the conclusion that for me, personally, I think this is something that we should allow people to do, to get married, and to have the joy and stability of marriage that I’ve had for over 26 years.”
It was, make no mistake, an act of paternal love and empathy and deserves to be celebrated on that basis. He did the only thing a good father could have done. And yet, if Portman’s change of mind warms the heart, it also, paradoxically, illustrates the moral cowardice so often found at the heart of social conservatism.
Look, the senator’s son is doubtless a fine and admirable young man. But with all due respect to his son, to heck with his son. This is not about Will Portman. It’s far bigger than that.
So one can’t help but be frustrated and vexed by the senator’s inability to “get it” until “it” included his son. Will explained to him that his sexuality “was not a choice”? Lovely. But was the senator not listening when all those other gay men and lesbians tried to tell him the exact same thing?
Apparently not. Like Dick Cheney, father of a lesbian daughter, Portman changed his view because the issue became personal. Which suggests a glaring lack of the courage and vision needed to put oneself into someone else’s shoes, imagine one’s way inside someone else’s life. These are capabilities that often seem to elude social conservatives.
Small wonder: If you allow yourself to see the world from someone else’s vantage point, there is a chance it will change your own. Can’t have that.
So instead we have this. And by extension of the “logic”: Here, we must wait on Herman Cain to adopt a Mexican child before he sees how offensive it is to suggest electrocuting Mexicans at the border. And if Michele Bachmann would only have an affair with a Muslim, she might stop seeing terrorists on every street corner.
Tellingly, Portman’s change of heart elicited mainly an embarrassed silence from his ideological soulmates who, 10 years ago, would have been on him like paparazzi on a Kardashian. But then, 10 years ago, gay rights was still an open question. Ten years later, that question is closing with startling speed, as in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll that finds support for same-sex marriage at a record high. Change is coming, gathering momentum like an avalanche.
And once again, conservatives will stand rebuked by history, be left on the platform by progress. Or else, split the difference, do the right thing for the wrong reasons like Rob Portman.
No, you cannot condemn a man for loving his child.
But true compassion and leadership require the ability to look beyond the narrow confines of one’s own life, to project into someone else’s situation and to want for them what you’d want for your own. Portman’s inability to do that created hardship for an untold number of gay men and lesbians.
Each of them was also someone’s child.
By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., The National Memo, March 20,2013
Republican front-runner Mitt Romney is so dull that he could benefit from an eye-popping scandal because it would help tear down his plastic image and make him look more normal, according to national pollster John Zogby.
“This is the one instance where a groping incident could help a candidate,” said Zogby, in a reference to the scandal that torpedoed former GOP candidate Herman Cain’s campaign.
He said it could be the missing “leveling experience” for Romney that would make him look more human. Zogby explained that many stiff, rich men have run for office and won, but they typically had a humbling moment that made them more likeable. He gave former President George W. Bush’s alcoholism as an example of that leveling experience.
“His problem is an authenticity problem,” said Zogby of Romney, who today released his New Hampshire tracking poll that has Romney far in front. “He’s the kid who never colored outside the lines,” said the pollster.
Zogby said Romney needs to find a way to connect with an unethusiastic party that wants to vote with its brain and heart. But, he warned, he shouldn’t try to do that with a policy speech or new position. “Likability,” he said, “is a lot more than an issue.”
He echoed charges from competing campaigns and President Obama’s advisor David Axelrod that Romney’s 25 percent finish in the Iowa caucuses was an example of how he’s failed to expand his personal base of voters from the amount he received in the 2008 caucuses.
Romney, Zogby said, spent “a lot of time, money and energy to get where he was already.”
By: Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers, U. S. News and World Report, January 5, 2012
NEW YEAR’S resolutions are the original New Rules. Except that resolutions are usually self-oriented: I am going to lose weight this year. My New Year’s resolution, by the way, is to do the ones from ’75; I made a lot of good ones that year. I was 19, and thought I could polish them off by age 20. Alas, I’m a little behind.
Also, New Rules are bigger, broader and grander. I don’t tell you what I’m going to eat; I tell you how the world should work. Here’s what 2011 prompts me to decree for 2012:
New Rule Now that we have no money, and all our soldiers have come home from Iraq and they’ve all got experience building infrastructure, and no jobs … we must immediately solve all of our problems by declaring war on the United States.
New Rule If you were a Republican in 2011, and you liked Donald Trump, and then you liked Michele Bachmann, and then you liked Rick Perry, and then you liked Herman Cain, and then you liked Newt Gingrich … you can still hate Mitt Romney, but you can’t say it’s because he’s always changing his mind.
New Rule Starting next year, any politician caught in a scandal can’t go before the press, offer a lame excuse and then say, “Period. End of Story.” Here’s how you indicate a “period” and the end of a story: shut up.
New Rule The press must stop saying that each debate is “make or break” for Rick Perry and call them what they really are: “break.”
New Rule You can’t be against same-sex marriage and for Newt Gingrich. No man has ever loved another man as much as Newt Gingrich loves Newt Gingrich.
New Rule Internet headlines have to be more like newspaper headlines. That means they have to tell me something instead of just tricking me into clicking on them. If you write the headline, “She Wore That?” you have to go to your journalism school and give your degree back.
New Rule Let’s stop scheduling the presidential election in the same year as the Summer Olympics. I get so exhausted watching those robotic, emotionally stunted, artificial-looking creatures with no real lives striving to do the one thing they’re trained to do that I barely have energy left to watch the Olympics.
New Rule No more holiday-themed movies with a cast of thousands unless at least half of them get killed by a natural disaster. Fair’s fair — if I have to watch Katherine Heigl and Zac Efron as singles who can’t find love, I also get to see them swallowed up by the earth.
New Rule Jon Huntsman must get a sex change. The only way he’s going to get any press coverage is by turning into a white woman and disappearing.
New Rule Starting this year, every appliance doesn’t need a clock on it. My stove, my dishwasher, my microwave, my VCR — all have clocks on them. If I really cared that much about what time it was (or what year it was), would I still have a VCR?
By: Bi Maher, Author of “The New Rules”, New York Times Opinion, December 30, 2011
There are two crucial things you need to understand about the current state of American politics. First, given the still dire economic situation, 2012 should be a year of Republican triumph. Second, the G.O.P. may nonetheless snatch defeat from the jaws of victory — because Herman Cain was not an accident.
Think about what it takes to be a viable Republican candidate today. You have to denounce Big Government and high taxes without alienating the older voters who were the key to G.O.P. victories last year — and who, even as they declare their hatred of government, will balk at any hint of cuts to Social Security and Medicare (death panels!).
And you also have to denounce President Obama, who enacted a Republican-designed health reform and killed Osama bin Laden, as a radical socialist who is undermining American security.
So what kind of politician can meet these basic G.O.P. requirements? There are only two ways to make the cut: to be totally cynical or to be totally clueless.
Mitt Romney embodies the first option. He’s not a stupid man; he knows perfectly well, to take a not incidental example, that the Obama health reform is identical in all important respects to the reform he himself introduced in Massachusetts — but that doesn’t stop him from denouncing the Obama plan as a vast government takeover that is nothing like what he did. He presumably knows how to read a budget, which means that he must know that defense spending has continued to rise under the current administration, but this doesn’t stop him from pledging to reverse Mr. Obama’s “massive defense cuts.”
Mr. Romney’s strategy, in short, is to pretend that he shares the ignorance and misconceptions of the Republican base. He isn’t a stupid man — but he seems to play one on TV.
Unfortunately from his point of view, however, his acting skills leave something to be desired, and his insincerity shines through. So the base still hungers for someone who really, truly believes what every candidate for the party’s nomination must pretend to believe. Yet as I said, the only way to actually believe the modern G.O.P. catechism is to be completely clueless.
And that’s why the Republican primary has taken the form it has, in which a candidate nobody likes and nobody trusts has faced a series of clueless challengers, each of whom has briefly soared before imploding under the pressure of his or her own cluelessness. Think in particular of Rick Perry, a conservative true believer who seemingly had everything it took to clinch the nomination — until he opened his mouth.
So will Newt Gingrich suffer the same fate? Not necessarily.
Many observers seem surprised that Mr. Gingrich’s, well, colorful personal history isn’t causing him more problems, but they shouldn’t be. If hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue, conservatives often seem inclined to accept that tribute, voting for candidates who publicly espouse conservative moral principles whatever their personal behavior. Did I mention that David Vitter is still in the Senate?
And Mr. Gingrich has some advantages none of the previous challengers had. He is by no means the deep thinker he imagines himself to be, but he’s a glib speaker, even when he has no idea what he’s talking about. And my sense is that he’s also very good at doublethink — that even when he knows what he’s saying isn’t true, he manages to believe it while he’s saying it. So he may not implode like his predecessors.
The larger point, however, is that whoever finally gets the Republican nomination will be a deeply flawed candidate. And these flaws won’t be an accident, the result of bad luck regarding who chose to make a run this time around; the fact that the party is committed to demonstrably false beliefs means that only fakers or the befuddled can get through the selection process.
Of course, given the terrible economic picture and the tendency of voters to blame whoever holds the White House for bad times, even a deeply flawed G.O.P. nominee might very well win the presidency. But then what?
The Washington Post quotes an unnamed Republican adviser who compared what happened to Mr. Cain, when he suddenly found himself leading in the polls, to the proverbial tale of the dog who had better not catch that car he’s chasing. “Something great and awful happened, the dog caught the car. And of course, dogs don’t know how to drive cars. So he had no idea what to do with it.”
The same metaphor, it seems to me, might apply to the G.O.P. pursuit of the White House next year. If the dog actually catches the car — the actual job of running the U.S. government — it will have no idea what to do, because the realities of government in the 21st century bear no resemblance to the mythology all ambitious Republican politicians must pretend to believe. And what will happen then?
By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, December 4, 2011
Moderator Wolf Blitzer opened Tuesday’s Republican debate by introducing himself and adding, for some reason, “Yes, that’s my real name.” A few moments later, the party’s most plausible nominee for president said the following: “I’m Mitt Romney, and yes, Wolf, that’s also my first name.”
But it’s not. Mitt is the candidate’s middle name. His first name is Willard.
And people wonder why this guy has an authenticity problem?
The debate, held at Washington’s historic DAR Constitution Hall, was focused on foreign policy. The subject matter seemed to offer Newt Gingrich, a former speaker of the House, the opportunity to highlight his experience and perhaps begin consolidating his sudden front-runner status. But if he expected to dance rings around the others in the minefields of international politics, he was mistaken.
Gingrich made only one mistake, but potentially it was a big one: He declined to pander on immigration. Instead of parroting the draconian party line, he stated the obvious fact that we’re not going to expel millions of illegal immigrants who have been in this country for years and become pillars of their communities.
You will recall that Rick Perry was leading in the polls when he, too, stumbled by saying reasonable things about immigration. Perry called immigration hard-liners heartless, while Gingrich encouraged the audience to be “humane.”
Romney, as usual, took the right position to appeal to Republican voters. He said Gingrich was wrong because “amnesty is a magnet” that attracts more illegal immigrants.
Ron Paul had smart and important things to say about the Patriot Act, calling the law “unpatriotic because it undermines our liberty” and arguing that “you can still provide security without sacrificing our Bill of Rights.” Gingrich, by contrast, argued that the Patriot Act might need to be strengthened. Asked which side of this debate she favored, Michele Bachmann said she was “with the American people.” I thought Gingrich and Paul were citizens, but never mind.
Bachmann then pulled the pin on one of the more nonsensical rhetorical grenades that she regularly lobs at President Obama: that he “has essentially handed over our interrogation of terrorists to the ACLU.”
The record shows that Obama does not coddle terrorist suspects with the niceties of liberal jurisprudence. Instead, he blows them to pieces with missiles fired by Predator drones. It’s possible to disagree on whether the administration’s program of targeted assassination is wise or effective, but no one can claim it’s soft.
Rick Santorum argued that we should be profiling Muslims for extra scrutiny at airports and sparing travelers who are deemed to present lower risk. Herman Cain said he favors a policy of “targeted identification” of potential terrorists, a concept so subtle that it defied Cain’s further attempts at explanation.
Romney got it right again, pledging “to protect the life, liberty and property of American citizens and defend them from foes domestic and foreign” without being specific about how this would be accomplished.
Perry had an interesting night. He stood by his promise not to send “one penny, period,” of U.S. aid to Pakistan until officials of that nation demonstrate “that they have America’s best interests in mind.” Bachmann called this position “highly naive,” pointing out that Pakistan is “too nuclear to fail.”
But Perry was undeterred. He went on to show a breathtaking lack of understanding of what’s happening in that part of the world, at one point saying that “we’ve got Afghanistan and India working in concert right now to leverage Pakistan.” That one sentence succinctly captures Pakistani officials’ deepest fear — being sandwiched by two enemies — and why they continue to support Taliban-affiliated militant groups that attack U.S. and Afghan forces.
Go home, Governor. Please.
Jon Huntsman had his best performance of the many debates held thus far, laying out a vision of U.S. foreign policy that was informed, nuanced and reflective of the real world rather than the make-believe world in which the campaign is taking place. Maybe he’ll be the next candidate to see a meteoric rise and fall in his poll numbers. Pretty soon, though, we’re going to run out of meteors.
Which leaves Romney still waiting for his party to show the love. He knows the issues. He says all the right things. So why do Republicans keep getting infatuated with these fire-breathing suitors who always, in the end, break the GOP’s heart?
Maybe voters just wonder about a guy who’s willing to tailor everything to please his audience. Even his name.
By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, November 24, 2011