The Relative Comment

soothing waves of relativity

GOP debates, MN loses; and, Presidents and Policy

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My beloved home state is represented by two presidential candidates at this early stage in the 2012 Campaign. In last night’s debate in Iowa, they sniped and pinched, and tried to win their way into a new role in the campaign. Bachmann as a front-runner, and Pawlenty as a still-running.

I don’t know if those goals were accomplished. That’s for Republicans to decide. What did happen was this: Minnesota came out looking nasty. And that is not acceptable. Come on.

Another thought brought up by this debate, but going far beyond just last night reminded me of a comment left by a reader on a previous post, marking an important distinction about “politicians” like Michele Bachmann. It has been ringing in my ears of late. He said:

She is not a politician, nor is she interested in politics, at least not as a proper end but rather as an expediency or as a merely intermediate end. In other words, she doesn’t want to be a politician or achieve political goals. Her legislative record in the MN Senate or the US Congress is, well, almost non-existent. Sure, she holds opinions that are related to politics and she talks about them in front of media outlets, (most of her opinions seem to be about debt and marriage), but she hasn’t made an effort to treat these issues as political ones, ie, she hasn’t taken part in efforts to author, co-author, or pass legislation. If a politician is as a politician does, then is Bachmann a politician?

This is a real issue that needs to be answered for the GOP, and the Tea Party. Most of the candidates are “politicians” and the rest are business savvy/job creators, which is okay at the end of the day. But neither group seems interested in government and politics–if you want to be President you should have an interest in policy and government and a basic awareness of how the government operates.

At least half of these candidates don’t, and most of the one’s that do (Paul, Pawlenty, Huntsman) seem destined not to be the nominee. The rest seem interested in “politics” as means to something else. This is why you can have Michele Bachmann defending her record in the legislature as purely one of obstruction rather than anything related to policy–she has no policy interests.  Liberty, unfortunately, is not policy–and light bulbs legislation is not an issue of liberty. Likewise, Francis Schaeffer is not a government role model. You can admire him all you want, but if he is a foundational building block of one’s world view, why do you want be President? Schaeffer, one’s opinion of him aside, is not interested in a government of laws, but a government of God’s law. He is not interested in civics.

Instead of questions about how to create a better government through the government, we have a national debate where Bachmann fields questions about being a submissive wife (the moderator’s fault for asking it) but it just allows Bachmann to field non-political, non-government related issues. This is not just a Bachmann problem either. Herman Cain still finds himself on stage, talking not about politics and policy, but religion. After having (maybe) learned his lesson when he announced he did not like and was afraid of Muslims, he just passed off a question about Mormons. If the conversation does turn to government, it is too often about the favorite cure of the Right–the Constitutional Amendment. Amendments apparently cure everything, even issues that are not real issues, like the debt ceiling. The Balanced Budget Amendment isn’t passing, folks, just like the past 10 years of trying to pass a national gay marriage ban has been a waste of time. Are these amendments anything but non-issues designed to draw public attention away from the fact that too many of our political leaders do not actually care about policy? Policy changes take compromise, and move the state slowly. That sentence seems totally at odds with the Republican Party of 2011.

I know this is not a GOP problem, or a new problem. Its an election cycle, and its very early at that. Eventually someone will be forced to discuss the actual reality of a thing called US government and what one will do when in the Executive Office. And it is of course important to go through the ‘getting to know you’ stage of a presidential race. But something seems to be in the air around this flock of presidential candidates–and the folks waiting in the wings, Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, Rudy Guilianni–I fear aren’t going to bring enough to balance out this problem.


Written by Christopher ZF

August 12, 2011 at 10:30

2 Responses

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  1. Q: Is it bad when their candidates make GW Bush look like a legislative heavy-weight?
    A: Oh God we’re going to die.


    August 12, 2011 at 11:04

  2. I finally made it over to Ezra Klein this morning, and he has a piece about the policy nature of the debate as well. One gem:

    “But it is a world in which none in the GOP need to traverse the treacherous politics of compromise.
    Perhaps no candidate is better suited for that world than Michele Bachmann. But tellingly, the candidate who is best on the politics also proved worst on the policy.
    Over and over again, Bachmann misstated basic facts. She said that Tim Pawlenty “implemented” cap-and-trade in Minnesota. He did no such thing. She said “we just heard from Standard Poor’s,” and “when they dropped our credit rating what they said was we don’t have an ability to repay our debt.” Simply not true.”

    It does not behoove Bachmann or any of the GOP candidates to take policy seriously. Or to even say things that are factually accurate regarding policy or government. It only matters that they take the supposed ‘values’ of the party seriously enough to convince people that other candidates are not willing to take those values to the very end.


    August 12, 2011 at 12:15

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