Recent blunders by Republican presidential contenders Herman Cain and Rick Perry are further evidence that the GOP’s proud rejection of intellectualism has gone a wee bit too far.
Rather than bolstering Republicans’ image as the “party of the common man,” these and a long list of earlier mind-melts by high-profile Republicans, along with the party’s enthusiastically ignorant views on global warming, evolution and Obama’s birthplace, have re-branded the GOP as “the gang that couldn’t think straight” and are causing old-guard conservatives to worry about their party’s future.
“You can’t run away from mainstream science… and expect to win the race,” said Republican presidential candidate John Huntsman on Meet the Press.
In her “Right Turn” column, the Washington Post’s conservative writer Jennifer Rubin warned Republicans not to “celebrate ignorance,” “… lest they be judged unworthy of office.”
Real Guy Cred
To that faction of the party that regards erudition as subversive, nuance as a ploy and awards extra points to candidates for mispronouncing “nuclear,” these gaffes will no doubt improve the candidates’ “real guy” cred. But to thinking Republicans, it must seem like the remedial class has taken over the school.
Cain’s Libya moment was neither a result of misspeak nor a momentary lapse; it was a clear indication that he didn’t care enough to know even the most basic points about the overthrow of one of the world’s most enduring and brutal dictatorships — or America’s role in it. “I’ve got so many things swirling around in my head,” said Cain. Apparently, current events aren’t among them.
And, even though Perry’s elusive government agency didn’t necessarily betray a lack of knowledge — anyone can forget a word or name — it did demonstrate the “full of sound and fury” bravado that often accompanies Republican brain fails and helps to make them so spectacular. Perry was cruising along at the debate, explaining how his flat tax plan was better than his opponents’ plans. When, as if possessed by the spirit of Calvin Coolige, he narrowed his eyes, raised his voice and with a confidence not seen since Michele Bachmann turned the Framers into anti-slavery crusaders, bungled his way into presidential debate history (and Saturday Night Live’s eternal gratitude).
“And I will tell you,” Perry roared, “it’s three agencies of government — when I get there — that are gone: Commerce, Education and the, uh — what’s the third one there, let’s see…” Perry’s lightening-quick turn from impassioned reformer to giggly ditz that night was a perfect demonstration of the “big hat, no cattle” reality that has come to define Perry and the others.
Goodbye for Now
Now that Romney and Gingrich have defaulted to the lead, I suppose there’s no more need to worry about Perry, Cain or Bachmann getting their hands on the tiller of state. And though I never really thought any of the three could beat Obama, I couldn’t quite shake the tragic possibility of a stolen election or an electorate driven mad by an ailing economy. Not to mention, I’m obviously not very good at political prediction–I never dreamed in a million years that evolution would be a controversial subject in the 21st century.