Beast of the Month - March 2008
Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Mitt Romney & Fred Thompson, Class of '08 Loser GOP Candidates
"I yam an anti-Christ... "
John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) of The Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the UK"
If one looks at the 2008 Presidential Campaign as a horse race, it has already been a very exciting contest. The conventional wisdom at the start of the year was that it was going to be Hillary vs. Rudy, and that already has been proven to be half false. Further, it was expected that the GOP race was going to be the real boxing match, with Ms. Rodham cruising to an easy victory. Instead, it's the Republican contest fully settled with Clinton trailing Obama in a contest that looks likely to be dragged out.
Still, we at The Konformist prefer not to look at the prez battle as a horse race. For one, that is precisely how the talking heads in the media want us to look at politics, free of content and ideas and full of petty battles between personalities. But if one must make shallow analogies to equate the current political race with, we suggest a reality television show fits the bill, and not even a particularly good one. Think The Hills or Keeping Up with the Kardashians, with less impressive hairstyles and wardrobes.
Be that as it may, there is a big difference in the storylines being followed by the Pagong and Tagi tribes in this battle. While Obama (a man of wasted oratory skills that masks empty policies under the banner of "hope") and Hillary (perhaps the most shameless pandering politician alive) may have their faults - and no doubt in some future date a BOTM prize will discuss those in further detail - they're nothing compared to the glaring flaws evident in the big five mainstream GOP candidates in the class of '08. Indeed, while Barack and Clinton may not be the Democratic candidate that could really give hope to The Konformist staff (that would be either John Edwards or Dennis Kucinich) we'll concede that among the narrow margins given by the establishment, they have run surprisingly good campaigns that have incorporated some good ideas along the way (even if they were all lifted from Edwards and Kucinich.) Meanwhile, the Republican big five - Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Mitt Romney & Fred Thompson - all have been so inept in running for president, we would recommend their contest be named The Biggest Loser if it were indeed a reality series, if only the title had not already been used for another show. And it is these five who share The Konformist Beast of the Month.
(A word of note: while Duncan Hunter was at least officially a presidential candidate, he never was taken seriously by the mainstream, media, and thus neither shall we. Thus, he is eliminated from sharing the BOTM trophy simply because he was too much of a loser to even qualify as a Beastly loser.)
Let's start with Fred Thompson, who would be voted in the '08 class as "Most Likely to Play Hooky to Take a Nap." That's because when he launched his campaign last September on Jay Leno (imitating Arnold Schwarzenegger's strategy for winning the California governorship) many thought he'd use his public persona as an actor (featured most recently in that crappy Law & Order TV franchise) to charm the public into ignoring his right wing politics and support his bid for Commander-in-Chief, a la Ronald Reagan. Unfortunately for Thompson, he's no Gipper or Arnold. For one thing, he was regularly lambasted for being overtly sloth-like and without excitement on the campaign trail. This is so astounding it needs to be dwelled upon: the GOP, a party that has in the recent past had both Reagan and George W. Bush as their symbolic leader (two dudes who would certainly qualify for the Slacker Hall of Fame) found Fred Thompson to be too lazy and sluggish even for their tastes. It didn't help that on the campaign he was, despite his career as a character actor, extremely unconvincing. The telling moment: while appearing at the Iowa state fair to schmooze voters with his "awe shucks" persona, he was wearing Gucci loafers, not the best way to come off as an everyman. But perhaps his biggest problem is that his message was just too gloomy for people who wanted a rerun of Reagan's "Morning in America" sales job. Soon, his run came to a quick and embarrassing end, and it appears Grandpa Fred will spend the free time he now has taking Viagra to have sex with his young hot wife (who most likely is the real reason he ran for prez in the first place.)
Let's follow this up with Rudy Giuliani, voted "Most Likely to 9/11 9/11 9/11." As noted before, he was the odds on favorite at the start of the year to take the GOP title, with his combination of social moderation and law and order justice appealing to independents and Democrats. And indeed, being the only winner of Time's Man of the Year in the group, it was expected he would receive plenty of media support. The problem was in every state that voted early on he bombed miserably. Even more telling, it seemed the more time "America's Mayor" spent in a place, the less popular he was, as apparently voters found the real Rudy to be a rather repellant individual. Quickly he descended into desperation, trying to remind voters again and again (in case they had forgotten) of the fact he was NYC mayor of September 11, leading Senator Joe Biden to crack, "There's only three things he mentions in a sentence -- a noun, a verb, and 9/11." After finishing a disappointing third in Florida (a large state he bet his entire run on after fumbling in earlier races) he got a clue, and wisely dropped out, leading some to label his presidential campaign the biggest dud in American political history. On the plus size for Rudy, he'll have more free time to dabble in cross-dressing.
Coming in next is Mitt Romney, who wins "Most Likely to Blow $35 Million of His Personal Fortune to Convince Others He Should Be President." Of the big five, his campaign seemed to have the weakest raison d'etre in the race, based on the twin supposed qualifications that he was rich (a net worth estimated at up to $500 million) and physically handsome a la Reagan (albeit in a bland, Wonder Bread way.) Unfortunately for him, even in this field of jokers, it wasn't deemed enough. Even worse, in his own desperate bid to become a force in the race, he flipped on previous held positions (most notably changing from pro-choice to anti-abortion, and backing away from universal health coverage, a central part of his greatest achievement as Massachusetts governor) to morph from a "moderate" Republican to a true blue conservative. Along the way, he became even more of the "pro-torture" candidate than even Rudy G was, cheerfully endorsing waterboarding and bluntly declaring "We ought to double Guantanamo." Ironically, what may have done him in was his Mormon faith, which was deemed a turn-off to evangelical Christians who view it as a false cult. To counter this, he gave a speech last December in Texas, where he declared: "Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom." In sum, the contents of his speech were the opposite of JFK's famous 1960 address, where Kennedy strongly advocated the separation of his Catholic religion from his political duties: instead, Romney tried to link his Mormonism to the right-wing Christian theocracy movement. Meanwhile, though he believes his religion of dubious foundations should be included in the acceptable pantheon, he bluntly declared that Muslims would be excluded from his own cabinet. In the end, all his attempts to pander to the right-wing base that dominates the GOP failed, and Romney became just another GOP loser.
This leads us to Mike Huckabee, who wins "Biggest Hype." Let's give him some credit: unlike the other nominees here, Huckabee actually is an engaging person, holding his own in humorous appearances on The Colbert Report. And it's hard to rip a guy when his biggest supporter is the highly esteemed thespian talent Chuck Norris. (Though if having action heroes as support is the sole criteria for being prez at this point, we think McCain still has him beat with both Arnold and Sly Stallone in his corner.) And, if you need arguments of greater substance, he deserves credit for actually discussing issues like economic justice in his campaign, a no-no viewed as fomenting "class warfare" in the Republican playbook. Still, one has to look at his political base of Christian fundamentalists to realize that beneath his charm is a likely closet demagogue, one who advocated in 1992 the forced quarantine of all AIDS victims during a Senate run. This demagoguery also became on display last December, when a not-so-subliminal cross (created by lighting on a bookshelf) appeared behind Huck during a winter holiday commercial where he celebrated "the birth of Christ." Commenting on the ad, fellow Republican Ron Paul bluntly declared: "It reminds me of what Sinclair Lewis once said. He said: 'When fascism comes to this country, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross.'" But it appears that what really killed Huckabee is lack of support from the GOP establishment, who were scared that, unlike every GOP candidate since Reagan who merely mouthed support for the Christian right agenda, he was a true believer who would turn off the Democrat and independent electorate with his extreme views. Despite his scrappy campaign, the money wasn't there, and eventually he conceded he was indeed a campaign loser as well. Hope to see you on Colbert again soon, though!
And this leads us to our final winner John McCain, who gets the title of "Biggest Loser of All." For though McCain is the winner of the GOP sweepstakes, his reward, to face either Hillary or Obama, makes it a dubious victory at best. True, as the New England Patriots will tell you, you need to play the game before the champion is declared, and its hard to dismiss the possibility that McCain (generally well-liked by the media elite) can't pull off an upset over the Democratic pick, especially if the Dem's contest becomes as protracted and bitter as many suspect it might. Still, one has to look at (for all their faults) the enthusiasm both Clinton and Obama have raised among voters and compare it to the lack of joy for McCain among the electorate to realize he's in for a fight he may not be up to snuff for. He also faces the same problem the entire Republican field faces in November: being tied to a leader (George W. Bush) and a cause (Iraq) which are now even bigger undeniable losers to the American public. Making matters worse is that McCain has personally tied himself to the Iraq war more than any other candidate. Indeed, his performance nearly a year ago (fittingly on April Fool's Day) strolling through a Baghdad market under the protection of 150 US soldiers, 20 Humvees, three Black Hawk helicopters and two Apache gunships to supposedly "prove" that things were improving in Iraq was so bizarrely surreal, it was widely lambasted even in the mainstream press and viewed as the likely death of his 2008 campaign. In any normal year, that would have been true, but in this race of buffoons, it only became a momentary slip.
McCain hasn't helped his own cause with revelations that he had a very close, very personal relationship with a powerful lobbyist (Vicki Iseman) who happens to be a hot-looking blonde clone of his hot-looking blonde wife (albeit younger and not worth over $20 million.) Though the implications that he was having an affair with her have produced howls of outrage among right wing pundits (amusing since until he clinched the GOP nod, these same mouthpieces repeatedly dissed him for not being conservative enough) it is important to note the source of this speculation: his own personal advisors, who believed at the very least it would be a logical suspicion based on the facts. Of course, considering he was hanging out so closely with a lobbyist who had clients McCain was actively pushing favors for, the explanation that he was merely having sex with her would be the least politically suspicious.
Alleged affairs aside, McCain is the biggest loser of all because of what he has already lost: any sense of deserved public admiration. Gone is the "Straight Talk Express" and so-called "Maverick" reputation he had from his 2000 Presidential run. True, most of this was bogus hype even then, but one must admit that McCain, besides being the rare war hawk who actually risked his own ass in combat, was a sympathetic victim for the crude attacks on his character by the Bush minions. (And one must concede that, for all his faults, the world would be a much better place right now if McCain had occupied the White House the last eight years instead of Shrub.) But apparently McCain learned his political lesson in defeat: gone is any criticism of Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson or Bob Jones University, gone is any deviation from the Republican agenda, gone even is his strident opposition to the use of torture by the US military (even though as a Vietnam POW he personally understands the inhumanity of violating the Geneva Convention.) And for what? All to win the support of a political base that probably will amount to a pyrrhic victory? After all, however heated the Democratic battle gets, come November, the main thing on most voters minds will be the failures of the last eight years, and how McCain has pathetically tied himself to both Iraq and Dubya to win the Republican race. Even if he wins given those circumstances (and The Konformist highly doubts it) you have to wonder if it was worth him giving up his political integrity in the process.
This brings us back to Ron Paul, the sole remaining GOP Presidential candidate that we have omitted from this prize. Granted, the Paul-mania that has gushed from his political followers is a bit amusing to The Konformist editorial staff, considering his brand of conservative libertarianism is to the right of most of our tastes economically. And perhaps now would be a good time to point out, despite the suspiciously cult-like rapture of some of his disciples, Ron Paul can't cure cancer, walk on water or defeat anything short of Kryptonite. (Then again, when it comes to political fantasies, The Konformist thinks the Obamaheads are even more delusional when they pretend this smooth-talking establishment mouthpiece is the next JFK or MLK.) Still, let's look at some of the unwavering stands Paul has taken in his campaign: no on the Iraq War, no on the Patriot Act, no on military torture, no on illegal spying on Americans. These are no's without any asterisk attached to the end. Frankly, these are positions The Konformist wish one of the two Democratic contenders would embrace without exception, much less a Republican. This is why Paul, despite being ignored or mocked by the political establishment, has become a force of politics that deserves to be reckoned with. True, Paul may have lost the battle for the 2008 GOP crown, though he has done far better than the political establishment either hoped or expected. But hopefully he has started a war to change the twisted ideology that has become conventional thought among the so-called "conservative" movement. If he has done that, then no matter happens in November, he will be the greatest winner of them all.
In any case, we salute Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, Mitt Romney & Fred Thompson as Beasts of the Month. Congratulations, and keep up the great work, dudes!!!