It may be early in the game, but voters stand to be flummoxed once again by the Republican fear card, by social issues best left to individual preference and by candidates who exhibit an alarmingly weak grasp of international exigencies. Most GOP wannabes promise more-of-the-same, politics first and military might without historical perspective.
Republicans worked hard in the last presidential election to portray John Kerry as a flip-flopper. Constant repetition of that label destroyed Kerry’s image and cast him as an indecisive, uncommitted leader incapable of protecting the nation. And the constant terror alerts and incessant fear-mongering by the Bush administration worked to rally Republicans and others behind the preferred image of a stalwart, terror-fighting, in-your-face president.
What we got of course, was a president less stalwart than stubborn and obtuse. What we got was a terror offensive that attracted converts and increased the threat of terrorism around the world. What we got was a war for which the casus belli shifted with events rather than one that served as a compelling rationale. What we got was obfuscation and disingenuous reports of success. And what we got most distressingly was an ever-expanding “Al Qaeda in Iraq”; a force that did not exist in any significant numbers prior to our presence there.
Yet instead of any cogent analysis of how our foreign policy has played out Republican candidates fill the airwaves with flip flops and mind-numbing rants. Leading flip-flopper is business man Mitt Romney, who would run the country like a business. Sound familiar? Applauded for his stellar management of the Winter Olympics here he was elected governor in liberal-leaning Massachusetts by supporting a woman’s right to choose and other popular issues, among them a health-care initiative that may actually come to pass.
Ah, but lately he has had a change of heart about the choosing thing – – just sees the issue differently now he says. And as defense strategist he identifies Islamist terrorist groups as Sunnis, Shiites, The Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda – – quite a list for someone who wants people to believe he knows what he’s talking about. Having been told that one reason we invaded Iraq was to liberate its people Mr. Romney should be instructed that in Iraq Shiites and Sunnis are just regular folks. Apparently, however, it has become de rigueur for the current administration to co-mingle all insurgents and dissidents and call them Al Qaeda terrorists. Romney and other top-tier Republican candidates have rallied around that talking point, so voters can assume they would be in for more of what they’ve got now if the next president were to be chosen from the GOP top tier.
Rudolph Giuliani’s flip flopping is of a more subtle variety as he continues to proclaim his support for abortion rights, but soothes the Republican base by telling them, wink wink, that he would appoint strict-constructionist judges – – that code Republicans use to promote their conservative agenda. And his reliance on 911 as a propellant for his candidacy is a nauseating “I am a hero” mantra that has little to do with qualifying him to be president. Although his was a calming presence on that terrible day, he insisted against expert advice on placing the city’s Command Control Center in the Trade Center even though it had been previously attacked. For him to accuse others of failing to understand the threat of terrorism and assert that only he ‘gets it’ is ludicrous in light of his seriously flawed judgment. And in terms of ethics and morality, well take your pick of a topic.
John McCain has been unswerving in his support of the war. But he tilted right in his attempts to court the evangelical wing of the party, a segment of the base that remains distrustful of him, despite his generally conservative views and voting record. His part in the failed Immigration Reform bill and some of his silly claims about progress in Iraq should be enough to sink his chances to become the Republican nominee.
As for Fred Thompson, rumor has it he may be getting ready to rent that little red truck again in hopes of recreating the image that Tennessee voters liked so much they elected him to the Senate some years back. These days, of course, he may prefer the persona of the DA he plays on TV’s Law and Order, but perhaps both could be made to work for him. On the other hand he may want to soft-peddle the work he did as a high-paid lobbyist and his role as a Nixon White House insider, but who knows he might be able to sell the whole package
Not top tier Ron Paul is much talked about among unlikely and disparate groups. He is against foreign involvements especially the war in Iraq and against federal laws governing abortion. But he is neither a liberal nor a conservative, rather more of a libertarian who opposes federal support for stem cell research not on moral grounds but because he objects to government funding for such things. And he believes abortion issues should be settled at the state level. He is also a staunch defender of gun rights – – all of them, including the right to own semi-automatic weapons and to buy guns with no waiting period or background checks. He maintains that “only armed citizens can resist tyrannical government”. While it may seem irrational to imagine that owning an AK47 would fend off the feds if they came to get you still you know where Ron Paul stands – – no flip flopper he.
The point is that voters need to look beyond our sound-byte world and gather in as much information as possible. We are right to be afraid not because the government tells us we should be but because we can’t afford to make another mistake like the one that brought us this disastrously flawed presidency. Votes not guns will keep tyranny at bay.

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