Campaign Scorecard

As a resident of New Hampshire, it’s hard for me to miss the spastic surges of activity that precede the upcoming Republican primary. On the one hand, I find this year’s contest refreshing, since it’s one of the first years since 1976 (when, as an eager 11-year-old, I cheered on Reagan’s challenge to the torpid Gerald Ford) that the Republican contest doesn’t feel like something that party bosses had already chewed up and were leaning down to spit into the voters’ beaks. The debates, and with them the contests for the nomination, seem a whole lot more real, and the entire process could prove more authentically representative. Which would be a good thing, assuming we’re not a bunch of nuts—and that remains to be seen.

On the down side, the candidates are each profoundly flawed, and I worry that the outcome will be ugly: that we’ll end up with someone waving the party banner whose many problems will make it easy for the Democrats to re-elect their flaccid, bloodless bumbler, who will duly anoint two more appalling justices to the Court, who will use his authority to back still more assaults on religious liberty. So I’m at once edified, and worried. This suggests that it might be time for me to undertake a careful assessment of each candidate’s electability, character, and leadership qualities, and judiciously assess their proposed policies in the light of Catholic teaching and profane prudence.

But I got bored even writing that sentence, and I’m sure your eyes glazed over while reading it. So instead, I elected to view the campaign through the colorful prism of two old friends whom readers may remember, Franz and Rayne.


Franz: So what do you think of the outcome of the Ethanol Caucuses?


Rayne: I am so sad for poor Michelle Bachmann. That woman impressed me on so many levels… she deserved to make a better showing.


Franz: Now that she has dropped out of the race, the debates will be a lot harder to look at.


Rayne: I know! Any woman who can have that many children, accomplish all that she has, and still look like that—ahem, without any surgery, thank you very much, Miss Alaska—wins my respect. She’s a role model for the rest of us.


Franz: And a beacon of hope for us men. Fertility need not turn you into a fertility goddess. Becoming the Venus of Willendorf (or Homer of Springfield) is a choice.


Rayne: And a disgraceful one if you ask me. But I digress. I was thrilled to see her rip out Rick Perry’s lungs over Gardasil and taxpayer funding of tuition for illegal immigrants. Living in Texas, I can tell you that keeping Rick Perry out of the White House is a service to our country that ought to win that woman a medal.


Franz: But she did go over the top by feeding into the paranoia some people already have about vaccines in general. That was a trip into black helicopter territory.


Rayne: But that wasn’t what killed her chances. I think it was that Newsweek cover where they caught her looking like a Stepford Wife whose programming had gone haywire, who was ready to wipe out the neighborhood.


Franz: Or it reminded them of her foreign policy, which amounts to “invade the whole Muslim world so they attack Israel and force Jesus to come again to protect it.” That didn’t help.


Rayne: Which ever photo editor picked that image really did put a stop to her rise in the polls, which taught me something about the voters.


Franz: What’s that?


Rayne: They’re even shallower than we are.


Franz: Scary.


Rayne: But they’re not completely insane, which does explain Newt Gingrich’s fall from grace. Leave aside his private lives and public wives—people are all too forgiving of that sort of thing. Once voters figured out that he really did want to mine the moon at taxpayer expense, they realized he wasn’t exactly the next Ronald Reagan.


Franz: More like America’s answer to King Ludwig of Bavaria. Or Napoleon III.


Rayne: Yes, I’m sure that’s exactly what the corn farmers of Iowa were thinking.


Franz: Gingrich is the only Republican nominee who could manage to lose to Obama by a landslide. Give that man a microphone for a few more months, and the crackpot ideas that will jump out of his mouth will scare so many conservatives into staying home, I doubt Gingrich would carry Highland Park or Staten Island.


Rayne: He’d drive all the Klansmen of New Jersey into writing in Ron Paul.


Franz: Speaking of which…. I was genuinely creeped out by what was published in those old newsletters. I’m not sure which is more unnerving—that he used to believe that racist claptrap, or that he was so disengaged from what was coming out under his name that he didn’t know about it.


Rayne: I think it was what it looks like: A stupidly short-sighted cynical ploy on the part of libertarians who worked for him to tap into anti-government sentiment on the part of rubes and eugenicists. For someone who seems almost crackbrained, he’s so principled, it is a very curious lapse.


Franz: Of course, we have a president who for 20 years went to church with a Commie, “kill-whitey,” pastor, Jeremiah Wright. But John McCain was too spooked by racial guilt to mention it, so it went down the Memory Hole.


Rayne: Those newsletters won’t. And Ron Paul brought this on himself when he accused other candidates of hating gays and Muslims. That’s not the card you play when you’ve got skinhead newsletters in your past.


Franz: It’s a pity, because on the issues Ron Paul is the only candidate remotely qualified to claim the mantle of Ronald Reagan. The greatest threat to the security of this country is our impending fiscal collapse, which he is the only candidate willing to look at honestly. It turns out, we really can’t afford to, simultaneously:

  • Prepare for imminent war with the Soviet Union.
  • Occupy and democratize the entire Muslim world.
  • Use the Department of Education to equalize the test scores of every child in America.
  • Bail out high-rolling banks for underwriting mortgages buying McMansions for people on food stamps.
  • Fund every American’s retirement at age 65 to a gated community, cosmetic surgery, and monthly trips to Vegas.
  • Outsource all our child-bearing, manual labor, and military service to immigrants.
  • Borrow the money to fund all of this from the Chinese, while rattling sabers at them all across the Pacific Rim.

Ron Paul’s the only candidate who sees how insane all this is. So of course people write him off as crazy.


Rayne: Which he very well might be.


Franz: Agreed. But I’m still voting for him.


Rayne: What about Rick Santorum?


Franz: If we could vote for him as “President of the United States,” and not “Galactic Overlord,” I might consider it. But when he was out in the political wilderness after getting killed in his last Senate campaign, Santorum recovered his fortunes the same way Gingrich did: On the rubber-chicken warmonger circuit, running around telling neoconservatives how the U.S. needed to gird itself for imminent military action against…. fill in the blank. Iran. Venezuela. Quebec. While I deeply admire Santorum’s embrace of Natural Law principles, and his real understanding of the centrality of the family to society, I think that as a Catholic we have to consider him a dissenter: His policies really reject the Church’s teaching on Just War—which is not, sorry to say, “Just war… just because.”


Rayne: Any interest in the John Huntsman brand?


Franz: He seems to think he can win the nomination by carpeting New Hampshire with yard signs that look like logos for Abercrombie and Fitch….


Rayne: Every time he opens his mouth, he rolls his eyes or purses his lips. Before each statement, he might as well add on: “As I’ve been trying to tell you Neanderthals for months….”


Franz: Huntsman’s in the wrong race. He ought to be running for Duke of Burgundy.


Rayne: What about Mitt Romney? I don’t know if I could look at that hair for four long years.


Franz: I imagine I could hold my nose hard enough to vote for Romney against Obama, but only because I think he’s enough of an opportunist that he won’t betray us on social issues. He sold his soul to get elected in Massachusetts, and now it seems that we’ve outbid the liberals and bought it back. As president, would he put on it eBay again, and appoint pro-abortion judges to the Court? I really doubt it. His own church would disown him, and the Republicans in Congress would roast him slowly over the flames for the next several years.


Rayne: That’s not the only issue. What about the fact that he supported a legal mandate that everybody get health insurance?


Franz: That’s something we Tea Party types had better think about long and hard. Currently hospitals are legally forced to treat anybody who shows up—whether or not they can pay. That means the rest of us foot the bill. How exactly is that fair?


Rayne: I know several white trash, “$30,000 millionaires” who skip getting health insurance so they can spend the money on Botox. They know that if worse comes to worst, they’ll just go to the emergency ward, like all those illegal immigrants who get hurt on the job. Doesn’t cost their employers a dime.


Franz: So either we have to eliminate the legal mandate of care so deadbeats don’t get treated (except to keep them from dying) or we force people to buy insurance, or else we can go ahead and enslave all the doctors and nurses and make them work for free. Serious tort reform would also help, so lawyers like John Edwards stop seeing jurors in malpractice cases as the little numbered balls that pop up in the lottery. But it would probably be easier repealing the 13th Amendment, so maybe the medical enslavement option is the way to go.


Rayne: Or we can just keep on piling up our national debt—taxing our children so we can enjoy all our luxuries, and pretend we’re being generous to the poor.


Franz: Who are the only ones having children, so we can stick them with the bill. That sounds like a plan. No doubt that’s what will happen.


Rayne: I’ve got to go. The Real Housewives of Atlanta is coming on.


Franz: I’ll fire up Medieval Total War. That’s a crusade we can win.


John Zmirak


John Zmirak is the author, most recently, of The Bad Catholic's Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins (Crossroad). He served from October 2011 to February 2012 as Editor of Crisis.

  • MMC

    Somebody watched Mystery Science Theater 3000 lately. Ron Paul is “out there”…as are many of his followers. Our country was founded on moral virtue not a blank check to do whatever the heck you want ala libertarians.

    I agree with you about Santorum’s penchant for trying to democratize the world via war. But other than that, he is a strong, solid, smart man with a spine…and most importantly? He is a faithful Catholic…pro-life, pro-family, pro-working man, pro-moral freedom. Send a good bishop or cardinal to explain “just war” to him more clearly…I bet Santorum will have a conscience and hold back.

    • Rob Holland

      “Our country was founded on moral virtue not a blank check to do whatever the heck you want ala libertarians.”

      Of course, Dr. Paul doesn’t suggest anything of the sort. It would be more accurate to say that he believes
      that you can do “whatever the heck you want” so long as you don’t engage in violence against your neighbor or his/her property. Kinda like the “golden rule”, or thou shalt not kill, steal, etc.

      In case you were unaware, there is a difference between “libertine” and “libertarian”. To my knowledge, Dr. Paul has never professed to be a “libertine” and his record by any objective measure could never be described that way.

  • pammie

    Thanks Dr. Z —your format made it easier to get through all that candidate information. And a few laughs always helps.

    Something I noticed was missing though was Santorum’s throwing under the bus of Pat Toomey in 2004 to support the hideous Arlen Specter. HIs election brought about a number of disasterous (for conservatives) events. The curious may read about it here:

    No one came be blamed, naturally , for not being able to forsee all the consequences of a particular action. But the reason Santorum picked Specter over Toomey is what interests me: the willingness to put party concerns over principles. Do we need more of this type in high office?

  • Esteban

    On domestic matters, the libertarian position is most often correct.

    But Dr. Paul lacks Milton Friedman’s charm. He is not the best banner-carrier for libertarian virtues (and there are many!)

    The RP newsletters reveal the dark pools that libertarians inhabit.

    William F. Buckley Jr., a Catholic and a gentleman, understood how to save libertarian political-economy from libertarians.

  • Tony Esolen

    The libertarian position is decidedly negative: it acknowledges no authority, no tradition, no culture, no common good which makes a just claim on all people. Its politics is defined entirely by zones of non-interference. It is predicated, I’m afraid, upon a truncated vision of human nature. It looks conservative now only because the Left is so fully statist and totalitarian. It’s an open question, whether a man is better off living in a libertarian non-culture or an inhumane culture such as that of Islam. I guess I’d take Von Mises over Mohammed, but those are not the only choices.

    • John Zmirak

      Tony, having known many Randians personally, I agree with you that in their own heads, the libertarians have a truncated view of human nature. But in FACT the zones of non-interference they claim are the fruit of something much deeper than they would acknowledge–the vision of human dignity that emerges from Christian doctrine and 2,000 years of reflection on the Jewish, Classical, Germanic, and Christian heritage… all of which together produced the Common Law and the liberties we all rightly cherish. Christian governments have only fitfully and imperfectly recognized these rights, but the great movement of Liberalism (in its original, wholesome meaning) was to insist upon these liberties, and trace their origins to the Christian view of the person.

      Given that we have just emerged from a century where collectivism claimed over 100 million lives in its wars and genocides, and that we face an emerging Islamic hegemon on the march, and that our economy and government are collapsing under the weight of a bloated welfare state, while the secularists are harnessing the “soft-totalitarian” power of the State and international agencies (the UN, NGOs, climate-change authorities) I think we could be very safe in erring VERY FAR in the libertarian direction. The libertarians have the right vision of personal freedom, but no ground for it and no inner compass that can steer it in wholesome directions. These are serious deficits, but they can be remedied. At worst, they would lead individual libertarians to lead futile lives and face a harsh judgment by God. But they DO NOT THREATEN THE REST OF US. On the other side, all the statists and collectivists (secular or, like so many of our bishops, pseudo-Christian) are a PRESENT DANGER to our families, our individual liberties, our financial futures, and even the safety of our homeland. The libertarians are rivals. The Left is an ENEMY. Islam is an ENEMY. We should not waste our energies picking apart the people who are 10 degrees off center, when we are all threatened by intolerant, power-grabbing, implacable foes.

    • Esteban


      Perhaps you didn’t notice my qualifiers:

      “on domestic matters”

      “most often correct”

      I don’t ask my mechanic to write literature. I don’t ask my domestic political-economy to provide a path to salvation.

  • Daniel

    I still like Rick Santorum the most. His foreign policy reminds me of Ronald Reagan who was not afraid to threaten our enemies and even act on those threats, within reason. I do not think that Santorum is as much a war hawk as he seems; I hope some of it is flirting with the war nuts in the GOP. I was very much relieved when he said that he would not re-invade Iraq upon becoming president. Unlike Rick Perry who said in his off time he would be shooting guns and re-invading Iraq… Rick Santorum is a principled guy who believes in the Natural Law and can articulate it better than any of the other men in the race. At the end of the day if it came down to the point where we were gearing up for war and His Holiness PPBXVI recommended that we not go to war I think he would side with Il Papa, and resort to some other course of action.

    With that said I am thankful for Ron Paul and his followers because they are putting pressure on the GOP to become more libertarian which is great. I think Rick Santorum is taking that message to heart. However, in all I think Ron Paul is too radical. Perhaps Santorum will be a great president with Ron Paul and his knights putting on the pressure to be more libertarian and His Holiness the Pope putting on the hard pressure to not go to war. That could be the combination of greatness! Let’s hope… and be not afraid etc etc