Send in the Caucus Clowns

Ladies, gentleman, and you rascals in the media: In the midst of hard times and earth-shaking crises, there is a raggedy circus running about the country pretending to be a race for the Republican Party presidential nomination.

It is indeed a circus, and it’s not quite so good as Ringling Brothers. It’s a circus full of acrobats trying to catch the elusive rings of leadership in the polls, flying through the air and falling into the sawdust. It’s full of screaming mimes, hucksters who can’t complete a sentence and weekly wannabes. It has clowns that scare even adults.

But the best act is the human cannon: every week or two, somebody gets shot out of a cannon and soars high into the air of the polls, anointed by MSNBC or Fox to be the leader in Iowa, if not in New Hampshire. For a brief time, the candidate will dream at night that he has been struck by lightning, hearing himself reciting the Presidential oath.

Both Bachman and Perry had their moments—Bachman’s so short that she barely had time to change clothes after a victory in an Iowan straw poll.

Up came the last star and latest victim, Herman Cain, the pizza king, carrying a populist message that the Tea Partyists ate up. He briefly led the polls, and it is entirely plausible that he too began to think he could be nominated. But, things happened, as we all knew they would, and Cain fell out of the running, which we knew he would, and so it has come to this:

Newt is the man.

Newt Gingrich is leading the polls in Iowa in the days leading up to the Iowa Caucus and in several other polls, while gaining on Mitt Romney in New Hampshire. It’s bellwether time, and its not even Christmas.

Gingrich has taken up the cause of limited government, of course, and no new taxes. He is tough but compassionate on illegal and legal immigrants, and he has also said that poor children don’t want to work. He wants to challenge the power of the Supreme Court too.

The last seems to fit what may be Gingrich’s idea of the ideal government: a Roman Republic, where he can wear the senatorial white toga. Gingrich has an autocratic bent, which goes well with his arrogance, but it should be remembered that while he has been given credit for engineering the 1990s GOP sweep of the House and Senate and helping bring out President Clinton’s impeachment trial, Clinton, even with both political hands tied behind his back, outmaneuvered Newt thereafter. Gingrich may be the anointed one now—what else could they talk about on Meet the Press, after all? But if Mitt Romney, the genial, flip-flopping former governor of Massachusetts and successful businessman, wonders why the conservative core doesn’t like him, wait until they take a good look at Gingrich. Likability won’t be an issue.

Romney is the great magician in this eight-ring circus. Week in and week out, he smiles, he shakes hands, he attacks Obama, gives no interviews to the press (except Parade Magazine where he and his wife were photographed in jeans, which may make him look like a 99% type, as opposed to the one percenter that he is). Week after week he finishes second, stays in the mid-twenties and, while sometimes is seen to worry, always flashes those pearly whites with a steady confidence.

This is fascinating to the media roundtables, the insider beltway musers who love the show more than the real world. 

One of the more interesting things about the GOP race is that the debates and the battle for the caucuses are taking place against a background of real world and national upheaval. Take your pick of omens and portends: Egypt’s second revolution could yet produce an Islamist state; Putin’s party in Russia lost major ground in elections there’ France and Germany are trying to stave off a major debt crisis in Europe; Syria is about to topple; the ruler of Yemen is leaving; the wicked man is dead in Libya; and Saudi Arabia still won’t let women drive cars because they might have sex. These things barely get a mention in the debates. Perry is seeking to have creationism taught in schools.

Recently, like a giant balloon escaped from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Donald Trump, who was also at a time a GOP frontrunner, has become visible again like a Cheshire Cat, as some sort of GOP pope, insisting that the candidates should drop by Trump Tower to kiss his political ring. Or what? They’re fired?

And right about now, as he wakes up in the morning, Newt Gingrich is starting to feel a draft on his behind. That’s the nasty breath of media exposure that’s about to blow on the latest man at the top. As the song goes: Send in the clowns… Except, in this case, they’re already here.

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Wed, 1 Oct 2014 22:21:54 -0400

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