Friday, November 18, 2011

GOP: Oops

If there is one word that best summarizes some of the Republican presidential candidates, it is the one uttered by Governor Rick Perry himself: "Ooops."

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has found himself on the defensive just as he has secured a position as a frontrunner for his party's nomination. For instance, there are no more reviled institutions for conservative Republicans than Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In fact, Gingrich himself has been a most ardent critic. Then came the revelation, by Bloomberg News, that Gingrich had earned nearly $2 million from Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage underwriter, over several years ending in 2008. His campaign says he was not lobbying, he was just offering advice on how to navigate Congress.

But Gingrich has earned a lot of money from corporate clients since leaving office. The New York Times reported that one client was Gundersen Lutheran Health System of LaCrosse, Wisconsin. In July 2009, Gingrich wrote a piece on the Washington Post's Web site praising that organization's efforts to convince patients to have "advance directives" on end-of-life care that if adopted by Medicare would save "$33 billion." But not too long after his comments conservatives were attacking President Obama's health care reform bill that called for end-of-life consultations for Medicare--a.k.a. "death panels." Gingrich then joined the critics.

Gingrich supported a single-payer mandate in the 1990's, which is at the heart of President Obama's health care law and became anathema to conservatives. The Supreme Court will take up the legality of the mandate next year. Gingrich is now opposed to mandates. Maybe he is now opposed to large jewelry purchases from Tiffany's? Should Gingrich get his party's nomination he will face questions about his personal life and the fact that he is the only Speaker of the House to ever have been disciplined for ethics violations.

In the past two months businessman Herman Cain surged to the top of polls among Republican voters. But then reports surfaced that several women accused him of sexual harassment. While he has denied all the charges he has failed to quell the controversy and his campaign has been hurt.

Perhaps even more embarrassing for Cain has been his inability to correctly answer foreign policy questions. He told one interviewer that China "was trying to develop nuclear capability." China has had nuclear weapons since the 1950's. When asked by a Milwaukee Sentinel editorial board about President Obama's handling of the Libyan uprising he struggled for more than a minute and never provided a clear answer. Cain later defended himself in a campaign appearance by saying, "I'm a leader, not a reader."

Texas Governor Rick Perry has stumbled throughout his debate performances. None of his blunders is more problematic than his brain freeze when he tried to name the three federal government agencies that he wanted to eliminate. Ooops! In an effort to get attention away from his struggling campaign, Gov. Perry began airing a political ad accusing President Obama of calling Americans "lazy", which is not true. In fact, the president said that American businesses were "a little bit attract new business into America."

By all appearances, Governor Mitt Romney should be well ahead of his opponents. He has done an effective job in his presidential campaign. But “Romneycare”, the Massachusetts health care bill he passed that served as the basis for President Obama’s health reform law, has dogged him. And his fellow candidates have attacked him for flip-flopping on abortion, gun control and the U.S. auto industry bailout. Romney's approval among Republicans has been stuck at about 25% because most people in his own party don't trust him!

Meanwhile, Representative Michele Bachmann has blown her early lead with gaffes and former Governor Jon Huntsman, President Obama's former ambassador to China, has focused only in New Hampshire, where he is still in single digits. Representative Ron Paul maintains a loyal but small following despite some of his controversial statements.

The GOP primary process has been painful and embarrassing, especially for Republicans. While President Barack Obama faces a tough reelection campaign, the Republican Party seems to be doing all it can to help him obtain his goal. Or, as Governor Perry would say, "Ooops."

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