The leading candidates in the GOP race conformed to expectations this week. The cautious and moderate Mitt Romney lived up to his image by initially exempting himself from the debate in Ohio over public employee unions. Asked where he stood on an Ohio ballot initiative that will decide the fate of Governor John Kasich's law restraining these unions, Romney declined to answer on Tuesday.
"I am not speaking about the particular ballot issues," Romney told CNN. "Those are up to the people of Ohio. But I certainly support the efforts of the governor to rein in the scale of government. I am not terribly familiar with the two ballot initiatives. But I am certainly supportive of the Republican Party's efforts here."
Seeing him as forked-tongue flip-flopper, conservatives lit into Romney for his temporizing, and several media outlets noted that his suddenly prim respect for states' rights hadn't stopped him from taking a stand on ballot initiatives elsewhere. The backlash worked. By Wednesday his initial hesitation had given way to "110 percent" support for Kasich's law.
Herman Cain lived up to his image as cleverly defiant and unconventional by releasing a web ad that some interpreted as a middle finger to the nanny state. The ad features his cigarette-smoking chief of staff, Mark Block, offering a testimonial to the candidate that is punctuated with puffed smoke at the camera and a lingering final shot of Herman Cain with a memorably mischievous grin. A perplexed and vaguely disapproving media didn't know what to make of the ad but sensed it was effective. Block testified that Cain is running a campaign "nobody has ever seen" before and the ad proves it. But it also shows that the nanny state has so succeeded that moments of public smoking have become singular, much chattered about events.
Cain has all the right people reeling. An elite unable to see its own absurdities declares him "dumb" and "ridiculous." A cocky third-rate pundit who insists that people call him by the single name "Touré" pronounced in Time that Cain is a "clown" and the "Black Sarah Palin." It hasn't yet occurred to "Touré" that his only expertise on buffoonery comes from his own single-name pretension.
This fraud's column is an indication of what passes as high qualifications for seriousness in elite circles. "Touré" writes that Cain is a dunce because he fails to see that racism is as omnipresent as "the weather." Yet "Touré," departing from his analogy, also holds that "modern racism is subtle and hidden." Apparently it is not as obvious as, say, a Time column casting an accomplished black man as a "clown."
And then there is this gem from the deep mind of "Touré": "For my book Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness?, I asked about 100 people, What's the most racist thing that's ever happened to you? More than a third of them said the answer is unknowable. It's something that they weren't aware of happening but that materially changed their lives. There was no confrontation, no ugly words, just power exerting itself in a smooth, efficient, prejudiced way to maintain the vast inequalities of this country."
So the proof for racism is at once "unknowable" and certain? Cain would call "Touré" "brainwashed."
Rick Perry lived up to his image as a stumbling candidate this week by entertaining stale "birther" questions at a time when he should have been exclusively focused upon the release of his flat tax plan. Wags have noted that Perry's recent appointment of Joe Allbaugh, the former FEMA chief under George W. Bush, to head up his campaign underscores its status as a disaster zone.
Perry's flat tax plan had to compete with headlines about his idle answer to John Harwood on CNBC that Obama's birth certificate is a "good issue to keep alive…. It's fun to poke [Obama] a little bit and say, 'Hey, let's see your grades and your birth certificate.' I don't have a clue about where the president—and what this birth certificate says."
It almost looked like Perry didn't know that Obama had released his long-form birth certificate. In any case, given the perilousness of his campaign, one wouldn't think this the best time for Perry to join boon companion Donald Trump in frat-boy joshing of Obama over an exhausted issue.
Perry did come up with at least one noteworthy prop this week, a tax form in the size of a post card. But even here he seems a bit late, as a few pundits observed that in the digital-only days to come cards won't go in the post.
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