Grover Norquist’s preemptive effort to limit the GOP presidential field to six candidates (“Six Giants,” TAS, March 2014) is premature. We’re still a long way out from 2016, and while no one will deny that Governors Christie, Walker, and Jindal have performed admirably in their respective states, their national appeal is untested. Ditto Governors Bush and Perry, both of whom will be “former” elected officials by the time the 2016 primary campaign heats up. Politicians currently holding office have a big advantage in attracting media attention and raising money. Senator Rand Paul is certainly a credible candidate, but does Norquist’s omission of Senator Ted Cruz suggest that Cruz falls into the “pygmy” category? If so, I beg to differ. Cruz is hugely popular in Texas (he regularly outpolls Rick Perry in presidential polls), and has become a national hero by vigorously opposing Obamacare. He is smart, articulate, and more mainstream than Paul on foreign policy. Yes, he is a first-term senator, but so was Barack Obama when he became the Democratic nominee for president. I hate to say it, but Perry’s chance came and went in 2012. Since Ted Cruz emerged on the scene, he has displaced Rick Perry as the conservative voice for Texans. Norquist’s assessment of Perry’s performance as a candidate in 2012 is extraordinarily charitable, to put it mildly.
Mr. Grover Norquist is the rare Harvard graduate who makes his living loathing taxes. God bless him!
But his entirely fallacious recent article asserting that Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, and Rick Perry are “giants” is laughable. Norquist omits Senator Cruz, which sacrifices his credibility on the subject, in any case.
I supported Rick Perry in 2012. Whatever the reason, he bellyflopped, and his further pursuit of the highest office would be a mistake. If Bush is the GOP candidate he will lead a rump with the political future of the Whigs. Christie is done. Bobby Jindal just can’t cut it.
That leaves Walker and Paul. Governor Walker has the bona fides; we will see whether he has the other requirements. I am hopeful he might be a giant. Senator Paul is a very mixed bag. Not very charismatic and rather questionable in his temperament. Also his decision to support Team Mitch is deeply sickening. That’s where Ted Cruz stands to contest Paul’s followers.
Via the Internet
Grover Norquist replies:
In my article “Six Giants” I asserted that—today—there were six Republicans whose winning track records, Reagan Republican policy positions, name identification, and ability to organize and fund a national campaign make them possible presidential nominees: Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, Jeb Bush, and Rand Paul. No one candidate is perfect or inevitable. Each has liabilities. Listing their strengths as candidates was not an endorsement. Each of the six could conceivably win the nomination and then the general election. Five will fail to get past the primary.
Could others credibly join the fray? Possibly. They would have to show that they can be serious candidates, and that means posting accomplishments on par with Scott Walker’s rewriting public sector labor laws, surviving the onslaught of the AFL-CIO, and passing a broad conservative agenda in Wisconsin; or Chris Christie’s success in twice winning election in deep-blue New Jersey and passing pension reform that will save New Jersey taxpayers $130 billion; or Bobby Jindal’s legislative successes in Louisiana on taxes, school choice, ethics laws, and now tort reform; or Jeb Bush’s eight years as a competent Florida governor; or Rick Perry’s fourteen years as governor of the most economically successful state in the nation; or Rand Paul’s unexpected primary and general election wins in the swing state of Kentucky and his national following in all fifty states with particular strength among young voters.
It is not impossible for a Republican politician to create a competitive résumé in the next twelve months. Just difficult. Could a senator do it? How? By giving another speech? Governors can post individual accomplishments. If they work well with their state legislatures they can make real law. They can put themselves on the front page of the newspapers on any given day. A Republican senator has to get past the filter of Harry Reid’s control of the Senate floor. And any legislative accomplishments, by definition, are shared with at least fifty other senators. Republicans have seen a number of candidates in 2008 and 2012 whose chief assets were to give speeches. That is thin gruel. Being Reaganite does not mean giving a good speech. It means being a governor of the largest state of the nation for eight years and promoting sound policy, along with speaking well.
Other contenders? Watch Republican governors with Republican state legislatures. It is possible that Kansas Governor Sam Brownback or Michigan Governor Rick Snyder or Ohio’s John Kasich or Tennessee’s Bill Haslam or Florida’s Rick Scott will explode onto the national stage with an eye-popping Reaganite legislative agenda, as Scott Walker did in 2011. That would be good for those states, the nation, and the Republican 2016 field.
Keep in mind that Republican primary voters—as they work to choose a nominee—have before them the powerful and painful reminder of Obama’s last five years. They know that reading well-written speeches, after working on a national or even statewide stage for only four years as senator, and without ever managing anything larger than a Senate staff, is not sufficient preparation for the presidency.
I am 77, a father and grandfather, Army veteran, business consultant, fiscal conservative, and proud moderate/liberal. While in our library I came across your magazine with our president and the cover headline “The Good King Barack.” Mr. Buckley, I read your article (“The Once and Future King,” TAS, April 2014), searching for proof, for substance, for red meat to support your premise. Lotsa empty rhetoric, stilted poppycock, innuendo, and unsubstantiated hints of a government takeover by monarchial fiat were all I found.
Many of your thoughts were plagiarized from Rush Limbaugh, who consistently produces an empty one daily—quickly picked up and mass produced by his lemming followers. Rush, who has never appeared in a public forum to test his ideas openly. Rush, who mocks the poor, the environment, and the opposite sex, and cashes in to buy a walk-in humidor. Ah Rush, who says, “It’s the money, stupid.” That’s why he dishonors his government and its leaders, n’est-ce pas? Rush who stole his material from Ayn Rand. America produces so many rant-and-hate radio personalities, it’s a wonder our country still exists. Plato looked for despotism to replace democracies—that’s what I see.
Mr. Buckley, you would be better served peddling three-day-old fish instead of repeating Limbaugh’s slanderous gibberish. And frankly the fish would smell better.
A Supporter of the Commander in Chief
Farmington Hills, MI
F.H. Buckley replies:
Thanks for the fan mail. I’d like to think that, for innuendo and stilted poppycock, I have few equals. What disturbs me, however, is that you didn’t buy the magazine. Does that mean you won’t buy the book? There you’ll find the evidence you’re looking for.
Regarding Peter Hitchens’s piece on Ukraine (“Ukraine Apart,” TAS, April 2014), I enjoyed the historical antecedents and discussion all the way up through approximately the last four paragraphs or so: The revolution is led by a bunch of Nazis; the Westerners sympathizing with the opponents of Putin’s puppets are dupes; the U.S. is just irritating Russia on purpose; Putin’s really a nice guy who wants to feel warm and fuzzy; Russia has always been in charge in this neighborhood, so who are the Ukrainians to start getting uppity; and if we get involved we will just cause a lot of heartache. Wow! I couldn’t have said it better if I sat here channeling Putin’s Department of Truth and Wisdom.
Mr. Hitchens, in cooking up all your convenient rationalizations for sticking your head, neck, and shoulders in the sand, did it ever occur to you that before turning these people over to Putinainia, maybe we should first at least let the Ukrainian people express their point of view in a clean and open referendum?
San Antonio, TX
Mrs. Patricia M. Tyrrell, mother of R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. and a longtime friend of The American Spectator, passed away on March 29. We shall remember her always: her warmth, her charm, her kindness and friendship. She remains in our prayers.