Time to Step Up, Fred

December 31, 2007

It’s time to step up, Fred. Conservatives need a leader about whom we have no major reservations. The only one looming out there about you is your failure, so far, to persuade voters you want the job.

All of the GOP candidates are vastly superior to all of the Democrat candidates, but here’s the way I see the field now.

Rudy is a strong leader and very good on national security and the war. But he is a social-issues liberal, whose pledge to appoint originalist judges is encouraging — but not completely convincing.

John McCain is a war hero and a patriot. He has been strong on Iraq but disappointing on Guantanamo, tough interrogation techniques and other war-related issues. He is not a supply-sider and is abysmally bad — obviously — on campaign finance reform and thus free speech. Also profoundly troubling is his history of sycophancy toward the liberal media elite and, in turn, their sporadic love affair with him.

Mike Huckabee, I believe, is a strong and sincere Christian. That means a lot to me. It doesn’t bother me that he wears it on his sleeve — assuming he’s not being exploitive of his religion, and there, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Every candidate’s worldview guides his beliefs and agenda, and it would be far worse for Huckabee to deny the strong influence of his worldview in forming his identity and contributing to his ideology. It’s one thing to be upset with Huckabee if you believe he has used his Christian credentials subtly to highlight and demean Mitt Romney’s Mormonism, but I don’t believe that’s what he’s done. Christians shouldn’t be accused of attacking other faiths when they are simply promoting their own.

My problems with Huckabee concern his political agenda. Huckabee is probably the strongest social-issues conservative, and since his views are driven by his strong faith, I don’t fear he’ll change for expediency or other reasons. But it does bother me that he appears to believe — erroneously, in my opinion — that his faith requires him to endorse an unacceptably expansive role for government. Extremely problematic are his views on foreign policy — applying Golden Rule principles to implacable, deadly terrorists and dictators and sometimes even convicted murderers; his nanny-state, big-government tendencies, including advocating a federal smoking ban, greater government involvement in health care, and opposing school choice; his ambiguous record on taxes; and his pandering to liberals on global warming and class warfare, especially in borrowing from their lexicon to pile on George Bush concerning his approach to Democrats and to foreign policy.

Mitt Romney is a man I’ve warmed to as the campaign has unfolded. I began with great skepticism because of his major, far-too-recent flips on major issues. Certain aspects of his record — even after his conversion — cast doubt on his commitment to the unborn and traditional marriage. He also strikes me as a bit too coiffed, too robotic and too much of a politician. But I do see Romney as a very likeable man who is saying almost all of the right things, pun intended, and who, if he is the man he holds himself to be, will make a great president.

That leaves us with Fred. I must confess that Fred is the only one I don’t have major reservations about — apart from his electability. Yes, I worry that he supported McCain-Feingold and that he might not be a strong supply-sider. But on most issues, he seems reliably conservative and appears to have a solid and strong character. I do believe that with Fred, we know what we are getting.

I find his lack of “fire in the belly” refreshing. He strikes me as one of the few presidential candidates since Ronald Reagan whose primary motivation is not personal aggrandizement but rather serving and leading the nation in very troubled and dangerous times. I see him as almost being drafted into this project, and his refusal to drool publicly over the prospect of becoming the most powerful man in the world is positively delightful.

That said, he needs to make a more convincing case to the voters, which will require a greater display of enthusiasm that he views these as both perilous and promising times and that he is the best man, overall, to navigate the ship of state through these times.

So, Fred, please, as distasteful as it may be to you, it’s time to step up and prove you want it. Time is short.