As most political junkies know, there are 17 announced candidates seeking the Republican nomination for President in 2016. Seven of them deserve to be disqualified forthwith.
I am speaking of Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, George Pataki and Jim Gilmore. I call them the Selfish Seven.
In 2012, these seven put themselves ahead of their party and, far more serious, their country. Although as qualified then as they are now to run for President, and as aware as anyone what a disaster a second Obama term was likely to be, they stood on the sidelines and declined to seek the nomination. They let Mitt Romney have it by default, and you know what happened then.
This is not to say that all seven of them were more likely than Romney to beat Obama. Graham, the senior senator from South Carolina, was then, as he is now, too pale a political presence to be taken seriously. Jindal, although widely admired as governor of Louisiana, probably wouldn’t have persuaded enough Republicans that he was better fit to run than Romney. Pataki, the former governor of New York, had been out of public office for ten years, but he did contemplate a run for the 2008 GOP nomination that ultimately went to John McCain. Jim Gilmore, the former governor of Virginia, also made a feeble stab at the 2008 nomination, but gave it up when he couldn’t attract enough financial support.
But Bush, Christie and Huckabee can’t cry poor. All of them were well-established politically by 2012, all of them were household names, all of them were taken seriously by the media and the public. And, alas, all of them turned their backs on the American people.
Bush had served eight successful years as governor of Florida, and by dint of his name alone he had to be considered a worthy contender for the presidency. Christie had built a reputation as a tough, plainspoken leader and a successful administrator as a Red governor of a Blue state — New Jersey. He had charisma and had charmed Ann Coulter, the tough-as-nails political commentator, into almost embarrassing expressions of ecstasy. After giving a speech at the Reagan Library before the 2012 GOP National Convention, he was besieged by Reagan admirers, almost in tears, pleading with him to step forward and save the party with a run against Obama. Not only did Christie demur, but some say he later sealed Romney’s lamentable fate just before the election by going out and French-kissing Obama, or whatever it was they were doing on that storm-tossed Jersey beach.
As for Huckabee, you may recall that he was second only to McCain in the 2008 GOP primaries, and after that he became a superstar as the host of his very own weekend show on Fox News, where he often could be seen playing bass guitar with a succession of rather square musical groups.
So I say begone to the lot of them, the Selfish Seven. Where is the bouncer?
Let’s ponder, for a while, the ten GOP candidates who would remain after we jettison the Selfish Seven. There is Donald Trump, of course, who has teased about seeking the presidency in the past, but who can hardly be faulted for not running in 2012. Who has the right to tell a businessman that he must run for President? The same consideration gets Carly Fiorina off the hook. Yes, she tried running for a Senate seat in California in 2010, but she lost, and that hardly made her a must-run candidate in 2012.
Scott Walker, you may recall, was fighting in 2012 to hold onto his job as governor of Wisconsin, in the face of a bitter, vicious recall attempt led by the state’s unions. He too gets a pass.
Rand Paul, the senator from Kentucky, also gets a pass because his dad was seeking the nomination in 2012. Rand doesn’t strike me as the Oedipus type.
Dr. Ben Carson, who was well-known only in medical circles in 2012, has the perfect excuse. So has Ted Cruz, who was not elected to the Senate until 2012. And I would let John Kasich off the hook too, because he was only in his second year as governor of Ohio in 2012, and had not yet fully demonstrated his impressive mastery of that job.
Marco Rubio is an interesting case. In 2012 he was in his second year as a senator from Florida, obviously very smart, articulate and talented, and his Hispanic heritage made him demographically attractive. But he was younger than John F. Kennedy had been in 1960, and didn’t seem to feel that he was ready. He might have made a more effective vice presidential candidate than Paul Ryan, but who knows?
That leaves only the two amiable Ricks — Santorum and Perry — both of whom did indeed fight the good fight in 2012 and are trying again. Santorum, representing the hard right of the party, finished second to Romney in the primaries, while Perry flamed out early in the campaign and is gamely giving it another try. Hats off to both of them.
And fie on the Selfish Seven.