George Will: Warming up for Alibi Ike

By GEORGE F. WILL Published: July 7, 2011
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Pawlenty, a more ardent than discerning admirer of John McCain, is suddenly echoing McCain's unhistorical and nonsensical canard that skepticism about nation-building in Afghanistan and opposition to the intervention in Libya's civil war constitute isolationism. “America,” Pawlenty says, astonishingly, “already has one political party devoted to decline, retrenchment and withdrawal. It does not need a second one.” The Democratic Party supporting a Democratic president's plunge into Libya is devoted to “withdrawal“? If only.

Huntsman's campaign manager, John Weaver, a former McCain man, believes the GOP “is nowhere near being a national governing party” — a view usually held by people called Democrats — and that the “simple reason” is: “No one wants to be around a bunch of cranks.” Many of the cranks are called: The Republican nominating electorate.

Who will carry the banner?

Announcing his candidacy near the Statue of Liberty, where Ronald Reagan began his 1980 post-convention campaign, Huntsman promised “civility” because “I don't think you need to run down someone's reputation” when running for president. Actually, you do.

You must say why your opponent deserves a reputation for inadequacy. So Reagan at that spot said Jimmy Carter's “whole sorry record” was “a litany of despair, of broken promises, of sacred trusts abandoned and forgotten.” Reagan's forthrightness was neither uncivil nor, in the electorate's November opinion, untrue.

Who will carry the “Is This the Best We Can Do?” banner? So far, the serene front-runner, Mitt Romney, has nothing to fear from Huntsman's politics of high-mindedness. Bachmann's saliency with social conservatives, and the lurchings of Pawlenty's campaign, threatens Pawlenty's all-in wager on Iowa. And the potential fragility of Bachmann's campaign turns attention to the last piece of the Republican puzzle — Texas' Gov. Rick Perry, a high-octane social and economic conservative whom nobody could confuse with Alibi Ike.

WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP

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