Letter From DC: Accuracy, Originality, and Competency Need Not Apply for GOP Presidential Aspirants

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While Fox News presenters and in-house campaigners have launched an apologist and rationalization campaign for the series of gaffes by Republican presidential hopefuls, DC-based GOP operatives privately are seething at the ubiquity of recent missteps by nearly the entire slate of candidates.  "If it was just one candidate, we could write it off," said a senior Republican strategist committed to defeating President Barack Obama. "But this undisciplined goofiness is starting to make us look the gang that can't shoot straight."

The most recent instance of "undisciplined goofiness" came in the form of Michele Bachmann, the tea party favorite Congresswoman from Minnesota, during her official campaign launch this week in Waterloo, Iowa.  She mistakenly cited her hometown as shared with American icon John Wayne.  Problem was, she actually shared a hometown with John Wayne Gacy, the "killer clown" serial killer of more than 30 young men, who got his start in depravity in Waterloo. She later patted herself on the back for at least getting it right about sharing the same home state as John Wayne. 

This followed Bachmann's embarrassing lack of geographical sophistication in March when in an effort to suck up to New Hampshire voters, she proclaimed: "What I love about New Hampshire and what we have in common is our extreme love of liberty....  You're the state where the shot heard around the world in Lexington and Concord."  Well, there is a Concord in New Hampshire, but that shot was fired in Massachusetts.

(You would think she would have learned from presidential tease, Sarah Palin, and her unsolicited portrayal of Paul Revere as a 2nd Amendment bad-ass who taunted the British with boasts of the colonists' arsenal for freedom. Palin's daughter, Bristol, apparently doesn't approve of Bachmann stepping on her mommy's creative interpretations of U.S. history, snipping in PopEater: "I don't know if she's wearing glasses but you want to be hummmm, do you think that people don't notice you're dressing like my mom?") 

Bachmann's former chief-of-staff and former Minnesota GOP chairman, Ron Carey, has about had it, writing in the Des Moines Register of a "wildly out of control" Bachmann congressional office he inherited.  Carey cited stacks of unopened campaign contributions and constituency correspondence. "If she is unable, or unwilling, to handle the basic duties of a campaign or congressional office, how could she possibly manage the magnitude of the presidency?" he wrote in support of Tim Pawlenty as the GOP nominee.

At least Pawlenty's only goof thus far was his perceived wussiness for a sucker-punch then run on presumed front-runner Mitt "the Haircut" Romney on "Obamneycare." The slur was intended to link Romney's successful health care reform effort in Massachusetts to Obama's federal initiative largely based on the state's effort.

Obama isn't Working.jpgRomney isn't faring much better with his plagiarism of a British Conservative Party political poster credited with carrying Margaret Thatcher to Downing Street in 1979.

Not only is Romney ceding political inspiration to damned foreigners, a right wing no-no, the campaign was designed by the un-American and elitist sounding Saatchi & Saatchi. 

labour isn't Working.jpg(In another historical irony, it was Vice President Joe Biden who saw his 1988 Presidential hopes dashed by plagiarizing the stump speech of British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock during his efforts to unseat Thatcher.  Don't any of these people ever read?)

Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich has turned into a flat-out farce after a second Tiffany's line-of credit -- this time for $1 million -- turned up.  Gingrich has seen more than a dozen staffers, including his top two fundraisers, walk; his campaign debt is said to be over $1 million, and he's been confronted with the indignity of flying commercial. Perhaps, if wife Callista unloaded some of the Tiffany bling instead of driving the campaign into a ditch....

Even the reasonable GOP candidate, Jon Huntsman, the former ambassador to China under Obama, who is distinguishing himself with themes of decency and respect, has looked a bit kooky and downright incompetent.  His "dirt-bike haiku" launch web video bordered on the bizarre.

And at his Statue of Liberty campaign launch, his aides quickly confiscated press passes because they misspelled the first name of their own candidate.  The same credentials also had the requisite geographical challenges, listing the site as New York, rather than New Jersey.  A few press credential typos would be understandable, but the bungling continued when campaign staffers and media were led to a chartered flight for Saudi Arabia instead of New Hampshire. 

At least when all was righted, there was no flight plan for Lexington, NH.

It isn't so much to ask for the American electorate to insist upon a foundation of simple historical mastery, philosophical consistency, originality, and the ability to spell your candidate's name correctly and properly identify the state in which you are appearing.  To build on Carey's point about Bachmann, if the simple stuff is such a stretch, how can these folks "manage the magnitude of the presidency"?   It makes Ron Paul appear to be the most competent of GOP hopefuls.

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Marc Osgoode Smith has covered – and participated in - Washington DC policy circles for more than two decades as a journalist covering media and as an association and think tank executive. Smith now enjoys his role as a “cultural observer” of DC Politics and the people that engage in them.

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