The Conservative Political Action Committee held its annual horror show last week outside D.C. This year, it featured many of the same characters who entertained the right-wing in the past, including Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum and a host of others.
They used the same laugh lines as in the past and the only thing that makes it really scary is they didn’t intend to be funny. Most of the Republicans who flirt with running for the White House every four years aren’t in it to get to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue but rather to sell a book, raise their speaking fee or, in the case of Trump, tout a reality TV show.
Among those who think they can get to the White House is Jeb Bush. McKay Coppins wrote in BuzzFeed, “When Bush officially launches his presidential bid later this year, he will likely do so with a campaign manager who has urged the Republican Party to adopt a pro-gay agenda; a chief strategist who signed a Supreme Court amicus brief arguing for marriage equality in California; a longtime adviser who once encouraged her minister to stick to his guns in preaching equality for same-sex couples; and a communications director who is openly gay.”
But then Bush pandered to the CPAC audience saying, “I believe in traditional marriage,” when Sean Hannity asked him whether he’s changing his position on the issue. So “inclusive conservatism” to Jeb Bush means let’s pretend we’re friends of the LGBT community but no way do they deserve full equality.
Then there is Rand Paul, who isn’t even a board certified ophthalmologist, who opined that Congress is dysfunctional without accepting any blame for that. He calls for a nimble and strong military and wants a tax cut across the board. Who pays for his military is left to the imagination. He was asked about his stand on foreign policy and said national defense is important yet never mentioned any crucial foreign policy issue the nation is facing today.
This year’s more elitist candidate is Ben Carson. He talks about President Obama’s failures and tries to defend his own views on choice (he is against it) and gays and lesbians (he is for “traditional families”). He is against all anti-poverty programs and says we need to use our intellect to allow the poor and downtrodden to climb out of poverty but doesn’t suggest how. He is against the Affordable Care Act and for health savings accounts, suggesting we could end Medicaid and fund $5,000 savings accounts for each person. He might want to look at the bills his patients receive from his surgical practice and see what $5,000 covers.
Then there is Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, who said, “If I can take on 100,000 protesters in Wisconsin, I can do the same across the world.” He compared his fight with the unions to fighting ISIS and suggested he could use the same tactics. What else needs to be said about him?
This is the current crop of Republicans who want to be president. It is a sad state of affairs for a Republican Party that once was the home of Abraham Lincoln. It will be a wild 16 months as they pander their way through the labyrinth of primaries and caucuses. Those of us who are political junkies will be glued to our newspapers and TVs to see which of them can be more outrageous. The winner will earn the right to face, and lose, to the likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton.
Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.