One of the most often-overheard refrains from the Republican Party and its far-right base is that President Obama is the worst president in American history. Others say he "pals around with terrorists." They say he's destroying America. They say that he's weak, that he dithers and that he's effete -- implying either that he's gay or effeminate or both. Around half of all Republicans have told pollsters that he's not even constitutionally eligible to be president, which ought to mandate an immediate removal from office.
But what does all of this say about the men and women who are noticeably hesitant to officially announce their candidacies for the Republican nomination? Not a single one of the well-known frontrunners has declared anything more than "exploratory committees" -- quite literally the presidential campaign equivalent of dithering.
At this juncture in the 2008 cycle, most of the major Democratic and Republican candidates were underway with their official campaigns. And yet...
Michele Bachmann, a would-be frontrunner, called the president "even worse" than President Carter. She accused him of being "infantile" and suggested he wouldn't even run for a second term because the "floor has dropped out" from his support. However, tough-talking Michele Bachmann hasn't officially declared her candidacy to run against this allegedly unpopular weakling.
Mitt Romney said that his "worst fears" about the president have come true and that the chief executive is pushing an "extreme liberal agenda." Romney also accused the president of being "tentative, indecisive, timid and nuanced" on Libya. However, tough-talking Mitt Romney hasn't officially declared his candidacy to run against such a timid and indecisive extremist. How would Mitt react when confronted by actual extremists? Hopefully not with the same timidity he's exercising in his run for president.
Sarah Palin has screeched nearly every imaginable insult at the president (often while she's utterly botching commonly-known facts about the Constitution). She accused him of "dithering" on Libya. He's a "spectator-in-chief," she said. She's accused him of being a socialist. She told Sean Hannity that she "fears for our democracy" due to the president's agenda. She's famously accused him of being a terrorist sympathizer -- this alone ought to compel her to run for president if only to rid the executive branch of an obvious terrorist. However, pit bull Sarah Palin appears to be "dithering" when it comes to her campaign to run against this alleged terrorist, socialist ditherer.
The irreversibly somnambulatory Tim Pawlenty has accused the president of being "weak" on foreign policy and "clueless" on the economy. Pawlenty accused the president's Libya decision of being "belated and timid." Okay, but what does it say about Pawlenty when he's only announced an exploratory committee to run against someone who he believes is "weak" and "timid?"
Newt Gingrich couldn't even generate a consistent position on Libya. No wonder he can't decide whether to run against the president, who, by the way, he accused of being "weak" and an "amateur" and the most "incompetent" commander-in-chief "since Carter." But still no official campaign announcement from Gingrich. You'd think someone as weak and incompetent would be easy to defeat, no?
Donald Trump is, well, he's the driver of the GOP clown car at this point; and, as we're all aware by its around-the-clock coverage on cable news, doesn't believe the president is a citizen much less a legal office holder. And, of course, Trump believes the president is the "worst president in history." No official announcement from Trump even though defeating a president this criminally out of bounds should be a cakewalk.
If what they're all saying were true (it's not), why are they so clearly afraid to run against President Obama: a president who they claim is some sort of gelatinous, terrorist, girlish, treasonous, Eurotrash socialist, gay, Kenyan constitutional usurper?
There are several reasons why the Republicans are dithering.
First, Republican voters are more convinced about the wacky birth certificate thing than they are about their preference for a nominee. While 45 percent of Republicans believe the silly, fringe conspiracy theory that the president isn't a citizen, 56 percent of Republicans support "none" of the candidates, with most of the frontrunners sharing single-digit support. That's bad. 56 percent of Republicans would rather see "none of the above" than any of the current roster of would-be nominees. Simply put, Birtherism is more popular than the candidates themselves.
Second, the president's approval numbers are artificially weak. Gas prices and the slow decline of the unemployment rate are pissing off voters, and so they're taking it out on the president. That said, there's a long list of accomplishments which the president can ballyhoo against these negative event-driven gripes. In other words, in the absence of jobless numbers and high gas prices, there are quite a few positives.
Economic growth is up, and has been steadily growing since the passage of the president's recovery act. President Obama successfully appointed the first Hispanic female Supreme Court justice which invigorates a growing Hispanic demographic. Unemployment is slowly declining. The stock market is up, thus stabilizing 401(k)s and mutual funds owned by middle class Americans. And despite what the Republicans say, the president and the Democrats cut the deficit by $122 billion last year: the largest single-year decline in the deficit in American history. The list goes on and on. As soon as the Obama 2012 re-election campaign gets cranking on these accomplishments, the mostly unpopular Republican candidates will be almost totally neutered. Moreso than now.
Third, the Republican legislative record is ridiculous. Eric Cantor, Paul Ryan and John Boehner have introduced ideologically far-right, inconsequential and symbolic bills that kill Planned Parenthood and NPR. They've passed legislation that cuts spending for pregnant women. They've passed legislation that magically circumvents the constitutional lawmaking process. They refuse to raise taxes on the rich while trying to gut Medicaid and kill Medicare, even though supermajorities of Americans support both of these crucial healthcare programs -- including majority support from tea party Republicans.
And finally, at this late juncture, I don't see how the Republicans will be able to compete with the Obama machine when it comes to money, even with the awful Citizen's United decision and its subsequent deluge of corporate cash into the Republican Party.
The modern Republican Party fancies itself the party of quick, decisive action. Shoot first and let God sort out the rest. You're either with us or you're with the terrorists. It's the party of swift military action. It's the party that's spending $500,000 in congressional money to fight gay people. It's the party of apoplectic, doomsday talk radio screamers. It's the party that mocks "femi-nazis" -- the party that refuses to "bend over" for the "little black man-child." This is what they say, and it's a whole lot of blustery, impotent noise.
There's one last reason why the Republicans are so cautious about declaring their intentions. They're cowards. And they're self-debunking the mythology that modern Republicans are bold, brave "Reagan-ish" leaders. They're cowards and so they're moving at granny-speed rather than light-speed to run against the president -- a real leader onto whom they're projecting their dithering and indecisiveness.
Not that I'm complaining.