Okay, so exactly who is the Republican presidential frontrunner now? Sarah Palin, the Tea Party darling/best-selling "author?" Mitt Romney, the moneybags ex-Massachusetts governor knocked out in the 2008 California and Florida primaries by John McCain? Mike Huckabee, the creationist talk show host who was the distant runner-up of 2008? Ron Paul, the cranky libertarian who embarrassingly actually won this past weekend's Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) over previous winner Romney?
If it matters, it's hard to tell.
Palin is at or near the lead in some polls. As are Romney and Huckabee. Paul isn't. Newt Gingrich, he of the disastrous reign as House speaker in the '90s, is lower in the polls but in striking distance, armed with flash and frequently false rhetoric. (After complaining about would-be Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab being read his Miranda rights and then being reminded that shoe bomber Richard Reid was also read his rights under the Bush Administration, Gingrich falsely claimed that Reid is an American.)
Ex-Alaska Governor Sarah Palin claims that President Barack Obama is soft on terrorism and calls for a revolution.
Huckabee was coming off his new Fox News show in which he encouraged former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to say that the official British inquiry into the origins of the Iraq War is really a bunch of conspiracy mongering about him. We expect more of Blair. But not, I suppose of Huckabee, whose present grasp of reality appears to match his belief in a past dinosaur-human era.
Of course, as I watched them speak this past weekend at CPAC, billed as the conservative Woodstock, and the Tea Party Convention before that (think Palinpalooza), it was obvious that they all do that.
After all, how seriously can you take presidential candidates who flock to a convention keynoted by Glenn Beck?
The great con/carnie artist of cable "news," probably the principal exemplar of the paranoid style in American politics, was up to his usual tricks of bombast and historical distortion. Since he admittedly suffers from ADD -- and not the media-induced kind -- and never went to university, his vicious ignorance could be excused. But for the fact that he has had plenty of time to stop acting like a study hall cut-up and grow up and learn real things.
I seldom watch Beck, but every time I see him I come away with the impression that he is so full of it he must know it.
Fox News and talk radio raver Glenn Beck delivered the keynote address at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.
In his latest shtick for CPAC, he gave a new spin on the Statue of Liberty, claiming that the statue and the Emma Lazarus poem associated with it is not so much a welcome to immigrants as it is a boast about America's superiority over Europe. Actually, the statue was a gift to America from France, a symbol from one new republic shaking off monarchy to a more established republic. And the poem, which was only attached to the statue years after its completion, is a paean to America's welcoming nature, as is obvious from the text.
Romney got into that Glenn Beck spirit of rewriting history, in this case the history of now. He claimed that Obama's economic recovery program hasn't grown or saved a single job.
That's simply false. The major economic forecasters give the recovery act, the much maligned economic stimulus, a great deal of credit for turning around an economy headed for Great Depression II when Obama took over from George W. Bush.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, appearing Sunday on ABC's This Week, praised the Obama economic stimulus program and slammed Republicans, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney, for their criticism.
But Romney, who was ripped the following day on ABC's This Week by Arnold Schwarzenegger, was merely following in the footsteps of 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin -- something the leveraged buyout artist might have to get used to -- in trying to rewrite the history of now.
Palin, who quit as Alaska's governor midway through her first term, keynoted the National Tea Party convention two weeks ago in Nashville, ripping in to Obama as soft on terror.
Palin sounded a lot like a presidential candidate, both before the Tea Party crowd and on Fox News the following day. Which, as I write this, is not much of a distinction.
"We need a Commander-in-Chief, not a law perfessor standing at the lectern," Palin declared to screams of approval.
Palin, who led a preference poll of Republicans for president the week before her appearance, managed to ignore the facts about Obama, who if anything is pretty damn hawkish in going after jihadists. Special ops strikes are up, Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders are being eliminated at a rate that Bush and Cheney could only hope for, the Pakistanis have been prodded into very serious action, there's a major offensive in Afghanistan. But that doesn't fit into a tweet or a Facebook status update, the only written communication that Palin, who was paid $100,000 for her pearls of wisdom, seems able to handle. And, besides, those are very inconvenient facts for her.
Given how wacky the Republican presidential scene looks, it's amazing that Obama is in such trouble, right? So much trouble that Dick Cheney flatly declared that Obama is "a one-term president."
It would be amazing, all right, if Obama really were in such dire straits.
As it happens, he's not.
A rapturously received former Vice President Dick Cheney lays out his vision of the future at CPAC.
I keep hearing talk about Obama's job approval rating supposedly having fallen off a cliff. Actually, that is wrong. It's been remarkably stable for months.
A survey of the Gallup daily tracking poll reveals that Obama, on a weekly average, has been in the high 40s to low 50s range since mid-November.
Obama's job approval today is 51%, with 43% disapproving of his performance as president.
Obama used to be much higher, of course. The proximate cause of his descent from those Olympian heights seems to have been the fractious, complicated, and very muddled debate over health care reform.
And he certainly isn't helped by dealing with the worst economy since the Great Depression.
But I think his biggest problem is the media culture he's confronted with. The endless cacophony of yip-yap -- in which obviously ridiculous statements like the ones I've mentioned are allowed to fly -- makes it hard to stay focused on fact.
Like this fact. Dick Cheney, once again, is wrong. Based on what we know now, I'm certain that Obama will be re-elected.