Take Five (Iowa, O! Iowa edition)

ONE: Eight Votes and Counting

Know why Rick Santorum turned in such a strong performance in Tuesday’s Iowa caucuses? The Duggars.

Yes, America’s favorite breeding pair recently took time out from their near-constant rutting to endorse the former Pennsylvania senator. This isn’t the first high-profile endorsement Santorum has picked up this year, of course. Nefarious supervillain Rupert Murdoch tweeted his endorsement Monday evening, while failed reality show star Sarah Palin more or less endorsed him immediately after saying she wasn’t going to be endorsing anyone.

With a mere seven children, Santorum is a comparative piker when it comes to “sowing the lower forty” yet Jim Bob Duggar still found much to admire:

“He’s somebody that doesn’t take a poll to know where he stands,” the Duggar patriarch told a crowd at a pizza restaurant north of Des Moines. “I’m asking families, Christians all over America, to get behind Rick Santorum for the next president of the United States.”

He later added, “[Santorum] is somebody that goes and really just votes from his heart and votes on his convictions, votes on things based on the Constitution of the United States and the Bible. And that’s the kind of man we want to support.”

With Jim Bob and his penis out stumping on the campaign trail, Michelle Duggar caught a rare break, and by way of thanks recorded some robocalls for Santorum, probably with tears in her eyes.

So why, after an endorsement as big as this, did Santorum ultimately fall eight votes short of Mitt Romney? Quite simply because the Duggars aren’t Iowa residents, that’s why. If they were, Jim Bob, Michelle and their voting-age children – Joshua James, Jana Marie, John-David, Jill Michelle, Jessa Lauren and Jinger Nicole – could have tied this up. Throw in another Santorum vote from Joshua James’ wife Anna and it would have been an embarrassing second place finish for Mitt.

TWO: Mysterious Ways

Pat Robertson believes God has shown him the identity of the next president, but he said he’s “not supposed to talk about that” as he talked about it on Tuesday. Despite refusing to come clean on who it will be, Robertson went on to share some notes he jotted down during his recent confab with the Almighty. It sounded pretty much like any bull session between two very, very old geezers around a cracker barrel, right down to the predictable “world is goin’ to hell” and “that Kenyan commie’s gonna be the ruination of the nation” sentiments, but at least the Maker didn’t mince His words:

Your country will be torn apart by internal stress. A house divided cannot stand. Your president holds a radical view of the direction of your country which is at odds with the majority. Expect chaos and paralysis.

Holy moly! I always suspected that the Lord watched Fox; I just didn’t realize he took it so seriously. Robertson gamely tried to guess the nature of the coming calamity. EMP blast? Nope. Cosmic or solar or radiation blast? No siree. Mayan galaxy alignment? Hell, no. Iranian or North Korean nuclear threat? Get serious. Earthquake or volcano? Nuh-uh. Massive power failure? Oh, pshaw. Finally, the Creator spat on the floor, squinted to the left and to the right, then leaned in low over the checkerboard and whispered hoarsely:

It’s an economic collapse. This is not my judgment. They are bringing it upon themselves.

All right. I made up the spitting and squinting and stuff, but just to give the story a little more oomph than Robertson’s clinical recitation. Robertson didn’t say whether God intends to head this disaster off, or whether He means to settle back in His rocker with wry satisfaction and maybe smoke His corncob pipe while the economy tanks. Nor did God tell his confidant when this is all going to happen, but since President Obama will be in office for another five years and has a successful track record battling economic collapse, I like our chances.

THREE: “Huge Political Consequences”

Speaking of omnipotent entities, the American Petroleum Institute threatened President Obama yesterday with “huge political consequences” if he fails to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring tar sands crude from Canada to Gulf of Mexico refineries (minus whatever amount gets spilled in transit across the US heartland).

American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard urged Obama to quickly approve the pipeline…

“I think it would be a huge mistake on the part of the president of the United States to deny the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline,” Gerard said during the powerful oil industry trade association’s annual “State of American Energy” event Wednesday.

“Clearly, the Keystone XL pipeline is in the national interest. A determination to decide anything less than that I believe will have huge political consequences.”

Gerard’s threats might have been better directed toward Republicans in Congress, though, since they’re the ones who insisted on including a provision in December’s payroll tax cut extension:

… requiring the president to make a final decision on the pipeline within 60 days.

What Gerard and his Congressional marionettes have yet to realize is that this newest example of GOP overreach provides all the cover necessary for President Obama to kill the pipeline with complete political immunity, despite the inevitable howling it will prompt from the “drill, baby, drill” crowd:

Obama administration and White House officials have said that the 60-day timeline could force them to reject the project because the State Department will not have enough time to conduct the necessary reviews…

Environmental groups – who vehemently oppose the project, citing concerns about oil spills and greenhouse gas emissions – have said Obama has no choice but to reject the pipeline under the GOP-backed Keystone measure.

Should things unfold in this happy fashion, and I believe they will, it will be a splendid example of “huge political consequences.” Continue reading Take Five (Iowa, O! Iowa edition)

Take Five (Uh… Yeah edition)

ONE: Gaffe Riot

As his campaign careens toward Iowa, Rick Perry continues to astound audiences with his comprehensive knowledge of nothing and his uncanny inability to open his mouth without saying something ridiculous. As Perry staggers, stumbles, slips, skates and slides, gaffe by gaffe, from presumptive nominee to predictable punch line, it’s increasingly nerve-wracking to hear the gears grinding in his head whenever he speaks.

The candidate ended November by pleading with a young crowd in New Hampshire to vote for him next year if they will be at least 21, apparently ceding the 18-20 demographic to his rivals without a fight. He also asked that they cast their votes on November 12, 2012, a bold but ill-advised strategy, since that will be six days after the election.

The next day, he told Fox News about his preparations for the New Hampshire caucuses, but New Hampshire, of course, has a primary, and I suspect Rick Perry won’t be cleaning up in it, not least because he’s too busy preparing for non-existent caucuses.

Easing into December, the candidate criticized the Supreme Court’s “eight unelected and frankly unaccountable judges” and referred to one of them as “Montemayor” in an interview with the long-suffering editorial board at the Des Moines Register.

For further reading, The Daily Beast has helpfully catalogued some of Perry’s most noteworthy gaffes. They don’t list them all, of course – very few sites have that much server capacity – but it’s instructive to review the list and reflect on the notion that Perry was initially considered the savior of his party’s sweaty quest to take back the White House.

Perry discussed his penchant for pratfalls with the Fox and Friends team in some detail:

“Look, I’m a human being; I’m going to make some mistakes from time to time in my remarks… but here’s how I look at these issues, generally speaking, over the course of my 10-plus years of being the governor of the state of Texas: When someone doesn’t want to talk about the substantive issues, when they don’t want to talk about the flat tax that I’ve laid out, when they don’t want to talk about a major overhaul of Washington, D.C., like going to a part-time Congress, which most of the states operate very well with, they want to find some little error that you made and go talk about that.”

What Perry doesn’t appreciate is that proposals like a flat tax and a part-time Congress are, in and of themselves, intellectual gaffes of the meanest order. Hell, even a lot of Republicans find these ideas ineffably silly, which is why they turned their lonely eyes first to Herman “I never met a woman I didn’t like” Cain, and, when that didn’t work out, to the enormous sentient gasbag that calls itself Newt Gingrich.

Perry’s best bet would be to pack his bags and return to Austin right now. After almost 17 years of being governed by George Walker Bush and Rick Perry, Texans are a little more forgiving of gaffes, verbal, intellectual and otherwise, than most Americans. Or at least more resigned to their inevitability.

TWO: Dumb, Dumber and Marginally Less Dumb

Last March Chris Matthews said something stupid. And of course he’s said thousands of stupid things since, but the March comment is in the news again because it led someone else to say something even more stupid.

Matthews had this to say about Newt Gingrich just before the former Speaker put a toe in the water for the GOP nomination:

“He looks like a car bomber, he looks like a car bomber … he looks like a car bomber,” Matthews said, interjecting when Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page suggested Gingrich might just have the stuff to win the Republican nomination.

Matthews continued: “He’s got that crazy Mephistophelian grin of his. He looks like he loves torturing. Look at the guy. This is not the face of a president.”

Uh… yeah. This inanity resurfaced Thursday when Mark Steyn, guest hosting on Fox News, aired the Matthews clip and asked Brent Bozell for a comment. Bozell was all too happy to oblige:

“How long do you think Sean Hannity’s show would last if four times in one sentence, he made a comment about, say, the President of the United States, and said that he looked like a skinny, ghetto crackhead?” Bozell wondered. “Which, by the way, you might want to say that Barack Obama does.”

Uh… yeah. You might also want to say that Bozell has the intellect of a horse tick, but you won’t, because you’re a smarter and better person than Brent Bozell. So is Mark Steyn, just barely, although he gamely tried to out-stupid Bozell by offering his own remarkably odd portrait of Gingrich:

… a “big, cuddly, slightly older Winnie the Pooh.”

Uh… yeah. Ten days to Iowa, folks. It’s only going to get worse from here…

THREE: “Pout, damned snot!”

Well, now those Republicans have gone and done it. They’ve driven Donald Trump right out of the party! The Republican turned Democrat turned Republican turned independent this week:

… he did so because he is “disgusted” with the way Republicans are handling matters in Washington, including the recent payroll tax cut deal. But the move also sets Trump up for a potential third-party run for president…

Trump has sought to reach out to the group, Americans Elect, an online, independent presidential nominating organization that has already made it on the ballot in several states, including California.

“Couple Donald Trump’s name recognition with his extraordinary wealth and Americans Elect truly becomes a viable force in determining who the next president will be,” Trump’s top political adviser Michael Cohen told ABC News.

Of course he’s only doing this to save face after being snubbed by all but two GOP candidates (Santorum and Gingrich) when it was announced that he would moderate a debate on December 27. Trump being Trump, he would never admit to having been made to look foolish, so he loudly made himself look even more foolish from behind this elaborate smokescreen:

“The Republican Party candidates are very concerned that sometime after the final episode of The Apprentice, on May 20th, when the equal time provisions are no longer applicable to me, I will announce my candidacy for President of the United States as an Independent and that, unless I conclusively agree not to run as an Independent, they will not agree to attend or be a part of the Newsmax debate scheduled for December 27, 2011. It is very important to me that the right Republican candidate be chosen to defeat the failed and very destructive Obama Administration, but if that Republican, in my opinion, is not the right candidate, I am not willing to give up my right to run as an Independent candidate. Therefore, so that there is no conflict of interest within the Republican Party, I have decided not to be the moderator of the Newsmax debate. The American people are embarrassed by the gridlock currently taking place in Washington. I must leave all of my options open because, above all else, we must make America great again!

So now Trump has to continue the possible independent candidacy charade, at least until he can figure out some other way to keep his name in the headlines. That’ll take about a week, I reckon. Continue reading Take Five (Uh… Yeah edition)

Take Five (On Second Thought edition)

ONE: Breaking: Democrat-turned-Republican Changes Position!

Rick Perry fun fact: Perry entered politics as a Democrat, and retained that party affiliation for about five years while serving as an elected Democrat in the Texas House of Representatives. A year after he chaired the Gore campaign in Texas, he became a Republican. He doesn’t much talk about this anymore, of course, since his own private “fierce urgency of now” entails hoodwinking right-wing voters into believing that he emerged from the womb a full-fledged, fire-breathing Republican, ready to take on that socialist squatter in the White House.

Former Democrat Perry demonstrated his ideological malleability most recently on the subject of marriage. His public stance on the issue was nationally articulated in July of this year at a conclave of Republican governors, prompted by a question about New York’s landmark recognition of marriage equality:

“You know what? That’s New York, and that’s their business, and that’s fine with me. If you believe in the 10th Amendment, stay out of their business if you live in some other state or particularly if you’re the federal government.”

That’s a position not wholly dissimilar to that of President Obama, a position that punts – conveniently – the issue of marriage equality back to the states, and while I disagree with it, Candidate Perry’s newest position on the issue is more objectionable by several orders of magnitude. Asked by the AP whether he would support a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, the former Democrat replied:

“I am for the federal marriage amendment. And that’s about as sharp a point as I could put on it.”

Well, apparently not quite as sharp, since Perry subsequently pandered just a smidge more and signed the “Marriage Pledge” put forward by the National Organization for Marriage, whose recent villainy has been commented on before here and here.

Seemingly unaware that his talking out of both sides of his mouth is an ongoing matter of record, the former Democrat recently took dead aim at his critics:

“With all due respect to anybody that’s out there either directly or indirectly criticizing me because I speak plainly, I call it like I see it,” Perry said on the Laura Ingraham radio show.

To my mind, it seems that the way the former Democrat “sees it” is remarkably mercurial, but – unlike, say, former Democrat Rick Perry, for example – I’m still a Democrat, so what the hell do I know? With all due respect to former Democrat Rick Perry, who chaired the Gore campaign in Texas, I think I’m seeing a campaign theme beginning to emerge here, and not one for the Republicans: Vote for former Democrat Rick Perry! You’ll always know where he stands, right up until he decides he wants to go and stand somewhere else.

TWO: Look Out, Pauly Shore

Erstwhile Republican frontrunner Michele Bachmann spent four days in Florida at the end of August, with a portion of the junket devoted to prying her foot out of her mouth. It started with these comments:

“I don’t know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians. We’ve had an earthquake; we’ve had a hurricane. He said, ‘Are you going to start listening to me here?’ Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now. They know government is on a morbid obesity diet and we’ve got to rein in the spending.”

Nothing really out of character for Michele Bachmann, of course; poorly reasoned, disjointedly argued, theologically inept, politically dumb… the usual. But when the comments went viral, the candidate was forced to go on defense:

“Of course I was being humorous when I said that. It would be absurd to think it was anything else,” Bachmann said… on a campaign stop in Miami.

“I am a person who loves humor, I have a great sense of humor,” she said.

Yeah, just great, because after all, what’s funnier than a storm that killed 24 people and caused the worst flooding Vermont has suffered in 80 years, and a quake that damaged the National Cathedral and the Washington Monument? Comedy gold, right?

Why, it’s almost as funny as the recent CNN poll that showed Bachmann has fallen to fourth place, tied with the ever-hilarious Rudy Giuliani.  Or the Washington Post-ABC News poll that places her fifth, two notches below shambolic non-candidate Sarah Palin. Continue reading Take Five (On Second Thought edition)

Take Five (Campaign Trail Mix edition)

ONE: Further Adventures of Governor Goodprayer

Fresh from praying his evil little heart out last weekend, Texas Governor Rick Perry is barnstorming South Carolina, New Hampshire and Iowa this weekend. Just what have those fine states done to deserve this? Beats me, but it must have been really awful.

Perry will be appearing at the RedState Gathering in Charleston on Saturday. Following his address to the conservative faithful, Perry will brush his hair, munch on canapés and conduct a brief bombardment of Fort Sumter. Then it’s off to a party in New Hampshire Saturday evening for more canapés, and presumably more brushing. Sunday will find him in Waterloo, Iowa, birthplace of none other than Michele Bachmann.

And Monday is apt to find Perry leading the GOP field in every major poll, at which point all hell’s going to break loose as the pack of sudden also-rans frantically vie to portray themselves as the most God-fearin’, gun-lovin’, immigrant-bashin’, marriage-defendin’, Obama-opposin’, tax-cuttin’, Islamofascist-defeatin’, free market-fellatin’ honest-to-gawd genuine dyed-in-the-wool bullet-headed mother’s-milk conservative to come down the pike since, say, Fred Thompson.

And about Perry’s prayerstravaganza, it seems that Reliant Stadium’s 71,500 seats were more than ample for The Response. Most news stories put the attendance at about 30,000, but judging from photos of the event, it was surely less than that.

It’s a shame, then, that Perry couldn’t cede Reliant to Houston’s other big public gathering that day, a back-to school event that attracted 100,000 people in search of free school supplies, health and dental check-ups, immunizations, and fresh fruit and vegetables.

Beatrice Jones, who has two children in the Spring school district, arrived about 10:15 a.m. with her daughter and niece, only to find the doors closed and a police officer announcing the event was over.

“They were supposed to have school supplies, but all we got was sweating and paid parking,” Jones said.

School Superintendent Terry Grier posted a Twitter message Saturday morning that security personnel had estimated the crowd at 100,000. At about 10 a.m., officials made the call to close the doors.

Try praying next time, Ms Jones. If it’s good enough for Rick Perry, it should be good enough for the peons. Continue reading Take Five (Campaign Trail Mix edition)

Take Five (Prize Turkeys edition)

ONE: Guess Who’s Dumbing the Dinner

After shamelessly co-opting this year’s Rolling Thunder rally to promote her “Bus Tour to Wherever for No Apparent Reason,” Sarah Palin stopped off in New York and had supper with fellow blowhard and fellow coy Presidential not-quite-candidate Donald Trump.

Now, you might be wondering what the Quitter-in-Chief and the Firer-in-Chief talked about during this meeting of the mindless, but I really hope you’re not, because after all, come on, who the hell cares?

What about the food?

The two met in his 30,000-square-foot apartment in Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue and later ate dinner together.

At Palin’s request they dined at Famous Famiglia Pizzeria near Times Square. ”She wanted pizza,” a source familiar with the dining decision said.

If the name doesn’t ring a Taco Bell, Famous Famiglia Pizzeria has franchises in 25 states and DC, and also in China and Mexico, with European franchises promised (or threatened). Their website modestly describes them as the official pizza of the New York Yankees, the official pizza of Madison Square Garden, the official pizza of the Palms Casino, the official pizza of the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority and the official pizza of Hersheypark.

Quite a list, but what the website doesn’t mention is that famed competitive eater Joey “Jaws” Chestnut wolfed down 45 slices of their pizza in 10 minutes in the “Famous Famiglia World Pizza Eating Championship” in Times Square in 2008. Sure, that record was soon broken by Patrick “Deep Dish” Bertoletti, but – come autentico! – nothing says “genuine New York pizza” like an eating contest in Times Square, am I right?

Famiglia also brazenly claims the title of “New York’s Favorite Pizza,” a declaration I believe will – when she reads this – provoke my spouse, a New Yorker, to indulge in some pretty “cherce” declarations of her own.

So who goes to New York to eat transnational chain pizza? Sarah Palin, that’s who. And as always, the half-term Governor brought some props – uh, I mean family – along:

Palin, Trump and his wife, Melania, Palin’s parents and her daughter, Piper, shared several large pizzas — both plain cheese and pepperoni — and sodas. They sat at a private table in the restaurant, cordoned off with yellow tape and bodyguards.

If the thought of Famous Famiglia Pizzeria becoming the official pizza of opportunistic, self-aggrandizing Republican pseudo-candidates is insufficiently tasty, there’s this from the “fair and balanced” not-really-news network:

Palin said she and Trump shared similar ideas for improving the U.S. economy, while Trump called the former Alaska governor a “terrific woman and a terrific friend” whom he hoped would seek the Republican presidential nomination…

Alas, I suspect he’s going to be disappointed; Palin has a lot more world to tour. Why, she could head to Beijing to chow down at a Panda Express, or maybe to Hamburg to munch on a Big Mac, or even to Kununurra to tuck into a Bloomin’ Onion and a Victoria’s Filet at Outback.

Hell, for that matter, she could just stay home and send out for some borscht and pirozhki from that country she says she can see from up there. And if we’re really lucky, she’ll take Donald Trump with her. Continue reading Take Five (Prize Turkeys edition)