Casting the First (Litmus) Stone

The philosopher Diogenes is said to have wandered around ancient Greece holding a lantern and seeking to find an honest man.

My fellow Republicans, sans lanterns, are now wandering around the political landscape seeking to find the perfect Republican presidential candidate.

I don’t know if Diogenes ever found that honest man, but I do know that those Republicans are never going to find the perfect candidate, simply because he does not exist.

Some Republicans insist that the only perfect candidate would be a clone of my Dad, Ronald Reagan. Aside from the fact that there is no such thing, it’s important to recognize that Ronald Reagan, as he often admitted, was anything but perfect.

One of the criticisms about former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney focuses on his record concerning the abortion issue. We are told by the modern day Diogenes clones that he can’t be trusted to fight abortion because he once, more or less, supported a woman’s right to butcher her baby.

It may come as a surprise to these purists, but Ronald Reagan once supported abortion too. Yet nobody ever questioned his strong pro-life credentials after his conversion to Republicanism. They accepted his sincerity. Why can’t they accept Mitt Romney’s?

Romney’s record shows he should be totally acceptable to all conservatives, yet because of one dubious question concerning the validity of his conversion to the pro-life side, he is deemed unsuitable to carry the conservative banner.

The same is true of Rudy Giuliani. On every major issue, he is a solidly conservative and extraordinarily adept executive, but because he backs abortion and some form of gun control, America’s mayor — the hero of 9/11 and the man who did the impossible by cleaning up New York — is all but ruled out as a 2008 candidate.

Not one of the major candidates is free of some real or imagined flaw that offends some conservatives.

This is madness, and if it does not stop, the GOP is going to lose the presidential election in 2008. In the search for the perfect candidate we are going to end up with an imperfect candidate. Keep in mind the truism that agreement with someone on most issues and disagreement on others is seen as normal, but should you agree with someone on every single issue imaginable … well… to put it plainly, psychologists say you’re nuts.

I recently got a letter from a conservative Christian organization that asked me if the current GOP candidates are the best the Republican Party has to offer.

“Is it possible that GOP conservative ranks are this thin?” the letter writer asked. “Has the GOP nothing better to offer? Should not pro-family pro-life voters also want a low taxes and limited government candidate before they vigorously support him? Increased taxes and expanded government hurts everyone. Was Ronald Wilson Reagan an anomaly and did he represent the values of his party?

“These GOP candidates,” the letter instructed me, “are little better than Bob Dole, Gerald Ford, or [George] H.W. Bush. Did anyone notice they all lost?”

This makes me wonder if anybody can stand up to the litmus test these people are applying to candidates.

Ronald Reagan had one litmus test he applied to candidates. Were they Republicans? If they were he backed them all the way. He would let the party choose the candidate and he would support and vote for the candidate. He didn’t go sniffing around trying to find some flaw in their character or their past. Once nominated, they were his choice.

And nobody was more candid in admitting that he was anything but perfect than my Dad. He knew that like all men, he had his flaws and he spent a lifetime combating them. Had today’s GOP litmus test been seriously applied to him, he could not have passed the test.

The Democrats don’t have litmus tests. If the nominee is a Democrat, they support their candidate all the way, and if they lose it isn’t because they didn’t fight like demons for their man or woman.

If we want to win in 2008, Republicans had better wake up, and quit talking Ronald Reagan and start being like Ronald Reagan.