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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

AMERICA'S FOREIGN POLICY REALITY CHECK


It is both a common and common sense understanding that the United States no longer exercises dominant influence over the global economy. While still the world's largest economy, (twice the size of China's and almost equal to the combined 27 nation European Union), and possessor of the dominant international reserve currency, economic globalization, including dependence on relatively few sources of oil have greatly diminished U.S. influence. A similar trend, especially pronounced since the end of the Cold War in late 1991, in the diplomatic and international security areas has led to prominent failures and inaction with only a few examples of successful U.S. led international cooperation. The first Gulf War in 1991 and the air campaign and eventual settlement of the Bosnian conflict in 1995 are the most prominent.

U.S. foreign policy makers are faced with choices, not certainties. The context for these choices are first, a Kissinger style “Realpolitik” of dealing with the world as we find it and not as we would prefer it. The alternative context is constructing foreign and security policies based not on capabilities and interests but on concepts of international or national moral obligations. The latter was a significant ingredient in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the failed nine and ten year efforts to democratize and “nation build” in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now with major cuts in military spending, combined with the aforementioned diminished economic influence in the world, policy makers should make decisions based on what we can do, what the costs will be and what the long term ramifications will be. In the current international environment one thing that we can't do is defeat the Afghan Taliban, impose democratic institutions and processes and successfully “build” a democratic nation. The physical environment and the rules of engagement imposed on the military by the nation builders futile attempts to win the “hearts and minds” of the Afghan populace have resulted in a ten year stalemate. Afghanistan's, primitive, tribal society simply does not possess the raw material for an understanding, appreciation for, or tolerance of democratic principles. The current paroxysms of hate and violence over the accidental burning of a few Islamic holy books is illustrative and simply doesn't conform to basic rules of democratic governance. And this incident is just a small example of the ignorance, intolerance and fanaticism dominant in the society.

Tribal and sectarian identification vs. any overarching loyalty to the nation, have resulted in the failure of similar nation building attempts in Iraq. Since the U.S. withdrawal, daily bombings by Sunni militants on Shiite mosques, neighborhoods and the institutions of the Shiite dominated government portend a violent, long term struggle with considerable outside interference by regional states.

The U.S. cannot bring about stable, democratic regimes in Egypt or Libya. The Obama Administration's late support of the popular uprising against Egypt's Mubarak government and its naïve offer of $1.5 billion before even knowing who the recipients would be or how the money would be spent, accomplished nothing. The Egyptian political situation remains chaotic with the outcome being a possible anti-Western Islamic state or a return to direct or indirect military rule.

The situation in Libya, although influenced by U.S. support for the British and French led air campaign that helped overthrow the Qaddafi regime, is similarly beyond meaningful influence by Western governments including the U.S., who can do nothing but standby while the proliferation of tribal militias battle among themselves for power.

Islamic militants and terrorists in Nigeria, an important oil exporting nation, and Somalia have attracted U.S. attention, and in Somalia the U.S. conducts desultory drone and special operations missions. But these are small operations in what is still a peripheral, though potentially important area and a failed state. There is simply no prospect for a wider U.S. involvement or definable success in these efforts.

But it is the situation in Syria which makes the inability of the U.S. to dictate outcomes in important geopolitical conflicts most apparent. Secretary of State Clinton's frequent and meaningless “condemnations” of violence and calls for President Bashar Assad to step down, simply emphasize the lack of U.S. influence. The choices available to outside interests, be they humanitarian or security interests, are limited and contain potential contradictions.

Syria is not Libya. Assad commands a large, Russian equipped military with an officer corps made up from his ruling Alawite sect. The publicly stated goals of the regional and international community are first to end the slaughter of the Syrian citizenry, from whom the insurgency is drawn but which include many innocent non-participants. Second, there is general unanimity, with the exceptions of Iran, Russia and China, for regime change.

The suggestions for how to bring this about are divided. One group, which includes several of the Sunni Arab members of the Arab League, wants to provide arms to the insurgency to both defend themselves and enhance their prospects for demoralizing the Syrian military and bringing about the downfall of Assad. The Obama Administration has signaled its lack of support for this option. This, no doubt, is part of a general hesitancy on Obama's part to take an active role in the regional populist movements, as well as the possible affects of such a role, on his 2012 re-election prospects. Opponents of such a strategy worry that it would result in more, not fewer, casualties and enable post-revolution civil conflict between rival tribes and sects, similar to the Libyan situation. They also warn that the weapons could fall into the hands of al Qaida terrorists who support the insurgency.

A more robust alternative exists but has few if any supporters. That would be an international military intervention to train local forces and provide military operational support. Regional states, even if they supported the idea, lack the logistics and capabilities to carry out a serious effort of this type. NATO governments, facing economic stress and war weary electorates, lack the will to participate. The U.S. has the ability to carry out such a mission but Obama lacks the will and leadership skills to convince the American public to support it.

This leaves the so called “diplomatic solution” along with the usual array of slowly escalating economic sanctions, as the probable continuing choice. Economic sanctions, however, are greatly limited without the participation of all important trading partners and potential conduits for clandestine trade. Russia, China and Iran fall into this category. Diplomacy without an incentive to reach an agreement on the part of all parties simply results in interminable discussions. Governments are not likely to negotiate themselves out of existence without the prospect of a similar outcome under far less desirable circumstances. That is not the case in Syria in spite of the fact that the elimination of Iran's only Arab ally and patron of Islamic terrorist groups Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in Gaza, would be of significant benefit to regional stability and thus in the interests of the U.S.

The world, beset by economic crisis and weak governments, is in a period, perhaps permanent, where it can no longer rely on U.S. leadership in terms of international security. The lack of political will, politically mandated diminished military resources, and the need for international support for foreign intervention in the post-Iraq/Afghanistan world, have imposed harsh limits on U.S. capabilities even for humanitarian efforts. A resurgent isolationism in the U.S. is a derivative of these realities and is evident in the steady level of support for libertarian Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul.

The Obama Administration and any subsequent administration, will have to establish more strict priorities, based on direct national interests, for the expenditure of financial, political and military capital in foreign policy initiatives. Liberals won't like it but the U.S. cannot “free Tibet”, single handedly create a Palestinian state or bring democracy or affluence to the world's downtrodden. Conservatives won't like it but the U.S. cannot keep Russia from intimidating former Soviet republics on its border or deter China from expanding its influence in the South China Sea. 
 Kissinger was right.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

SANTORUM: SURGING TOWARDS DEFEAT?


In two short years the political environment has shifted from strong winds at the back of an energized conservative movement to head winds buffeting a fragmented and unfocused Republican presidential primary campaign. The optimism generated by the capture of Republican control of the House of Representatives and an increase in Senate membership in 2010, is rapidly deteriorating. Obama has done little in three years to justify his reelection but his prospects continue to improve. Part of the change is the gradual improvement in some of the economic statistics that affect consumer confidence. The stock market is slowly improving as are employment numbers in terms of job creation and declining claims for unemployment assistance. Housing starts are gradually improving as are existing home sales. These statistics along with the end of U.S. military involvement in Iraq have had a predictable effect on Obama's job approval numbers: 12/6/11: 43.2% - 2/15/12: 48.9%.

Still, both the percent of unemployed and the inventory of unsold existing homes are both high and measures of consumer confidence show declining optimism from late 2011. Also, Obama's job approval is still below 50%. What this seems to indicate is that there should still be a realistic opportunity for a Republican candidate to defeat Obama in November. But the prospects are rapidly diminishing, not totally because of the objective conditions cited above, but by the disgusting deterioration of the Republican nominating struggle.

The contest has from the beginning been one of divided loyalties, with no candidate winning a majority in pre-caucus or primary polls and in only two of the events themselves (Romney in Nevada; Santorum in Missouri). However, as the field was reduced by drop-outs, the competition became more intense as issue positions gave way to personal attacks. Now the debate, eagerly abetted by an irresponsible and sensationalizing media is a festival of irrelevancy: Romney's leadership in the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, his personal wealth and where he invests his money; Gingrich's lobbying, or not, on behalf of the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA) and his three marriages; Santorum's votes for “ear marks” (federal funding for local projects) while he served in Congress; and a blizzard of personal insults. The primary process will eventually produce a candidate but the real winner will be Obama, at least in terms of the national presidential campaign. The “seesaw “ dynamic of up and down leaders and reduced voter participation from the 2008 campaign reflects a general lack of enthusiasm for any candidate and a growing disgust with the “street fight” nature of the campaign.

Each of the remaining candidates has their minority core of devoted supporters. Romney supporters overlook his uninspiring, technocratic, leadership deficient persona, and cling to the belief that he is the most electable. Gingrich's supporters enjoy his combative, anti-everybody who disagrees with him, take no prisoners style and forgive him his off the wall comments like his belief that establishing a moon colony is a viable solution to the nation's ills. Ron Paul's relatively small core of supporters remain loyal to his anti-all government, no foreign policy isolationism positions and cast what are essentially protest votes for a failed candidacy.

So the latest leader is former Pennsylvania congressman and senator, Rick Santorum who has the advantage of being the last “anybody but Romney” candidate. Gingrich could theoretically still rebound out of third place into the lead with a strong showing in the March Super Tuesday primaries but Santorum is enjoying his initial surge while Gingrich needs a more difficult second surge. This promises to make Gingrich's tactics more desperate and thus more negative. The Romney campaign, running out of time and behind in the polls, will have to unleash an expensive negative media campaign against Santorum similar to its successful Florida campaign against Gingrich. Santorum will have to respond in kind to both Gingrich and Romney and the whole nominating effort will continue it's transition into the proverbial “ circular firing squad” while the Obama campaign celebrates.

The diminished discussion of a broad vision for the nation's future, effective public policies, and the attempts to fill the substance vacuum with patriotic bromides, feel good cliches' and negative advertising, has allowed Santorum to achieve front runner status with a “values voter”, social issues campaign.. The social issues, with emphasis on abortion and gay rights, in combination with underlying evangelical prejudice against Romney's Mormon religion and his perceived moderate stance on these issues, worked in religiously conservative Iowa. More recently, it was successful in Missouri and in Colorado where the Republican party is heavily evangelical. Since success breeds more success as the “band wagon” effect, however weak, kicks in, Santorum now leads in polls for upcoming primaries as well as in national preference polls of likely Republican voters.

This is more good news for Obama because Santorum's blatantly fundamentalist appeal to the religious right is not shared by the broader electorate who will decide the presidency, and Santorum's emphasis on these issues has, fairly or unfairly, defined the character of his candidacy. In recent national polls Santorum leads with 34.3% to Romney's 27.7%, Gingrich's 14.5% and Paul's 12.3%. (RCP average: 2/8-2/17). But in head to head polls against Obama among all likely voters, Romney still does better although Obama is ahead: Obama 49.3, Romney 43.2; Obama 50.2, Santorum 41.8; Obama 53.0, Gingrich 39.1. It is interesting that in a contest with a generic Republican, Obama and the unnamed Republican are tied at 43.3%. This indicates that given the right candidate, dissatisfaction with Obama could still produce a Republican victory. However the prospect that Santorum could be that candidate seem exceedingly unlikely given the aforementioned orientation of his campaign.

Some simple facts describe his challenge. Santorum is opposed to abortion at any time in pregnancy for any reason. He has said that woman who becomes pregnant by rape should “make the best out of a bad situation.”

The view that abortion should be generally available or available under stricter limits is supported by 74% of the nation while just 23% agree with Santorum that is should never be permitted (CBS/NYT 1/12-1/17).

Santorum, a devout, traditional Catholic with seven children, is opposed to birth control saying it is a public policy issue and “harmful to women”, and as president he “would talk about the the 'dangers of contraception in this country' “. Essentially he has said that sex outside of a procreative purpose is immoral. While the President has no specific authority with respect to birth control, such a position reflects a 19th century mindset with implications for women's health, career opportunities, and the financial viability of families. In the year 2012 this extremely outdated personal belief is an even more bizarre political position. Acknowledging that he had donned a political suicide vest, Santorum recently partially recanted, saying that: “My position is birth control can and should be available.” But he did not change his position on the appropriateness of its use, and the damage was already done. In fact, birth control in all its procedures, but especially in pill form, is almost universally accepted in the U.S. even among the vast majority of Catholic women.

Why do these positions and the related poll numbers matter? In the 2008 presidential election, 53.7% of votes cast were by women. In the last four presidential elections (1996,2000,2004,2008) a “gender gap” was evident in the outcomes. This is the difference between the percentage of women and the percentage of men who vote for a particular candidate. In each of these presidential elections a higher percentage of women than men voted for the Democratic candidates (7-11%) and in each, the Democrat actually won a majority of women's votes. This voting pattern establishes an electoral reality which Republican candidates must face even without specific gender issues being introduced.

Thus the changed character of the nominating contest away from substantive issues and into personal character assassination has produced a severely wounded Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich and may have produced an unelectable front runner, who ironically is also a fiscal conservative but whose chosen path to the nomination is located far afield from the mainstream electorate.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

SYRIA AND THE CONTINUED IRRELEVANCY OF THE UNITED NATIONS


“A United Nations Security Council effort to end the violence in Syria ended in acrimony and a veto by Russia and China on Saturday, hours after the Syrian military attacked the ravaged city of Homs in what opposition leaders described as the bloodiest government assault in the nearly 11-month-old uprising.”
This press report thus documents the latest example of the long slide of the United Nations organization into international security irrelevancy. The inability of the UN Security Council to pass a watered down resolution which represented nothing more than the collective opinion of the ten nations currently holding the two year rotating seats as well as the five Permanent Members, is reminiscent of the 46 year stalemate during the Cold War years (1945-1991). 

Inspired by the “Arab Spring” revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, the long oppressed citizens of Syria first engaged in peaceful demonstrations which have been harshly repressed by the President Bashar al-Assad's military. As the repression grew in intensity, the protestors gradually sought arms and allies from military sympathizers. The result has been a significant escalation of force by the government and what is likely to emerge as a Libyan style civil war.

While there is near unanimity among regional and Western governments that Assad should step down and be succeeded by a democratically elected government, involvement so far has been limited to the usual “condemnation” of the violent and repressive measures and calls by some foreign leaders for Assad to step down. Unlike in the Libyan conflict, the UN Security Council has not attempted to authorize external assistance for the insurgents. Because of Russian and Chinese opposition and veto threats, the final resolution simply stated the usual diplomatic jargon about “condemning” human rights violations; demands for a cessation by the Syrian government of all such violations; and condemning “all violence . . .including attacks against state institutions . . . “.


The heart of the Resolution and that which Russia and China deemed most objectionable was its declared support for the League of Arab Nations “decision of 22 January, 2012” which called for President Assad to relinquish power to a deputy and start negotiations with opponents within two weeks. The proposal also called for a government of national unity to be formed within two months, followed by presidential and parliamentary elections. 

It should be noted that the Resolution specifically states that Article 41 of the UN Charter is not applicable. This is important because under Article 41 which is part of Chapter VII of the Charter, the Security Council may adopt coercive measures short of military engagement such as economic sanctions which are obligatory on UN members. Thus the Security Council Resolution was specifically weak in an effort to placate the Russian and Chinese governments and offered in essence nothing more than a “sense of the Council” which, in the face of Syrian intransigence, was unlikely to have any affect other than diplomatic window dressing. Nonetheless the resolution was too strong for the Russians and Chinese. 

The UN has proved equally ineffectual in the other major Middle East crisis, that of Iran's potential development of nuclear weapons. Iran is a signatory to the UN sponsored Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which prohibits them from seeking nuclear weapons and which is enforced by the UN affiliated International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Concern over Iran's nuclear research and development program dates from 2002 when two undisclosed nuclear facilities became known. After years of demands for cooperation including requests for information and access for inspectors, the IAEA, using the information in their possession, came to the conclusion that Iran was indeed engaged in a research and development program for nuclear weapons.

In July, 2006 the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1696 which demanded that Iran suspend all enrichment and reprocessing activities but did not invoke Chapter VII or impose economic sanctions. Since then, the UNSC has passed five additional resolutions, the latest being in June, 2010. These resolutions impose narrowly targeted economic sanctions related to the importation of nuclear related materials and the freezing of assets of individuals and companies related to the program. Resolutions on trade related to ballistic missile production and commercial banking activities related to the nuclear program were also targeted. 


The inescapable conclusion is that these narrowly targeted and incremental sanctions have allowed Iran time to adapt to each and wasted five and a half years while the nuclear weapons program went forward.This is reflective of three characteristics of interstate relations at broadly based institutions like the UN.

First is a built in preference by professional diplomats for gradual increases of pressure. They believe that “diplomacy” i.e. “negotiations” are the preferred method for the settlement of differences. But diplomacy is a process, not a goal. Parties to negotiation must have some common goals and there must be an understood end game to the failure of the process. That end game in the case of Iran and the UN would be harsh, broadly targeted economic sanctions. Iran never believed that would be the case and adopted a tactic of delays and insubstantial “talks” while they went forward with their nuclear program.


Second, economic sanctions have a poor record of effectiveness, especially over the short term, which is partially due to the insistence of diplomats on their incremental escalation and partly due to lack of enforcement against states who defy the sanctions and continue trade with the target nation.
The narrowly targeted nature of sanctions is the result of the claim among more liberal policy makers that sanctions unfairly impact the “innocent” populations of recalcitrant governments while the political leadership have the means to avoid their effect. While there is some truth to this claim in the short term, it is a mistaken belief that the general population and the political leadership of a country can be completely separated into two independent entities. The Iranian government has plenty of supporters in the general population. Disruption of the economy does have an impact on elites, and popular dissatisfaction over the medium to long term creates serious problems for governments even in authoritarian systems.

Third and most important however in policy making forums involving large numbers of international participants, is the frequency of contradictory national interests. This is readily apparent in the case of the failure of the Syrian resolution. Russia is Syria's largest provider of military equipment and maintains a Russian naval base at Tartus, Syria, which has recently been scheduled for expansion. This base provides ready access to the Mediterranean Sea and year round naval access to the Atlantic Ocean. China, as the world's largest authoritarian regime, although having minimal economic or security relationships with Syria, is wary of internationally sponsored or supported democratic movements and does not want to legitimize such a movement with s UNSC resolution.


Thus, in the current cases, as in a long history of reluctance or failure to come to grips with international crises, the UN is over emphasized as an essential forum with which to seek solutions. Previous failures occurred in the Rwandan genocide in 1994, the Bosnian conflict 1992-95 which ended only after a NATO air campaign in 1995, and the Afghan War which was launched by the U.S. and UK prior to UNSC authorization and transitioned to a NATO campaign with the U.S. providing 68% of the troops and only seven members including the U.S. providing 89% of the troops. Even UNSC Resolution 1973 authorizing a “no fly zone” to protect civilians during the Libyan revolt had five abstentions (India, Germany, Brazil, Russia, China) and was later criticized by some states even though it too was a NATO operation. 


The reality is clear. United Nations authorization to deal with major threats to international security or human rights crises should only be sought when it is abundantly clear that a consensus in the Security Council exists. When a single nation or distinct minority on the Council seeks to block an international response, regional organizations whose members interests are most involved should proceed independently.

This has finally been the case in the Iranian stand-off. With the threat of an air attack on Iran's nuclear facilities by Israel a distinct possibility, the U.S. and the European Union have finally begun the imposition of significant economic sanctions in a last ditch effort to avoid military conflict and the huge risks for a wider conflict that such an event entails. These sanctions, which include a boycott of Iranian oil exports, while still not as comprehensive as they should be, are a clear indication of the failure of the UN. 

A regime change and even a quasi-democratic government in Syria would be a major blow to Iran's regional aspirations. Syria is Iran's only Arab ally, except for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, which are both armed militias not state governments. A tough response by the West and the League of Arab Nations including economic sanctions and material support for the Syrian insurgents would bring a permanent end to Assad's violence against the Syrian people, rid the region of another dictator, and reduce Iran's influence in one of the most unstable and dangerous regions in the world. Waiting for the UN to act in any meaningful way is an exercise in futility.



Wednesday, February 1, 2012

MITT, NEWT AND THE REPUBLICAN ESTABLISHMENT





Does the U.S. really have a multiparty system? The nasty fight for the Republican nomination has exposed divisions which represent three distinct, and in the minds of some, mutually exclusive, factions. These would be “values voters” represented by Christian evangelicals; “true conservatives” represented by the Tea Party; and “the Republican establishment” represented by elected officials, past and present, the “conservative media” and business interests. 

It is further postulated by the far right that the “establishment” dominates the electoral process. Thus, in the context of the current primary contest, important questions arise: “Is this characterization correct?”. If so, is Mitt Romney the “hand-picked candidate”, of the “establishment”? If that is so, does it ensure that Romney, wins the nomination?”; and if Romney is the nominee, will that alienate the other factions to the point that it guarantees President Obama's reelection ?

This whole argument is made in some detail by Steve McCann in the conservative on-line journal the "American Thinker", and can serve as a useful basis for analysis. First, the notion of a semi-conspiratorial establishment a.k.a. “elite moneyed interests”, manipulating the nominating process is not just a product of McCann's imagination alone. It is not uncommon for candidates running behind to complain that it is not their personal attributes or policy positions that have them behind, but the machinations of an ill defined and sinister dark force. Thus New Gingrich has charged throughout the campaign that the “true conservative believers” would not let the “establishment” and its money force the “moderate Mitt Romney” on them. 
 
McCann asserts, somewhat illogically, that “ the “Republican Establishment is doing all they can to alienate the vast majority of the the current base of the Party.” This of course contradicts his claim that the establishment's sole purpose is to gain control of the “nation's purse-strings”. Of course, all public policy is dependent on funding and the budget priorities set by the parties in power. McCann's description so far, describes all political factions including his own Tea Party, whose fundamental motive is control of the federal budget. McCann however, expands his definition of the Establishment to include: “many current and nearly all retired national office holders”; “the majority of the conservative media”; “numerous think-tanks; and “deep pocket political contributors and political consultants”. 
 
These groups and individuals certainly exist both in the Republican Party and the Democrat Party, but it is a stretch to make the case that such a vast and diverse group, has a single mind and works together for the benefit of a single pre-selected candidate. All of the original seven Republican candidates had their professional consultants, “deep pocket” contributors, and supporters in the media, without which a candidacy isn't possible. 
 
McCann says that Ronald Reagan was an exception to his theory, as was the Republican controlled House from 1995 to 1999. Why Reagan would be an exception is not explained. In the 1980 election in which Reagan was the nominee and went on to become President, there were several “establishment” qualified candidates, the most prominent being Senator Bob Dole who was the Vice Presidential nominee in 1976, Senate Majority Leader twice, and later, the Republican nominee for President in 1996. Are we to believe that Reagan defeated Dole and won the nomination and the presidency twice without political consultants, deep pocket contributors, and all the rest? Essentially, the unorganized groups which McCann and Gingrich define as the “establishment” observe the early dynamics of the nominating process and coalesce around the candidate that seems most electable in the general election.

McCann's other exception to his theory, the Republican House from 1995 to 1999 just by “coincidence” represents the years that his preferred candidate, Newt Gingrich was Speaker of the House. In fact, Gingrich fits all the criteria for an establishment candidate himself. He is the quintessential Washington insider: Representative from Georgia for twenty years (1979-99); Speaker of the House (1995-99); political consultant and quasi-lobbyist (1999-present); founder and chairman of several policy think-tanks. But McCann and Gingrich think that the Republican establishment prefers Mitt Romney, a one term governor of Massachusetts, and successful business man on the theory that somehow he would be of more benefit to them than Gingrich. Interestingly, Romney was apparently not the establishment's choice for the nomination in 2008 when he was soundly defeated by John McCain. How he managed to join the club is not explained by McCann. 
 
McCann's conspiracy theory of how Romney has achieved front runner status actually becomes amusing.  He says: “There are six primary methods of eliminating potential challengers with the tacit cooperation of the mainstream media, and they have been in full display this primary season. They are to portray unacceptable candidates as:  
  • hypocrites in sexual matters (Herman Cain); or
  • unstable (Michelle Bachmann); or
  • ignorant and incoherent (Rick Perry); or
  • a religious fanatic (Rick Santorum); or
  • just plain weird and from another planet (Ron Paul); or dangerous and unelectable (Newt Gingrich). “
Actually, Cain was “portrayed” as unacceptable in sexual matters not by big donors and Republican politicians but by individual grudge holding women who he allegedly harassed years before. Michelle Bachmann wasn't portrayed as unstable. Instead she portrayed herself as an undereducated, idea challenged, nincompoop who believed her best, and oft repeated, qualification for the presidency was raising a dormitory sized collection of kids. Was Rick Perry unfairly depicted by the Republican establishment as “ignorant and incoherent”? If so, he was in on the project himself, and only after being given millions of dollars by those same “deep pocket” establishment donors. Rick Santorum has done pretty good without a lot of money, but only in states with large evangelical populations. A “religious fanatic”? Rejecting evolution, birth control, and talking constantly about abortion and gay marriage was his adopted election strategy. No help from pundits, think-tanks and politicians was needed. Then there's Ron Paul who wants to dismantle the cabinet, do away with the independence of the nation's central bank and make it a political tool for whatever majority controls Congress, and essentially stop having a foreign policy. “Weird”? Well, at least unusual, and not likely to win the support of the the non-survivalist crowd. The best McCann example and one that comes closest to the truth and thus the easiest to justify: “Sarah Palin would have been placed in all of those boxes had she decided to run . . .”. ; which says more about Palin than the establishment.

The whole “Republican establishment” conspiracy theory is fundamentally based on the view that Republican voters are simple minded puppets who evil doers such as George H.W. Bush, New Jersey Governor Chris Christy, Senator John McCain, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who have all endorsed Romney, can “maneuver. . . into choosing the previously anointed Mitt Romney”. But Republican voters, like the Republican establishment, want most to defeat President Obama and while such things as likeability, intelligence, presidential demeanor, experience and character, are important factors in voter preference, these become part of the electability equation. Gingrich has his true believers who give him high marks in some of these traits, and Romney has his. Both their supporters and those of the other candidates, while susceptible to the influence of campaign advertising, have plenty of other input from the plethora of personal campaign events and the seeming endless debates on which to form their own opinions.

So will the Republican voters in the non-establishment and so called “anyone but Romney” crowd abandon their support of the party if the candidate is indeed Mitt Romney? McCann thinks so: “The public now sees the length to which the Establishment will go to make certain their hand-picked candidate is chosen regardless of the dire circumstances facing the nation. A number of them (how many is anyone's guess right now) will no longer be willing to support those factions within the Establishment and the Party or to believe what they are told. “

The nominating process has a long way to go but now, after losing in Iowa and South Carolina but winning in Florida, Romney has momentum, money and endorsements. The reason is a plurality of “the public” who McCann feels has now awakened to the “manipulation” and “unfair tactics of the establishment” have not dropped out at all and have simply chosen electability over anger and quirkiness.