If you asked undecideds who among the current crop of Republican candidates they prefer to carry the GOP standard into the 2008 presidential election one heck of a lot of them would say "None of the above."
The dissatisfaction with the candidates they are being offered currently is widespread — a conclusion that has now led Ambassador Alan Keyes to toss his hat in the ring in the hope of offering an alternative to the present choices.
The problem that great horde of undecideds have in making up their minds about who they want to be their standard bearer lies, I believe, both in their inability to accept the pledges of the candidates that they really mean what they say about the key conservative issues, and, if elected, their willingness to stick to their guns.
Another sticking point is the popular perception, nourished by the media, that there are two tiers of candidates: those who are "credible" candidates the media views as capable of winning the nomination — the so-called front-runners — and those who the media elites declare unelectable.
Lately we have seen Sen. John McCain drop from the top of the first tier to the second, and now, seemingly has climbed back among the front-runners (how a candidate can be deemed a front-runner when not a single vote has been cast has always been a mystery to me).
This construction becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Voters, convinced that only the ordained front-runners have a chance, find their choices limited to the front-runners and dutifully pick and choose from among their number. The second tier of candidates are thus automatically eliminated from the contest.
This is a lousy way to choose the candidate you want running America for the next four years. Among that second tier are men of probity and competence who stand head and shoulders above the top tier yet are ruled out of the competition by what is an exercise in false logic.
If the primary system relied on the common sense of both the candidates and the voters, the various candidates' stands on the main issues and their consistency in defending their positions would be the determining factor in who would get the nod. Despite Ralph Waldo Emerson's dicta that "Consistency is the bugaboo of small minds," the ability to stick to one's guns in defense of one's principles is one of a man's most potent weapons in his arsenal of personal integrity.
There are political issues that are elastic and capable of being stretched as the occasion demands — a candidate may be firmly committed to opposing taxes for example, but willing to accept tax hikes when there is no alternative — but there are also moral issues where a man never can bend to the winds of expediency.
It is in that second category where a voter can look to see exactly of what kind of steel a candidate is made. To my mind abortion fits in that category and I'll use it as an example of what I mean.
Human life stands at the pinnacle of all of the human rights a God-fearing society is required to preserve and protect. Without that guarantee no other rights are possible. Medical science is unanimous in recognizing that human life begins at the moment of conception - the creature in the womb is one of us from that moment forward. No one, not the unborn child's mother nor government dictat nor one of Planned Parenthood's hired assassins has the right to do away with that human being.
As I said, that's the most basic of rights; it's also the most basic of issues. If a candidate's morality is of such low order that he or she cannot recognize the truth of the above, and has never been firm in the conviction that killing the unborn is just plain murder, he or she cannot be trusted on any other issue. If human life is expendable, so is every other human right.
Consistency on this issue is the key to unlocking a candidate's character. It's not an issue where a candidate has the option of changing his mind. If he ever denied the right to life, he displayed a deep flaw in his character that should eliminate him from further consideration.
Consistency in other key issues is also important. It is said that the "past is prologue" — in other words, what you had, is what you'll get.
If this primary campaign is to make any sense at all, GOP voters will have to look at the entire slate of candidates and not simply eliminate those not considered by the media elite to be among the front-runners. There are good men, very good men, held captive by the media down there in the also-ran pit.
Tragically, even some of the most sophisticated and experienced observers in the Republican Party are buying into the idea that the party must choose from among the front-runners when in their heart of hearts they know the best man is considered an also-ran. For example I keep running into knowledgeable Republicans who tell me that the candidate who would make the best president in the race today is Rep. Duncan Hunter. They hasten to say, however, that he can't win.
Of course he can't win if the very people who recognize what they see as his superiority dismiss his chances out of hand.
As I said, this is one lousy way to pick a presidential candidate. We deserve what we get.
Phil Brennan is a veteran journalist and WWII Marine who writes for NewsMax.com. He is editor and publisher of Wednesday on the Web (http://www.pvbr.com) and was Washington columnist for National Review magazine in the 1960s. He also served as a staff aide for the House Republican Policy Committee and helped handle the Washington public relations operation for the Alaska Statehood Committee which won statehood for Alaska.
He is also a trustee of the Lincoln Heritage Institute and a member of the Association For Intelligence Officers.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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