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The state of our presidential politics

I tuned in for no more than one minute of the Republican presidential debate this Tuesday, before turning it off in disgust. The bickering and infighting had reached the level of a circular firing squad. Enough.

I’m going to make some rather plain statements here, for better or worse.

First, the infighting began many weeks ago when Bachmann’s main man, Ed Rollins, began a low-blow attack on Bachmann’s fellow Minnesotan Tim Pawlenty. I predicted that if she did not disavow Rollins’ attack, she would pay a steep price. She didn’t,  kept up the negative campaigning, and has disqualified herself.

There is a time for going negative. It is not in the primary season, especially when defeating Obama is so important. Doing it now smacks of desperation and selfish ambition. This is a time for clear articulation of vision.

Perry’s entrance to the race was met with great anticipation. Unfortunately, he has been incoherent on principle and simply horrendous in debate. The electorate is not going to put another inarticulate Texan in office, period. He had a golden opportunity, but seems not to have prepared himself adequately.

For a while, Romney was the only one to be, in the words of Jake Tapper, running a general election campaign. He kept his eyes on the issues and on defeating Obama, and doing so increasingly made him look presidential. But now even his practiced unflappability has worn thin, and he is going on the attack. That one minute of the debate I tuned into on Tuesday happened to be an intense argument between him and Perry. It’s doubtful that either survived it in the eyes of independents looking in.

And then there is Herman Cain, the currently rising star. I like Cain. He’s generally on the right side of things, and has kept himself above the fray. I want someone in office who understands business. Unfortunately, however, Cain is not up to the demands of the presidency. He has made several statements that he quickly walked back on, to the point of either rank hypocrisy or incoherence, or both. He seems to approach things with a businessman’s practicality, which is good, but without much depth of principle, thinking or articulation, which is not. He would not survive a campaign against Obama.

That leaves one man standing. To my own surprise, and not terribly happily so, I am increasingly thinking that the one person who has held himself above the mud-wrestling, who has consistently projected an articulate positive vision, and who is capable of going head-to-head against Obama, is Newt Gingrich. I’m not happy about that because I am well aware of the political baggage he carries – regarding global warming, ethanol subsidies, blinking during the government shutdown crisis under Clinton, etc. – not to mention his personal baggage, which no doubt would hurt his chances as well. I believe Gingrich would cut Obama to ribbons in any debate format, but the format Gingrich is proposing – six unmoderated three-hour head-to-heads, with only a timekeeper – would be historic. In my view, this is a tremendous idea befitting the critical issues we face.

And so it comes down to imperfect choices. There is no guarantee that once in office, Gingrich wouldn’t compromise himself yet again, or flinch at a critical point in the face of battle. Yet he seems to be the only hope of restoring this nation at this point.

All this leads me to the scripture that warns us not to place our trust in princes, or in the sons of men. Ultimately, my trust is in the Lord alone – not man, not nations. I’ve seen that our politics, and all our institutions for that matter, are corrupt to the core. Our future, and the future of the whole world, is in the Lord’s very capable hands. Yet still, common sense dictates that, beyond praying, we should do what we can in the human realm to preserve the good that remains.

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