I’m planning a trip this summer to Japan, a country about which I know nothing. Actually that’s an overstatement. I know some things: it’s beautiful, historic, and clean (I love that part), and comes complete with great food and well-mannered people. But that’s all I know.
I don’t have this tabula rasa problem when I go to Europe. Whether England, Germany, France, Belgium, or Italy, I have in my head enough information about the country to be a little picky. It helps, too, that Rick Steves has published a series of European travel guides. He’s not shy about being opinionated. Indeed, that’s why people turn to him. They have faith that they can trust his judgment so that, if he says a city is good and requires at least three days time, they can immediately book a hotel (one he recommends, of course) for two nights. Likewise, if he says “don’t bother with such and such,” his readers know that Rick saved them time and money on a short, expensive trip.
So far, I haven’t found a Rick Steves for Japan. All the travel books make everything sound wonderful, without any rankings or priorities. And I’m sure that, if I had unlimited time and money, I would enjoy traveling to every town, shrine and museum Japan offers. But that’s not the reality of vacation travel, and I’m currently overwhelmed by the choices. Yikes!
My Japan conundrum isn’t unique. In a world awash in information, there is no way one person can master all the data necessary to make important life decisions. Inevitably, in various areas such as education, travel, politics, finances, etc., we select experts whom we trust and assume that, when they state an ultimate conclusion about their subject, we can rely on that conclusion. This works both ways, of course. Since I’ve long thought AlBore to be a rather foolish man with enough feral instincts to be a successful snake oil salesman, I have never believed in global warming. Likewise, a friend of mine refuses to accept the rising tide of evidence against global warming, because it’s been published in “Republican” and “conservative” outlets such as the Wall Street Journal and the Daily Mail. The fact that AlBore’s theories are based on computer models while the evidence against global warming is based upon actual data disturbs him not a whit. He’s found his reliable sources, and he’s sticking with them.
Right now, my reliance upon political experts is creating a dilemma for me, because my “experts” are turning on each other. Before the primaries, they were all united in their profound dislike for Barack Obama. Now, though, the circular firing squad isn’t limited just to the Republican candidates themselves. The shoot-outs are taking place at every major conservative website, not to mention many of my favorite blogs. Just check out PJ Media’s front page at any given minute to see astute political commentators, all of whom I respect, battering away at each other and the candidates.
To some commentators, Mitt is a RINO’s RINO, who flops, then flips, while Newt is the fiery voice of conservative truth who can reclaim America. To others, Newt is an unprincipled loose cannon, while Mitt is a steady, conservative politician whose problem-solving skills make him the only one who can defeat Obama. Still others see both Mitt and Newt as RINOs (one of whom has a backbone of noodle, while the other has the ethics of an alley cat), while Rick Santorum is the only true conservative in the house — never mind the fact, say entirely different pundits, that Rick’s conservative stances on social issues assure that he’ll lose to Obama.
I find all of the above viewpoints both interesting and credible. Newt is an exciting speaker who articulates core truths about America, the economy, and national security that too many Americans, intimated by the PC police, have been stifling for years. His fund of knowledge is impressive and enjoyable. And of course, he’s the man whose insider skills in the 1990s forced the entire political system slightly to the right. On the other side of the scale, he’s a man who has cheated on at least two wives (and I really don’t want to find out if he’s been cheating on a third), he’s known to be a terrible manager, his relationship to truth can be distant at best, he’s erratic, he too often sees Big Government as the vehicle for his own eclectic brilliance, and so on and so forth.
Then there’s Mitt. We all know and appreciate the Good Mitt. This is the Mitt who understands the market; the Mitt who has impressive organizational abilities; the Mitt who has proven to be an adept, albeit unexciting candidate; the Mitt who makes the Republican establishment feel loved; and the Mitt who, we are told, can entice the independents whom Newt frightens. But all is not wonderful in Mitt land. There’s also the Less Good Mitt, the unrepentant architect of RomneyCare; the man who, when he isn’t flipping, is flopping; the man whose Mormonism worries those who believe he is committing a profound doctrinal error that reflects on his judgment and intelligence; and, which might be the worst thing of all in a hyper-media age, the man who has the charm and warmth of a first generation android.
And what about Rick? My God, the man is a Boy Scout, and I mean that in a good way. He’s honest, loyal, decent, moral, and truly conservative. He’s definitely what we conservatives want. Except for that little problem he has of fading into the woodwork, not to mention the fact that, with the nation trending further and further left on social issues, there’s the strong likelihood, say many, that he’ll be the poison pill candidate for independent voters.
Darn those independent voters! They’re the real problem, because all three conservative candidate (and, yes, I am ignoring Ron Paul entirely) could easily win against Obama if we could automatically co-opt independents into conservativism. We can’t, though, which paralyzes the Republican primary. While the independents seem to dislike Obama with ever greater intensity, the mainstream media has trained them, like tens of thousands of Pavlovian dogs, to be very hostile to certain stand-out traits in the last three Republicans standing: Newt is the evil architect of the Contract with America; Mitt is the evil Mormon; and Rick is the evil Christian who will imprison all your gay friends and relatives. Evil! Evil! Evil!
The worst thing of all, though, considering all the alleged evil the MSM keeps highlighting, is the fact that America’s premier conservative commentators aren’t doing anything to help. Rather than building up their candidate of choice, they too are just as busy as the MSM, and the candidates themselves, in the savagery of their attacks against the candidates they don’t like.
It’s worth remembering that Newt rose to prominence during the debates because, in the beginning, he kept a laser-like focus on Obama. He pointed out Obama’s myriad, manifest flaws and failings, and articulated ideas that promised to help America recover from her experiment with a true Leftist in the White House. His numbers rose. When Romney went negative, though, so did Newt — and so did everyone else. In the last couple of months, the flesh-ripping on the debate stage is sickening, and the political commentators, rather than stepping in to help focus the voters on their chosen candidate’s attributes, are standing at the base of the stage drinking up the flowing blood.
THIS IS NOT HELPFUL. If you’re going to have an opinion, advance useful information that helps affirmative decision-making and that helps staunch the sanguinary stream we’re currently giving as a gift to the MSM. Yes, it’s good for the candidates to get groomed to fight the dirty fight, because it’s going to be very dirty indeed when they stand on a stage opposite Barack Obama. I think, though, that we can comfortably conclude that the current batch has the grit to take the hits. It’s time now to give the voters the help they need to choose the best candidate, rather than just to avoid the worst.