Backhand compliment

My standards for politicians are low. This has finally naught to do with my general objections to “democracy.” My standards for courtiers are low, too; and I’ve found most kings and even some queens disappointing — while allowing that someone must rule. My experience of life is that human beings make a hash of most things they touch, and my belief is that if it weren’t for Divine Grace, our whole race would have extinguished itself, long ago.

Only against this background can I say how impressed I have been with the evaporating field of candidates for the Republican presidential nomination. Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve watched some of the televised “debates” (which I’d rather call “vaudevilles”), and have some idea from where most of the candidates are coming. Donald Trump is an exception: the man who received more than half of nationwide media attention for more than six months, got one-quarter of the Iowa caucus vote, which was I thought at least twenty-five times what he had earned. I only hope U.S. Americans are now half as tired of this coarse, malevolent buffoon as I am.

But by my standards, the rest of the field (including candidates now dropped out) are impressive. I do not remember a previous nomination campaign in which as many as a dozen candidates were each worth considering. The contrast with the Democratic Party race, which could be caricatured as the Witch versus the Commie, is staggering: two candidates whom no fully sane and intelligent person would dream of keeping in public life.

With Trump happily absent from the last vaudeville, the strength of the field became more apparent. Except Trump, I could not see a single candidate who would offer nothing of value to a national executive. Even such an inexperienced candidate as Carson, for instance, would be in his element at, say, Health and Human Services, if only for the task of dismantling it in a wise, merciful, and orderly way; Fiorina might, ditto, competently close down the Department of Education, or drain some other unnecessary bureaucratic quagmire. Governors Bush, Christie, Huckabee, Jindal, Kasich, Perry, Walker, all struck me as serious and accomplished men, with real experience of the issues on which they touched; Graham, Paul, Santorum, as principled, thoughtful, and determined. Cruz and Rubio are sterling — though again remembering my modest expectations. I never expect gold.

Lord Grenville’s “ministry of all the talents” (1806) came to mind. Although the term could be used facetiously (and was), it did succeed in e.g. formally abolishing the slave trade, and some other ambitious but achievable tasks, before disintegrating, as a consequence of having crossed too many party or factional lines. Churchill’s wartime cabinet had something of the same qualities, and held together until the end of the Second World War while British independence was at stake.

For the very reason the Democrats now offer only a constantly expanding moral, intellectual, and fiscal black hole, there would be some prospect of holding a contrary administration together, for perhaps one full term; long enough to reverse a few trends. Paradoxically Cruz, who is not a “team player,” but commands both horse-sense and logical capacity, might make the best choreographer; Rubio might prove (like Grenville) too cautious and accommodating, at a time when major decisions must be made and not retreated from, to avoid a form of national collapse.

The fact a man (or woman) wants to be president should disqualify him, of course; but as there is no prospect of return to the original Electoral College, envisioned by the American Founding Fathers, the responsibility to eliminate quacks, demagogues, criminals, careerists, the unteachably stupid, and the insane, falls on the public at large. As those Founders realized, “the people” would make an extremely unreliable “safety net,” for the preservation of their own liberties. Men of some character and understanding would be indispensable.

Oddly enough, the USA does seem to have some. Could they be raised to a view above personal ambition, and put to work as a phalanx? Probably not, but the idea is intriguing.