Commentary: Is GOP's 2012 game plan to cause a recession?

Pity the poor political pundits. They have to make a living regardless of whether or not there is anything worth opining about. With a 24/7 news cycle to fill that requires some creative writing. And that is why there is often so much ado about so little.

Take the recent debate between some of those who aspire to be the Republican nominee for president in 2012. It was meaningless and not because there seemed to be no real winner nor any substance to the chatter. It was meaningless for two other reasons — who the nominee is won't affect the outcome of the election and who that nominee is won't be determined by a debate.

The actual nominee is unimportant because if the economy is on the upswing with some reason for optimism, Obama will be reelected. If it is not, he won’t. That is why Republicans are so desperate to cause a new recession.

It is not that they all flunked Economics 101. Nor is it that the same people, who said nothing as Reagan tripled the national debt and George Jr. doubled it, have suddenly gotten religion when it comes to the deficit. It is why they are playing chicken with the credit rating of the U.S. Government as they drag their feet on raising the debt ceiling. And it is why they refuse to confirm the President’s choices for a number of key economic policy decision-making positions.

Since it is the economy stupid, a debate also won’t matter. It won’t matter because party activists are the ones who chose the nominee and they represent its most extreme tendencies.

For that reason, Herman Cain will not get the nod.

Even before Obama, over 90 percent of African Americans voted Democratic for a reason. The anti-immigrant hysteria that is a staple of Republican debate has nothing to do with national security. It is because the party has written off the Hispanic vote in order to energize the white, male, southern base and the Tea Party crowd. The latter are a mob masquerading as a movement that is funded by billionaires and fueled by the conviction that any black man in the White House should be wearing gloves and carrying a silver tray.

Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin will also not be the nominee. The party that believes government should do next to nothing, but must make fundamental decisions for women about their reproductive health likes its women sassy, sexy and simple minded. That is why prominent conservative females, in politics or the media, are known for their looks and their bile, but not for their brains.

They are as factually challenged as they are glib because an intelligent woman would be too threatening. Sure, John McCain chose Palin as his running mate, but all that did was doom his campaign, make Tina Fey famous and prove his judgment is no better now than it was when he flew a perfectly good airplane into the Gulf of Mexico as a young pilot. So even conservatives are not going to make anyone who is Palinesque the most powerful person in the world.

Others who will not be the nominee are Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney. They are both too reasonable. The former accepted being named ambassador to China by Obama and latter actually did something about reforming health care. They are also both Mormons, which won’t get evangelical Christians, another core Republican constituency, to the polls.

Newt Gingrich is too much of a serial marriage killer for the family values party and Ron Paul makes sense only about 40 percent of the time. Gary Johnson wants to legalize pot and Rick Santorum could not even hang on to his senatorial seat in Pennsylvania. And Tim Pawlenty has earned his obscurity.

So who will it be? While it is easier to say who it won’t be than who it will, it still doesn’t matter. What matters is whether the party can bring about another recession, better yet a depression, and succeed in pinning the blame on the Democrats. That is the key to the Republicans’ political success in 2012.


Dennis Jett, a former U.S. ambassador to Mozambique and Peru, is a professor of international affairs at Penn State's School of International Affairs.

McClatchy Newspapers did not subsidize the writing of this column; the opinions are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of McClatchy Newspapers or its editors.