The Republican presidential candidates have served comedians a full platter of laughs this year — a steady diet of gaffes, misstatements, puzzled looks and long, awkward pauses...The Times doesn't really say what the real issue is here, which is something I addressed a bit in my last post. The paper mentions Obama's "57 states" misstatement -- more on that in a moment -- but these mistakes are qualitatively different from that one. Recent Republican gaffes have generally called into question just how knowledgeable or intelligent the candidates actually are. They're not always just verbal missteps. On some level, they speak to the basically fraudulent nature of the most visible manifestation of GOP policy thinking, and expose the degree to which any GOP president would be essentially an empty suit implementing the policy initiatives of his political backers. After eight years of Bush handing out sops to special interests while exhibiting no policy vision of his own, the current GOP candidates are doing absolutely nothing to combat the political stereotype of the Patronage Republican.
[T]he embarrassing moments are piling up, and some veteran Republicans are beginning to wonder whether the cumulative effect weakens the party brand, especially in foreign policy and national security, where Republicans have typically dominated Democrats.
“It is an ‘Animal House.’ It’s a food fight,” said Kenneth Duberstein, a chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan. “Honestly, the Republican debates have become a reality show. People have to be perceived as being capable of governing this country, of being the leader of the free world.”
Anyway, the Prospect's writers resist temptation to pile on the snark, but, well, they're better than me. The GOP is worried that public exposure to its leading politicians will sour the public on the whole party? This is a ludicrous problem for a major political party to be having! Maybe the GOP should stop worrying whether its presidential candidates can survive another fourteen debates without severely damaging the rest "the party brand," and worry a little bit more about whether we can survive four years of one of these clowns without severely damaging the United States. Let's make a rule: if you don't support someone standing in front of a television camera for a few debates, you're not allowed to support that person's presidential bid either.
And about that "57 states" thing: it's striking how quickly Republican message makers have managed to install Obama's years-old misstatement as the default comparison for GOP gaffes. The comparison clearly favors Republicans: Obama's mistake was obviously a verbal slip, and no one would seriously try to argue that the man was unaware how many states make up the Union. Putting his error side-by-side with Rick Perry's and Herman Cain's suggests that they, too, were mistakes primarily born of inattention and fatigue. But come on -- is it really that implausible that Herman Cain doesn't know the first thing about Libya? That Rick Perry isn't particularly familiar with the structure of the federal government?