Republicans are taking a certain amount of glee in watching the Democrats’ ethical contortions as they try to back Hillary Clinton without accepting her self-dealing as business as usual. But Republicans have their own problem: They tolerate far too many crackpots.
Dr. Ben Carson joins Mike Huckabee in refusing to accept that Supreme Court decisions, on gay marriage for example, are binding. Pressed by Chris Wallace, Carson insisted that Marbury v. Madison and more than 200 years of history have not settled the issue. “It is an open question. It needs to be discussed.” Actually, it’s not open, and him taking this seriously should disqualify him from office since he is telling us up front he won’t be bound by court decisions, something not even President Obama has done.
Huckabee has said much the same thing. And to boot he’s hawked “nutritional supplements” as a cure to diabetes. He insisted on Sunday, “One of the elements of the plan was dietary supplements, but it is not the fundamental thing.” (Then why encourage people to buy them?) He declared, “I don’t have to defend everything that I’ve ever done.” So he’s both a constitutional and dietary charlatan. Either one should disqualify him.
Then there is Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who cynically chooses to pander to the conspiracy-mongers who turning a military exercise primarily in Texas into a secret plan to impose martial law. Cruz has taken their nonsense as legitimate and made inquiries at the Pentagon. Rich Lowry hit the nail on the head on ABC, calling this “pandering to a vocal minority.” He continued, “I’m all in favor of a healthy distrust of the government but not paranoia. There are many threats to our liberty. The U.S. military isn’t one of them. And besides, federal control of Texas is something that was pretty much established in the mid-19th century by President Polk. So, the idea that the federal government is going to go in and retake over Texas is just nonsense.” (You’ll recall that former Texas governor Rick Perry stood up to tell the conspiracy nuts to knock it off.)
In less obvious ways, some presidential hopefuls also play on the ignorance and fear of the public. How many times has Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) falsely suggested the National Security Agency is listening to the content of millions of phone calls? Before reversing himself, he also gave support to the anti-vaccine hooey. At what point do voters say, you know, that’s not the mindset or character of someone who we’d want as president?
Anyone can run for president, but pundits and voters don’t have to indulge loony conspiracy theories or consider candidates who don’t accept the basic premise of our constitutional government. Responsible conservatives should follow Lowry’s lead — name and shame — lest the GOP be seen as a haven for the unhinged. It is only when they are repeatedly and consistently called out that pols will stop fanning the flames of paranoia and ignorance. On one level it is amusing, but it is also a sign that social media have made it increasingly easy for charlatans and con men to gain an audience. And worse, it also debases our political culture, hampers serious debate and further erodes self-governance itself.