Listening to an old British public radio show on the Hippocratic oath this morning, I reflected a bit on how people have a tendency to lose a staring contest with a problem. That is to say that we often panic a little when problems get so close that they stare us right in the face, and as a result we do something stupid that makes things worse. For me the type specimen of this is what I called the neoconservative fallacy of foreign policy, a form of false dichotomy in which the existence of an urgent problem (Saddam is a BAD PERSON) automatically compels you to support whatever insane plan Bill Kristol thought up last night.
Doing nothing is almost never the sole alternative to doing something stupid. Even on rare occasions when it is, a smart physician lets a stone run its painful course rather than cut into the kidney and kill a patient. Nonetheless and despite the obvious stupidity of open-kidney surgery in the BC era, kidney stones are uniquely painful and thus create an almost incomparable need for relief. It may be this insatiable demand for enterprising quacks that inspired Hippocrates to create a medical oath that specifically forbids a number of ill-advised interventions, including thou shalt not cut for stone.
They don’t make political consultants take oaths. This could either be because political science lags somewhat behind Christian Science and predicting the Oscars by divining chicken guts as respectable fields in which one can correctly guess the actual results of a given action, or perhaps because as a rule political consultants are scum-sucking weasels that I would not trust with my pet rock. However, if they did, and if the oath resembled the one that Hippocrates wrote for doctoring, then the certification board (Dick Morris, Lanny Davis, Mark Penn and John McCain) would be demanding the head of Reince Preibus.
[…]drastically shorter primary phase, much earlier nominating convention, many fewer debates. Aren’t all of Reince Priebus’s structural reforms basically aimed at dramatically reducing the time period in which the actual Republican party base is on display for the public at large?
No, Reince, you ignoramus*. Look at polling from the 2012 primary and tell me that the GOP would be better off if they had called a vote any time before mid-March of 2012. In September 2011 Rick Perry would have take it in a walk. From October into November the GOP nominee is Herman Cain. From November into January it’s Newt. Newt makes another credible surge in late January followed by a brief but intense flirtation with Rick Santorum (thanks for making his trendline brown, RCP). Only in March does the party settle down and eat its g*ddamn peas.
The extended 2012 primary had a clear and valuable purpose in that it gave the morlocks and hate-filled Jawas of the Republican base time to take each of their ‘dream’ candidates out on a couple of dates, which is all it took to figure out that each one would lose a general election to a pufferfish. Mitt Romney might not make Rich Lowry change his pants, but he does have the ability to keep both eyes focused in the same general direction, he radiates what a crash survivor living on a desert island for sixteen years might describe as ‘charisma’ and he has the good sense to only self-destruct in private.
That the GOP has a perception problem nobody doubts. Whether you fix that by making the process more susceptible to the basest impulses of the base, well Dr. Priebus, I’m sure you will find the answer to that on your own.
(*) And obvious anagram.