What Would Beowulf Do?

I think it’s time for me to let the world know how I feel about the current crop of candidates for high office in this land. So in case there is anyone out there waiting breathlessly to know, let me begin at the easy end of the list: Republicans.

What would Beowulf do? On the whole, I think he had an easier time dealing with his monsters than we’ve had dealing with ours. When he dealt with Grendel, he still had to take on Grendel’s mother who was just as bad. We exiled Bush I and wound up with Bush II, and that was worse. Is there anyone out there that might give us hope?

Rule out Tancredo. His one issue is “immigrants are bad.” If he gets elected, I might emigrate myself. Scratch Duncan Hunter also; Hunter wants to amend the Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman and to define personhood as beginning at conception. He’s also from California, but we’ve had three presidents from California – Hoover, Nixon, and Reagan – and I think that’s enough. How about an amendment limiting presidential candidates from California?

Now we get serious. Ron Paul talks the best sense of any of them on Iraq, but unfortunately would have to deal with other issues also as President, so that creates a few problems. I like that he has never voted to increase the power of the executive branch and voted against the Patriot Act and the Iraq War. But equally he has never voted for a federal restriction on gun ownership or anything else useful the government might do. Paul might be described as the Republican answer to Dennis Kucinich; a campaign between the two of them would give us a real choice, but neither of our parties is likely to nominate someone with such clear-cut principles.

By contrast we have Mitt Romney, whose principles are obviously for sale. Those with money will like that because they can have him. And someone with such poor judgment that he would argue with John McCain about torture should not be left alone in a room with a nuclear button.

Giuliani? Scary. The Bible asks, “If someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God’s church?” Or leadership at a national or international level?

Thompson? Remember how folksy Fred was going to reincarnate Reagan? But Reagan at least could write his own speeches. We now know that this actor needs better lines.

Huckabee? Well, when a conservative evangelical from Arkansas gets favorable notices from the New Yorker, you have to take a second look. I liked the moment in the Republican YouTube debate when the candidates were asked to affirm that the Bible was the word of God. While Romney, looking like a deer in the headlights, could only stammer “I believe the Bible is the Word of God,” Huckabee wanted to provide some nuance and let us know that some verses are not to be taken literally. Great. But asked what Jesus would do about the death penalty, he sidestepped and could only tell us that he reviewed every case carefully. As for abolishing the IRS – is he serious? Who knows? That’s a problem.

If you want principles more toward the sensible center than Ron Paul, there’s still John McCain. I like someone willing to stand against his party on issues like campaign spending reform and the environment and to talk some kind of sense on immigration, but he also likes guns and talks about appointing judges who won’t “legislate from the bench.” That last is code for decisions that limit human rights; legislating from the bench to restrict human rights is OK. It’s sad to see a basically decent man with strong principles but so limited a vision.

So that’s the choice provided by the one-time party of Lincoln. Is there anyone else out there? Fortunately, yes. We’ll deal with that another day.

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