Flunking the litmus test

    So Rick Perry, the purported Republican savior, the self-styled second coming of Ronald Reagan, winds up getting waxed in the Florida straw poll…by a pizza mogul. How pitiful is that?

    Perry’s humiliation is largely attributable, of course, to his wretched debate performance 48 hours earlier. At various times, he was unfocused, incoherent, and unschooled about certain factual fundamentals. But for the tea-partying Floridians who dominated the straw poll last night, the big turn-off was probably Perry’s stance on illegal immigration – a rare issue on which he was actually focused and coherent.Perry certainly passes the right-wing litmus test on a huge range of issues – global warming is a fraud, Social Security is a con, regulation is bad – but conservatives are looking for someone who will toe The Line 100 percent of the time. And Perry soured his Florida debate listeners when he stood up for the ’01 Texas law that provides in-state college tuition rates to some children of illegal immigrants. For purists, the law that Perry signed is a no-no. Worse yet was the way he defended the law:”If you say that we should not educate children who have come into our state for no other reason than they’ve been brought there by no fault of their own, I don’t think you have a heart. We need to be educating these children, because (otherwise) they will become a drag on our society.”Two problems for Perry: (1) The tea-partying Floridians want to kick out the illegals, not educate them; as one straw-poller told Politico last night, “If they’re illegal, they need to get the hell out of America.” And (2), the kick-’em-out folks resented being told that they are heartless.So Perry flunked the ideological litmus test. In the straw poll, the tea-partyers flocked to Herman Cain not because they suddenly believe that Cain’s success with pepperoni qualifies him for the presidency, but because they wanted to send a message. And that message, apparently, is that they’re still not satisfied with the Republican field.Unfortunately, it’s hard to see how anyone out there can pass muster with the Republican right. Perry was perceived as ideal before he ran, but six weeks of reality has rendered him imperfect – or worse. On Fox News this morning, conservative tastemaker Brit Human decreed that Perry is “half a step away from total collapse as a candidate.”

    But the same swift fate is likely to befall any other eleventh-hour entrant. Consider, for instance, Chris Christie. The save-us-Chris entreaties have resurfaced, yet again. But even if he jumped in, how long would it take for the litmus-testers to flunk him? You could count the seconds on your fingers.I would eagerly await the first debate question about his recent decision to appoint a Muslim-American, Sohail Mohammed, to a New Jersey judgeship (strike one), and about his fierce condemnation of those who attacked his decision (strike two). Christie, you might recall, lashed out at the critics for their “ignorance.”During the recent flap, Christie told a reporter, “Ignorance is behind the criticism of Sohail Mohammed. He is an extraordinary American who is an outstanding lawyer and played an integral role in the post-September 11th period in building bridges between the Muslim American community in this state and law enforcement.” And with respect to the critics who feared that Mohammed would usher in Sharia law, Christie scoffed, “Sharia law has nothing to do with this at all, it’s crazy! The guy is an American citizen! (This) Sharia law business is just crap…and I’m tried of dealing with the crazies.”The fears about Sharia law are “crap”? The critics of this Muslim-American judge are “crazies”? Say goodbye, Christie. I can hear the audience boos already. And the litmus-testers would be driven back to the drawing board, in search of yet another pristine savior.——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

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