There's this kiddie trope going around (you'll know this is if you parent a "tween" adolescent): a television program called "Hannah Montana" on the Disney channel.(WARNING: TREACLY TEEN POP IS PLAYED LOUD AT THAT LINK!)
The series focuses on Miley Stewart (played by Miley Cyrus, daughter of regrettable country music "star" Billy Ray "Mullethead" Cyrus), who lives a double life as an average teenage girl at school during the day and a famous pop singer, Hannah Montana, at night, concealing her real identity from the public other than her close friends and family.
Republicans, always seizing on the latest marketing gimmick that Madison Avenue and Hollywood (liberals!!) can develop, have adapted this to their own Presidential race.
Comes last night's debate:
ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - The top Republican White House contenders battled on Sunday over who was the better conservative, with Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney defending their records and views on social issues from strong attacks.Thompson, of course, is the ultimate GOP-Hollywood nexus, outdoing even Ronald "I missed World War II to make forgettable B movies in liberal Hollywood" Reagan with such classic conservative roles as DA Arthur Branch (Law & Order), Rear Admiral Joshua Painter (The Hunt For Red October), and Knox Pooley, the neo-Nazi Jew-killer in Wiseguy.
In a debate in the election swing state of Florida, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson accused Giuliani of being out of step with the conservative values of the Republican Party and Arizona Sen. John McCain attacked Romney's conservative credentials.
"Governor Romney, you've been spending the last year trying to fool people about your record. I don't want you to start fooling them about mine," McCain said. "I stand on my record of a conservative."
Thompson, a latecomer to the race who is chasing Giuliani in national opinion polls, said the former New York mayor's support for abortion rights and gun control put him in a league with Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, a New York senator.
"I simply disagree with him on those issues, and he sides with Hillary Clinton on each of those issues I just mentioned," he said.
Oh, and we should probably mention the role most dear to the hearts of Republicans and conservative Christians everywhere, lobbyist for a pro-choice group.
Dude, you really can't make this stuff up!
So between Rudy and Romney's former liberal positions (can you say "flip flop"?), Fred Thompson's questionable commitment to Christian values, and John McCain's "Now you see it, now you don't" position on campaign finance reform or Baghdad's safety, we're looking at men who have, to put it mildly, ambiguous moral compasses.
Which brings us back to the Hannah Montana thing: it's OK, I guess, for Disney to show a girl who's so terrified of who she is that she has to hide herself from the world (metaphor: she's a lesbian), but the Republican party?
What I find so funny about all this is any one of the four men could easily have "outted" themselves, "outted" their pasts, and probably not lost a whole lot of standing in the Republican community (and indeed, might have attracted normally uninvolved voters frustrated with the whole Bush administration/christofascist regime thing), but chose instead to narrow their base to the tiniest sliver of scraps on the floor.
Contrast that with the Democratic primary where, for the most part, the candidates have been pretty forthright about who they are, and not running from their history (save Hillary and to a degree, Obama and Edwards regarding their positions on the Iraq invasion...in some ways, I'm not convinced that Iraq won't be the third rail of the 2008 elections the way Social Security reform has long been that same electrified iron).
I don't think it's any secret why the Republican primary, which should be generating enormous interest for a party that's controlled all three branches of government for the past eight years or so, is so bloody boring: no one is willing to take a stance, to chance a roll of the dice and speak what is on his mind.
Without attacking Hillary. That would probably be an added bonus.
It's almost as if these guys are positioning themselves for the 2012 race, when they stand a chance after four years of Hillary-dom, should she screw it up.
Which I wouldn't bet on.
McCain and Thompson all but have to win in this go-round. They'd be too old in 2012 (if indeed they aren't already). Too, Giuliani has to win in this go-round because "9/11 Tourette's" (h/t Jon Stewart) only gets you so far and he's milked that cow.
Leaving Romney, but even he has a shelf life: how much money can he afford to lend his campaign in 2012 if he has to eat tens of millions of dollars this time around?
No, I think this is the only shot for all four of the front runners and I think they've all realized they're going to be sacrificial lambs.
UPDATE: More evidence the GOP may have jumped the couch in this election cycle.