A debate watcher’s guide to batshit-crazy Republicans!

Jones, Arnold WayneNow that Rick Perry has dropped out of the presidential race — technically, he has “suspended” his campaign, sort of the way a cattle rustler gets “suspended” from committing larceny by a vigilante posse — many gay Texans are probably scratching their Stetsons with quizzical looks on their faces wondering, “Garsh … who can I vote for now?!” Fear not, Log Cabinites! I have prepared this handy-dandy voters’ guide to help you navigate the remaining slate of GOP candidates, in more-or-less descending order of incompetence, ignorance and hate-mongering (including his or Carly’s current rounded average ranking in the polls according to RealClearPolitics.com). Keep it close as you watch the presidential debates on CNN tonight. It’s educational and fun!

Ted Cruz (7 percent) and Mike Huckabee (4 percent). No, these aren’t the same person, they just seem like it because they share the same batshit-crazy ideas. Both are fundamentalist Christians, and both foolishly cleave to their skewed understanding of the Bible, the role of religion in American politics and, frankly, our constitutional structure. Huckabee is slightly more of a dolt than Cruz, but when you factor in that the Canadian-born Cruz is a lawyer whereas Huckabee just a hick from the sticks and an ordained preacher, you can forgive the ignorant redneck slightly more. Both think that Kim Davis had a right not to grant marriage licenses to gay couples. Both, surprisingly, think that the Dred Scott decision — which was overturned by an amendment to the Constitution — is still good law and it’s just that no one enforces it. Both are more loyal to God than to their oaths, logic or humanity as a whole. They are homophobic demons who, if there were a God, would have been struck down by lightning years ago for perverting Her message.

Ben Carson (18 percent). Ben Carson was a pioneering surgeon at separating conjoined twins, but that seems to be where his educational achievements and intellectual pursuits end as well. He is a climate-change denier. He does not believe in the “myth” of evolution and has no reason to doubt the earth is as old as the Bible says. (Carbon dating is irrelevant, according to Carson, cuz God could make anything as old as He wanted.) He takes the “political” position that homosexuality is a sin, and suggested that prison “makes” people gay. He’s compared homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia, and had to apologize for it. He’s black, but thinks “Black Lives Matters” is divisive. He wants a flat tax and to abolish the I.R.S. (How you collect even flat taxes without the I.R.S.? Not sure.) As a non-politician, Carson is ignorant of the world as a whole, admittedly lacking familiarity with such issues as Israeli political parties and NATO members. I somehow doubt he could find Canadian-born Ted Cruz’s homeland on a map if we spotted him Mexico and the U.S. Short course: He’s a kook.

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Donald Trump (29 percent). At his appearance in Dallas Monday (in a not-sold-out American Airlines Center, not that he’ll ‘fess up to that), Trump rambled on and on with drivel and self-aggrandizing statements about football, himself and himself again. Because Trump is not a politician and has never been elected to any office, he thinks broad-stroke ideas about “jobs” and “immigration” substitute for specifics. So, for instance, he wants to fight immigration by building a 2,000-mile-long wall on the southern U.S. border and “making Mexico pay for it.” (How you force a foreign country to pay for an infrastructure program on your own soil he’s vague about.) He also promises to increase American jobs … but won’t say how. (He’s knows he can’t just say “You’re fired!” to the elderly and children, right?) He has a foolproof plan to combat ISIS, but will only share it if we elect him. (Gee, you’d think he’d want to prevent genocide ASAP; guess not.)  He will consider shutting down the U.S. government in its entirety to prevent Planned Parenthood from getting any federal funding. For the record, PP gets about $550 million in public monies; the 16-day 2013 government shutdown cost the economy $24 billion, or about 44 times as much as PP gets, according to S&P. (Anyone who would spend $24 billion to save $550 million shows exactly why he’s forced so many of his companies into bankruptcy.) He also devolves to ad hominem insults against others, from attacking Carly Fiorina’s face and John McCain’s war record. His statements about gay issues aren’t the worst among the Republican slate, actually — he acts resigned to SCOTUS’ marriage equality ruling, if not enthusiastic about it — but his overall incompetence, abrasiveness and arrogance make him the most likely to ruin America in the long run. America isn’t a business you leverage — it’s a nation of people whom you serve. Folks like Trump don’t get that.

Carly Fiorina (4 percent). The best thing Fiorina has going for her? Being the undeserved target of The Donald’s jackass-fueled vitriol. (Vitriol! Regular Unleaded and Premium available as your local KKK fill-up station!) Worst thing about her? Literally every other fact of her life. Just as Carson is the GOP’s “black friend,” Carly is their “girlfriend,” the one woman in a lineup larger than the Miss American pageant who proves Republicans have nothing against chicks. What they don’t have is any skill in picking a good one. (Possible reason: All qualified women are too smart to be members of the Republican party.) Fiorina is a failed candidate for public office, and was a disaster as CEO of Hewlett-Packard, eventually getting fired for virtually running the tech giant into the ground. I, for one, am not a fan of the “business folks can be good chief executives of the nation” line of reasoning, but if it were true, don’t you want one who actually did a good job? Romney’s business background makes her look like a schoolchild with a lemonade stand at the North Pole.  She’s anti-choice, anti-marriage equality, was pro-Prop 8 and pro-gun nuttery.

Rick Santorum (1 percent). He’s just as much a fundamentalist, just as crazy, as Mike and Canadian-born Ted, but because he’s barely even alive in the polls, he’s less of threat to sanity. On the plus side, his name is a synonym for sloppy, dirty gay sex. Oh, and he’s anti-abortion but his wife had an abortion. So he’s also a hypocrite. Sound familiar?

Bobby Jindal (n/a). Another non-entity from a political standpoint, he’s anti-immigration even though his parents were immigrants; he’s a fundamentalist about Christianity, even though he converted to the faith as an adult. He’s one of the worst state executives in the country, ruining his state’s economy, then doubling down to welcome homophobic groups to his state just as Ohio was backing off from their ill-fated effort at institutionalized hatred. He’s not just a nut — he’s a coconut. If he weren’t such a blip in the polls, he’d probably be higher on this list.

Rand Paul (3 percent). Another doctor-who-seems-to-know-nothing, Paul was a darling until his overwrought devotion to libertarianism got him in hot water with the GOP faithful. He’s actually said we don’t need the EPA or the Clean Water Act because the environment has never been better in 50 years … right, because that’s when we passed the EPA and Clean Water Act. Like all doctrinaire goofballs, he can’t see the error of his logic. But at least he didn’t run to Kentucky to embrace Kim Davis … and he’s from Kentucky.

Marco Rubio (6 percent). This sad wannabe looks like what the GOP thinks voters want, sort of the way Steve Guttenberg became a movie star. No one really thinks he’s qualified, but he’s young and attractive and speaks Spanish (but won’t because “Immigrants!”) and so will give the Republicans someone to hold up to voters younger than Chuck Norris to support. Trouble is, no one in the base feels that way, so while Rubio might stand a chance in the general, he’s a non-starter in the primaries. He’s also not very bright, so far as I see. He’s pro-life (i.e., anti-choice), opposes equal pay for women, has voted against raising the debt limit, was pro-DOMA and basically stands as a party-line hack.

Lindsey Graham (n/a). I do declare! This closet case has only two saving graces: First, even South Carolina Republicans can’t put him on the polls, and second, he’s close friends with Joe Biden. Frankly, I’d like to see a face-off between Biden and Graham in the general. At least it would appear civilized.

Scott Walker (4 percent). His greatest claim to fame is surviving a recall election and demonizing unions and teachers, but ever since he actually started running for president, this cheesehead has been virtually irrelevant on the national scene. He’s not even doing all that well in Iowa, which is right next door to his state. He’s just the latest example of a small-state governor with a national profile who thinks popularity at home translates into higher national office. Ummm, he’s wrong.

Jeb! (8 percent). Since the B in Jeb stands for Bush, he doesn’t get a last name. But he also hasn’t earned the exclamation point. He’s the tone-deaf zero of the pack, the slow-witted assistant high school principal who believes the kids think he’s cool, even though they know he’s a tool. With Colbert last week, he acted like he was on the edge politically when he said, “I don’t think Obama has bad motives.” Whoa! Imagine! He flirts with alienating his base by assuming our president wants to do a good job! If that doubles for “moderate” in the GOP, you see why Jeb doesn’t generate as much support even in his party as “undecided.” Like his brother, I think he’s actually a good guy who is so desperate to be president as a kind of birthright, he’ll betray every instinct he has to win. Oh, and his handling of the Terri Schiavo incident also makes him a total dick. That’s someone you can’t trust.

Chris Christie (2 percent). Even I was surprised that Christie managed to appear so near the “top” of my “not the worst candidate” list, but given the clown car that is the GOP slate, that’s like saying, “which rusty knife do you want plunged into your eye?” He’s a typical Jersey politician, an opportunist who, more than anyone aside Trump, “tells it like it is” but who is actually quite dangerous. He’s not an enemy to, for instance, the gay community, but he’ll never be a reliable friend. He’s comfortable wadded in scandal. He’s the Bill Clinton of the GOP, and I mean that in the worst possible way.

John Kasich (3 percent). I have very little respect for someone who will attend a gay wedding and then come out against it “officially,” as this man did. But considering that he has experience in Congress and as a chief executive, he’s got the political chops and the history that make him, at a minimum, qualified. Which is more than you can say about every other person in the debate.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

‘Fed Up!’ may come back to haunt Perry

Gay marriage among issues on which he’s backed away from book

WILL WEISSERT | Associated Press

AUSTIN — Maybe Rick Perry’s not so Fed Up! after all.

Just nine months ago, the Texas governor released a rhetorical bomb-throwing book under that title. He dismissed Social Security as a New Deal relic that smacked of socialism. He said states’ rights trump all else. He suggested that the Supreme Court’s nine unelected “oligarchs in robes” could have their rulings overturned by two-thirds votes in both houses of Congress.

Now that the Republican is running for president, his campaign has begun distancing itself from some of the candidate’s own words on issues such as Social Security and states’ rights.

Pulling back won’t be easy because Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America From Washington is anything but the nuanced list of general positions that fills the pages of most presidential candidates’ books.

Politicians “typically don’t take strong positions. They are largely biographical and usually not specific at all,” said Adam Bellow, editorial director of Broadside Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, who edited Sarah Palin’s two books. “It is unusual,” Bellow said of Fed Up!, “but we are in an unusual moment.”

Perry, who’s shot to the top of many public opinion polls among the GOP contenders, hasn’t shied away from bashing Social Security. Last month in Iowa, he said the program “is a Ponzi scheme for these young people.” Later, he told reporters, “I haven’t backed off anything in my book. So read the book again and get it right.”

Campaign spokesman Mark Miner said “no one can argue that Social Security isn’t broken.”

“The goal was to put these issues on the table and ensure they’re addressed,” Miner said.

But, in his book, Perry goes well beyond criticizing the program’s financing problems and vilifies the entire concept as a failed social experiment.

“Like a bad disease,” he wrote, New Deal-era initiatives have spread. “By far the best example of this is Social Security.” The program “is something we have been forced to accept for more than 70 years now.”

Already, Perry communications director Ray Sullivan was reported as saying that the book is not meant to reflect Perry’s current views on Social Security — even though Fed Up was published just last year.

While skewering the program might help Perry with tea party supporters, it could cost him with elderly voters in Florida and other important states were he to win the nomination, said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell.

“He definitely needs to cut back on the volatile rhetoric and couch his words more carefully or they can come back to haunt him,” O’Connell said.

Polling by the Pew Research Center in June found that 87 percent of Americans see Social Security as good for the country. “The views of the public are, it’s overwhelmingly positive,” said Carroll Doherty, the Pew Research Center’s associate director.

Perry’s GOP rivals are expected to use the book against him, emphasizing the idea that he might be too extreme for independent voters.

“This year, Republicans believe that losing the election means losing the country,” said Alex Castellanos, a Republican strategist who has worked for Perry opponents but is now unaligned.

“Any candidate who displays general election weakness, because his radical views scared seniors, independents, or soccer moms, would be disqualified in the GOP nomination process. A vote for such a candidate in a primary would be seen as a vote for Obama in the general.”

Already, Perry has pulled back from his unequivocal position on states’ rights.

In Fed Up! he writes, “If you don’t support the death penalty and citizens packing a pistol, don’t come to Texas. If you don’t like medicinal marijuana and gay marriage, don’t move to California.” Elaborating in July about New York’s decision to allow same-sex marriage, he said, “that’s New York, and that’s their business, and that’s fine with me.”

Perry has since clarified that he’s against gay marriage anywhere, and last month signed a pledge that, if elected, he would back a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, which would preclude a state’s choice.

He devotes an entire chapter to lambasting the Supreme Court, anticipating that the justices one day issue a ruling forcing nationwide gay marriage on the country. As a check on judicial power, he proposes allowing Congress to override the high court with a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate.

“While ideas like that may sound very cogent to Perry, he may have a real problem explaining them,” GOP strategist O’Connell said.

The governor has long known his book could be problematic in a national campaign. As the polls closed on election day 2010, giving Perry his third full term as governor, he told The Associated Press that Fed Up! proved he was too conservative to seek the White House.

“I think probably the best display, the best concrete evidence that I’m really not running for president is this book,” Perry said, “because when you read this book, you’re going to see me talking about issues that for someone running for public office, it’s kind of been the third rail, if you will.”

—  John Wright

CHART: Rick Perry 1 of 5 presidential candidates who oppose LGBT community on every issue

The above chart from Ned Flaherty at Marriage Equality USA (click to enlarge) provides a snapshot of where each of the presidential candidates stands on LGBT issues. As you can see, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is one of five with No’s across the board. Openly gay Republican Fred Karger is the gay-friendliest of the bunch, followed by Barack Obama, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and Texas Congressman Ron Paul. Unfortunately, it’s looking more and more like it will be a choice between Obama and either Bachmann, Perry or Romney (and likely some combination of the three).

—  John Wright