The Republican presidential primary has produced an unprecedented number of frontrunners — candidates who surged in the polls for a while and then faded after they were vetted by voters. Pundits say that this phenomenon — a first in the history of American presidential campaigns — is due to the fact that Republican voters do not like Mitt Romney, the robotic, putative frontrunner, but that they can’t make up their mind about which alt-Mitt they would prefer.
That may be true, but, from the point of view of the religious right, it appears just as likely that it is God Himself who can’t make up His mind.
Last week, Karen Santorum, who, like her husband Rick, is an extreme right-wing Catholic, asserted that God had ordained her husband’s campaign for the Republican nomination:
KAREN SANTORUM: I personally think this is God’s will. I think He has us on a path. And I do think there’s a lot more happening that what we are seeing.
INTERVIEWER: How close do you think we are to losing the republic?
KAREN SANTORUM: Oh, it’s such a concern. I just really believe so strongly. This is why we are making the sacrifice we are as a family to give all. Because I do believe if President Obama is elected again, I do believe we are going to lose our nation as we know it.
But if God spoke to the Santorums about running for president, He must have been hedging his bet. Earlier in this primary season, he also greenlighted the candidacies of Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and pizza mogul Herman Cain.
God may be wavering after His decision to anoint George W. Bush in 2000 turned out to be a catastrophe. Over the course of the six years from 2001 to 2007, Bush — along with God’s own Republican Party, whom He granted control of both houses of Congress — made one disastrous decision after another.
They gave tax breaks to their corporate sponsors and wealthy benefactors without bothering to pay for them and pushed through an equally unfunded Medicare benefit. They took bribes from lobbyist Jack Abramoff and others and sat by playing politics while the city of New Orleans was drowning.
Worst of all was their decision to go to war based on lies or faulty intelligence (take your pick). What may have scorched God about this, however, was the fact that Bush claimed he’d invaded Afghanistan and Iraq because God had told him to:
Mahmoud Abbas, [in June 2003, three months after the invasion] the Palestinian prime minister, said that in a conversation with Bush, the president told him: “God told me to strike at al-Qaida, and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did.”
Around that same time, Nabath Shaath, then the Palestinian foreign minister, said:
President Bush said to all of us: “I am driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, ‘George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan.’ And I did. And then God would tell me ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq.’ And I did … And now, again, I feel God’s words coming to me, ‘Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East.’ And, by God, I’m gonna do it.”
On top of all that, Bush and the Republicans ruined the economy with their radical deregulation and practically nonexistent oversight of the financial industry, which ultimately led to a collapse of the world economy in September 2008.
Not surprisingly, the American people turned on Bush. In the months after the Hurricane Katrina disaster in September 2005, his approval rating sank below 50 percent, where it remained throughout his second term, even dipping into the mid-20s in his final weeks as president.
In the end, George W. Bush, who ran for office with an anointment from God, left office with the worst approval record of any president in the history of presidential polling.
So maybe we should not blame God for taking His time and getting it right this time.
On the other hand, maybe He is certain He got it right in 2008.