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You remember the saying about Oakland, California: “There’s no there there.” Translation: It’s a city without a core. It has no durable qualities or center of gravity. I visited Oakland just once, briefly, so I don’t even know whether the canard is true. The part of the city I saw wasn’t so attractive, but every city has districts like that. Let’s say it is true, though, that Oakland has no core. Then I can tell you that Oakland has to be Mitt Romney’s real first name. As a leader, he has no core.

He’s a smooth talker, though. If the Republican party nominates him as its candidate for president, we’ll have another demonstration, if we needed another one, that the political parties do not select candidates people want. You could say we are due for another Ronald Reagan, another Jack Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt, or Teddy Roosevelt. We need good leadership more than once every twenty-five or thirty years.

I don’t want to undertake a lengthy critique of Romney’s capacity to lead our country. He has some strengths. His weaknesses are obvious. I live in Massachusetts, so I could observe his term as governor from 2003 to 2007 in my home state. The health care bill he passed here during his last year in office served as a model for the federal Affordable Care Act. Now he denies that an individual mandate to purchase health insurance is a good thing. Now he denies that the legislation he supported in 2007 is legislation he could support now. That’s all you need to know about him. He foisted a travesty of health care reform on his own state, saw it become national policy, then disowned it. That’s all you need to know about him.

I’ll tell you something else about him, anyway. He bad-mouthed his own state while he was still governor. As he prepared for his first presidential campaign toward the end of his term, he gave speeches to Republican audiences around the country. He mocked Massachusetts for its liberal ways, made unkind jokes about what he had to put up with here. That’s the kind of leadership you can expect from this gentleman. That’s the kind of leadership you get from a person who has no core principles.

Where does that leave the country? Where does that leave the Republican party? Does it have to choose between Oakland Romney and a man who reaches for a woman’s genitals after she asks him for help with a job search? If you think Sharon Bialek accuses Herman Cain falsely, watch her press conference and think again. Herman Cain is finished. The Republican party will not nominate him, no matter how much early support he has garnered.

Who will be the last person standing to contest the nomination with Oakland Romney? Right now, Ron Paul is the only candidate who has qualities that Oakland lacks: longstanding credentials, clearly recognizable core principles, policy proposals that don’t pander to narrow groups, intellectual and moral integrity, and a base of committed supporters. Yet journalists ignore Paul. You almost wouldn’t know he’s running, when you read articles about the contest. He should be Oakland’s strongest challenger.

Let’s say an unknown enters the race. Anything is possible. I would put my name forward for the nomination, except I haven’t been a governor or a senator. We’ve seen generals and vice presidents run, too, but lately it’s been governors and senators. You have to have your ticket punched or people won’t look at you.

As Mike Huckabee said after he ran for president in 2008, going for the White House is like sticking your face into a moving fan blade. Who would want to do that? Well, Oakland and Ron Paul have done us the favor, and we don’t have to have any doubt about who’s the superior candidate. If any newcomers step up to say, “I can do the job,” let’s welcome their willingness to mess up their face. Our country needs good leadership. Everyone knows it. If we accept an establishment candidate like Oakland at this critical point in our troubles, we’ll deserve the long, painful decline that follows.