woody_zimmerman_118_2007When I was a boy, my mother aided our cultural and artistic education by subscribing to the Children’s Record Guild. Every couple of months a set of 78 rpm phonograph records arrived in the mail. Each set contained a classical story presented in musical form – Puss in Boots, The Sleeping Beauty, Hot Cross Buns, The Golden Goose, etc. These were brilliant productions – operettas, really – that we played over and over again, until we could recite the lines and sing the songs from memory (as my siblings and I can still do).

One of those productions was the story of Cinderella. In one memorable scene the Royal Lord Chamberlain went round to all the households in the kingdom whose daughters had attended the recent grand ball. The Lord Chamberlain wanted to find the beautiful young lady who had enchanted the Prince at the ball before fleeing on the stroke of midnight and dropping one glass slipper in her haste. The Prince had reasoned that he could find the unknown beauty by fitting the right foot to the slipper, which he had retained.

When the Lord Chamberlain arrives at the house where Cinderella is kept as a servant girl, a furious squabble breaks out between the stepsisters over who will try on the slipper. “I’ll be queen! I’ll be queen!” they shriek at each other, as they tug at the slipper. At length, the frazzled chamberlain gets them to sit down to see if the slipper fits. “It didn’t fit,” says the narrator of the first stepsister’s attempt.

The second stepsister strains with might and main to push her foot into the slipper: “’Harder, harder!’ she cried. And the glass slipper burst into a hundred pieces!”

Thereupon, Cinderella shows up with the matching slipper, which she slips on her foot to show a perfect fit. She marries the Prince and lives happily ever after.

The imagery from this childhood recording springs to mind in the midst of the mad struggle for the GOP’s presidential nomination. Leading candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich are locked in a war of mud-slinging, with each one shrieking, “I’ll be queen!” Indeed, the rancor has become so contentious that it threatens to make either candidate unelectable in the eventual campaign against their real adversary, President Barack Obama. If things continue as they are, the glass slipper will burst into a hundred pieces, and neither Mr. Gingrich nor Mr. Romney will get to wear it (or take the throne).

I am not alone in saying that this election is as near to a sure thing for the Republican Party as is ever likely to occur. Mr. Obama has made a complete mess of the economy, with his crack-brained socialistic theories and uncontrolled spending. Millions fewer are employed than when he took office. Unemployment has been above 8% for most of his term, and above 9% for much of it. He has racked up $5 trillion in debt in just 3 years. His “green energy” policy is a shambles, with gasoline prices twice what they were when he took office and new energy sources everywhere restrained or impeded. His foreign policy achievements are spotty at best.

This is not a record to run on, which is why Mr. Obama is running against “the rich” – whilst posing as Lord Protector of the Middle Class and Champion of Wealth-redistribution. Essentially, he is pretending that someone else has been president (and spent all that money) since 2009. (Was it George W. Bush?)

Republicans only need to put up a reasonable candidate who can show that he understands how to grow the economy, promises to restrain government growth and debt, and assures us that he won’t be taxing us to death and shooting our energy bills sky-high. Of course, the supply of such people is somewhat limited. (There couldn’t be more than two or three thousand of them available.)

With apologies for the change in metaphors - the Republican Party resembles a football team that should be cruising to an easy win, but instead finds its own players in a crazed sideline squabble. Team discipline and order are thrown to the winds, while the pushover opponent romps up and down the field, scoring at will. A sure win is fumbled away by temper, recrimination, stupidity, and a complete disregard for the good of the team.

I am appalled by the waste of resources by both the Romney and Gingrich campaigns on ads blasting each other. Millions are being spent by each man to denigrate the other – millions that will be needed to contend with Mr. Obama’s mighty war chest, once the real campaign for the presidency begins. What will be left to do that, after so much has been squandered on a war of vicious slurs waged against each other by the two leading GOP candidates? More to the point, how can each man’s supporters possibly join in supporting the other, should he win the right to stand as the party’s candidate? The factions of the party will be permanently polarized, with neither able to support the other.

All this, of course, is enormously entertaining for media outlets of every political stripe. A flood of dollars is pouring into TV and radio stations to pay for GOP attack ads: not attacks on their true opponent, Barack Obama, but attacks on each other. Members of the Obama Inner Circle must be clinking Champagne glasses every night as they see Republicans pouring campaign dollars down the drain to fight each other instead of their guy. No wonder both political “experts” and the proverbial Man-on-the-Street think Barack Obama is unbeatable. His opponent – whoever he is – will be a tattered, bleeding husk by the time he faces the Champ in the center ring.

My assessment is that their primary campaigns demonstrate that neither Mr. Romney nor Mr. Gingrich has the temperament and good judgment needed for the presidency. Either one could have refused to be drawn into a protracted war of accusations and smears. Either could have said, “We’re not going to waste our resources that way. President Obama is our opponent, not each other…” But neither was willing to say (or do) that. In his own personal style, each man lost his temper. I doubt if I’m the only person in the country asking himself if we really want a man in the Oval Office – with his finger on the nuclear button – who might lose his temper at a crucial juncture. If these guys “go off” because an opponent says “mean things,” what might they do when they reach the Big Leagues? There are bad people out there, and they don’t play nice.

There is still a slim hope that sanity will prevail somewhere in the party, before it’s too late. Either candidate could still discontinue the mud-war against the other, stop the ugly ads, and run a clean campaign on the important issues the country is facing. This would resonate with GOP voters, as well as with independents the party is counting on to put a Republican in the presidency. I believe it would shame the other candidate into following suit, too. Order could be restored, and voters would be able to see who has the best ideas for helping the economy and protecting the country from foreign threats.

These are the basics – not whether one guy was friendly to a Democrat 20 years ago, or whether another leaned moderate while he was governor of a liberal state. Those things happened years ago. What about now? What about the future? Who can deal with our problems best without spending us into bankruptcy or letting the bad guys come down the chimney?

The “wild card,” of course, is the Cinderella factor. Each greedy stepsister was sure she would be Queen if she could just squeeze into the glass slipper. But each failed. After they had broken the slipper, ruining their own chances, Cinderella came forward to take the prize. That could happen to the GOP, too. After Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich smash the “slipper,” so neither can be president, either Ron Paul or Rick Santorum could step forward as a reasonable alternative. Mr. Santorum would be my clear choice. I’ll admit that Mr. Paul’s foreign policy ideas are too far out for my taste, but I would still support him if he became the GOP nominee. He would have to be an improvement on the president we have now.

No doubt the prospect of “Cinderella” coming forward is remote. But something has to be done before the game is thrown by the two red-faced brawlers who have lost focus on their real opponent. I urge my readers who care about this to sit down and write some letters. Time is running short. Enough, already!