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Even though it seems to be another moneymaking gimmick for the Iowa Republican Party, and even though it has a spotty record of picking eventual winners, 2011's did serve as the straw poll that broke candidates' backs. Tim Pawlenty wasted no time. After too few of those voting saw much good in Pawlenty, he quickly folded his nearly empty tent. He isn't the only also-ran who was run over.

Michele Bachmann came in No. 1, proving once and for all that the “Are you a flake?” question is irrelevant. She even topped Ron Paul, whose “Well, yes, I AM a flake” rants usually have served him well in these nonbinding tallies.

Mitt Romney opted out, but among the nonplayers, Rick Perry was the big winner. He was 1,200 miles away in South Carolina, where he stole a lot of thunder by announcing that he would be running for president himself. In spite of his studied country-boy demeanor, he demonstrated he was no hayseed. He immediately made a big splash in the pool of candidates, particularly for Romney and Bachmann.

The three have much more in common than their big hair. Like Romney, Perry is in the governor's club and can lay claim to real experience running a state. Like Bachmann, he's adored by social conservatives, including so many who would replace America's traditional religious pluralism with rigid singularism.

It is easy to dismiss their simple-minded presentations as dumb. But considering their audience, they are dumb like a Fox News. They camouflage their judgmental views with smiley faced harshness.


A good case in point is the concept of “conversion” or “reparative” therapy. It's one of those nasty passive- aggressive tactics of the intolerant, this one directed at gays, a witch doctor approach promoted by the likes of Bachmann's husband, Marcus, and other narrow-minded homophobes. They proclaim that they can cast out alternative sexual preferences, since those preferences are really treatable. Of course, those pseudo shrinks conveniently ignore all credible experts in the field, including the American Psychological Association, which put out a paper in 2008 stating “that homosexuality, per se, is a normal and positive variation of human sexual orientation.”

Maybe, though, the same approach would work with some real emotional disorders. How about applying conversion or reparative therapy to pathologies like Obsessive Compulsive Demagoguery? Obviously, Bachmann, Perry and many others in their party are afflicted with this O.C.D., and surely it can be remedied with a combination of drugs and counseling.

A strong dose of common sense coupled with compassion would be great medicine for this disorder. Add a barrage of firm but unrelenting persuasion, and even the most ardent followers could be reprogrammed and removed from the various politically afflicted tea party cults.

So, simplicity is a key, along with intensity. These twisted ways of thinking are deeply embedded in the most primitive parts of an aberrant brain. Barrage them with pictures of the poor, the sickly and the elderly who are harmed by their policies. It might have some effect. Bombard them with stories about the pain they cause with their irresponsible reactionary rhetoric, and maybe they'll change their ways.

Will it work? Certainly not, particularly since many of them had so much success they'll continue on their hateful ways. At this early point, it looks like a battle among Romney, Bachmann, now Perry and maybe Sarah Palin if she gets off her Ego Bus. With her or without her, the Iowa straw poll has made the lineup clearer; those who survive this first cut continue to compete on the GOP presidential field of dreams. But this is summer. As we all know, the season begins on this same turf in the dead of winter.

© 2011 Bob Franken

Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.


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