And it is a moment, as you prepare to cast your vote, for others to reflect on whether they don’t owe it to their country to step forward. As this is no time for voters to choose fecklessly, it is no time for leaders to duck responsibility. Those who have stood aside—and who now may have concluded, as they may not have when they announced their original decision, that the current field is lacking—will surely hear the words of Thomas Paine echoing down the centuries: “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” Now is not a time for leaders to engage in clever calculations of the odds of success, or to succumb to concerns about how they will look if they enter the fray and fall short. Now is a time to come to the aid of our country.
In other words, Kristol wants a number of ambitious, rising politicians to stop thinking and acting like politicians, go against all of their instincts and better judgment, indulge in a pointless exercise in public humiliation, and then pretend that they are doing all of this for love of country. The pretense that it has something to do with the public good is by far the most irritating thing about these pointless calls for more candidates. Consider what Kristol is implying about all of the potential Republican candidates that might enter the race but have chosen to remain on the sidelines. He isn’t just saying that they are letting down their party or making a mere political misjudgment. According to Kristol, any rising national Republican leader who doesn’t take it upon himself to jump into the fray at this point has shirked his patriotic duty in a time of crisis. Does Kristol believe this rubbish, or is he just bored?
Rod thinks that Kristol is urging Palin to come to the rescue, but I rather doubt that. Ever since Palin stopped serving as a mouthpiece for the delusional views of Randy Scheunemann and Michael Goldfarb, she does not receive the same adoring treatment from Kristol and his circle that she once did. This is presumably the latest in the endless series of appeals for Paul Ryan or Marco Rubio to deliver the GOP from disaster. If they are as smart as their admirers think they are, they will keep ignoring him.
Update: Jonathan Bernstein thinks Kristol is overlooking the obvious alternative in Rick Santorum:
Kristol has been calling nonstop for a new presidential candidate who he can trust to carry out neocon foreign policy but who is more reliable than, say, Mitt Romney. Definitely not Romney. Santorum is basically an orthodox neocon, probably the most reliable in the field.
If I had to guess, I would say that the reason Kristol doesn’t try to build up Santorum is that he has no interest in backing someone with a massive electoral defeat in his past. Drawing attention to Santorum would also remind everyone that it was Santorum’s advocacy for neoconservative foreign policy during his disastrous 2006 campaign that contributed to his landslide loss*. More important than either of these may be the recognition that the vast majority of Republicans sees Santorum as one of the least acceptable possible nominees available. According to Gallup, 62% say that Santorum is unacceptable, and he actually has the lowest “acceptable” numbers of all the candidates in the field (27%). Santorum may be a reliable advocate for neoconservative foreign policy, but he is not an effective advocate for it, and it is possible that he is unacceptable to many Republicans because of this advocacy.
* 2006 was a bad year for incumbent Republicans, and Santorum was always going to have difficulty winning re-election in Pennsylvania, but he made things far worse for himself by using his re-election campaign as a vehicle for promoting a foreign policy vision even more aggressive than that of the Bush administration.