I'm not quite sure what the people who came up with the idea were striving for. Obviously, they wanted to publicize the policies of the people running for office, and those of the GOP as a whole. The trouble is they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. The debates have done a spectacular job of publicizing the views of the candidates and the reactions of the Republicans watching the debates, and it's safe to say that at this point, there's more gleeful Democrats watching the debates than there are Republicans.
Having your front runner come out and double down on the crazy by imploring the country to replace union janitors with five year old children is pretty bad. Hand a typical five year old a bottle of bleach and a bottle of ammonia and tell him to go clean the floor, and pretty soon you're going to end up with a dead five year old, and worse, the floor will still be dirty. But you will save money.
I don't guess I even have to say who came up with that one.
Michele 'Crazy-Eyes' Bachmann declared herself to be “the man for the job” (President, not Janitor), a statement that left some wondering if she and husband Marcus had perhaps swapped genders at some point. Or if they had any to begin with. She went on to proclaim that she had been “a private businesswoman since the age of five,” apparently forgetting that she was now a member of Congress. I suppose in the wake of Citizens United it could be argued that Congress is now part of the private sector.
Rich Perry ran a bizarre ad that essentially claimed that the Christian Jesus had a bigger dick than the Moslem Jesus. And if there were gays in the military then Americans couldn't celebrate Christmas. Or something. Remember, this is a man who considered it the worst form of bookworm swottery to be able to name the 'eight judges' on the Supreme Court. Imagine how upset he would have been if he had been asked to name the nine Justices. I'm hoping some reporter will test his knowledge of foreign affairs by asking him to name three Canadian provinces. Let's see...there's Quebec (everyone seems to know that one), um, English Columbia, and, um, Neptune?
Santorum, the one who sounds like an antiquated mental health facility, continued his bizarre remarks equating being gay to bestiality and gays in the military to bestiality and voting Democratic to bestiality and banging donkeys to parcheesi. I'm not sure he actually knows what bestiality is, but if he watches Callista Gingrich long enough, it might come to him. Santorum begged Sarah Palin for “any help” she might feel like giving him. Whether she will provide any probably depends on whether bestiality is seen as a social problem in Wasilla or not.
Jon Huntsman, heretofore known as “The Sane One,” blew that out of the water by backtracking on the issue of climate change. Being against it left him at 1% in the polls, so he decided to try pretending it isn't real, which will leave him at 1% in the polls. He should ask John McCain about 2000, and pandering to the stupid and the crazy. If you have a history of thoughtful and articulate speeches, the stupid and the crazy are going to be suspicious of you for a long time, and demand proof that you're stupid and crazy enough for the job. McCain tried to provide that proof in 2008 by making Sarah Palin his running mate, but it was too little, too late. People knew that in his heart, he didn't really believe the earth was flat.
When I learned that not only did Donald Trump plan to sponsor a GOP debate, but proposed to actually moderate it, my response was incredulous delight. This seemed to be a Monty Python sketch in the making, 90 minutes of funny walks and philosopher kings being asked to opine on what the best dish soap was. I could parade this in front of my English friends and declare that while it might be true that the Yanks don't 'get' irony, they sure as hell can DO irony. I was disappointed when Rubik's Prism or whatever his name is noted that The Donald was still talking about running for president as an independent, and that perhaps this potential adversary wasn't the ideal choice to have grilling GOP candidates. That gave most of the crowd the excuse they needed to pull out, leaving only Santorum and Newt.
How you get Trump's and Newt's egos into one building is going to be an interesting project. You have two of the three most conceited blowhards in America (Rush Limbaugh is the third) and they're going to get into a “my intellect is bigger than your intellect” pissing match? Oh, hey, sign me up for THAT! With Santorum in the role of Olive Oyl, or the chaff between two millstones.
The GOP can take comfort that provided the Mighty Donald doesn't get affronted and shut the debate down in a huff, it will occur on December 27th. Politicians and TV executives know that of all the days of the year, that's the one when the least amount of people are likely to be looking. Networks can't give away free beer in the week following Christmas, and the 27th is the very nadir of that commercial dead zone. So the GOP caught a break of sorts there.
This exemplifies the position the GOP, which has assiduously courted the know-nothing vote for lo these many years, finds itself in. They pandered to the ignorant and the bigoted and the just plain vile, and to nobody's surprise but theirs, wound up with that as their base. Most moderate Republicans—the ones not already driven out of the party—are watching this slow moving fiasco with considerable dismay, and wondering how they go about taking their party back.
It's a long way until the election, and a lot can happen. But at this juncture, the GOP seems destined for electoral catastrophe. Newt is leading this week, but in the end, it's still Mittens vs. the field. And nobody seems to like Mittens.
At least the GOP has one thing it can console itself with about Romney. He's sort of like a bus in New York City. If you don't like his position on a particular issue, just wait ten minutes. Another one will be along. Eventually you'll see one you like, and you've got yourself a ride, at least to the next stop.
Sigh. It's a long way until the Conventions, which is when the real campaign begins. There are times when I miss the Parliamentary system, and its six-week campaigns at irregular intervals, but then I look at the respective Prime Ministers of Canada and the UK, and realize that those processes have some serious flaws, too. Four million years of evolution, and all Canada could come up with was Stephen Harper?
Just six months ago I was wondering if Obama was destined to be a one-term president. He was, to put it charitably, ineffectual in negotiation. There were a lot of recycled jokes in which his name replaced that of “the French Army.” One famous cartoon showed him in a poker game with Boehner, McDonnell and Ryan, and Obama says, “I fold!” and Boehner looks up and says, “But I haven't finished dealing the cards!”
Even back then, I watched the spreading unrest of the “Arab Spring” reach Cairo, and wondered if we were going to have a repeat of seminal years in which Everything Changed (or seemed to) such as 1990, or 1968, or 1872. Those were years in which disgust with the entrenched authority peaked, and mighty regimes trembled and sometimes fell. I also looked at the increasing desperation in America among the unemployed and those who couldn't work, and wondered how long it would be before social unrest reached America. It seemed likely then, and all but inevitable now.
Hoping to help forestall some of the grimmer possible outcomes, I changed my signature line to a John F. Kennedy quote: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible, make violent revolution inevitable.” I still hope that change can come to America without the flames igniting.
Desperate and frightening times bring out a sense of humor, even gallows humor, among people. Will Rogers and the Marx Brothers owed much to the Great Depression. Bob Hope and Tony Hancock became huge stars during World War II.
But the politicians themselves weren't supposed to be the comic relief. That's what makes the endless GOP debates so surreal: flames are racing up the canvas sides of the tent, people are screaming and running for the exits, Obama is in the middle, urging calm and directing fire-fighting operations, and here comes a little clown car filled with clowns, blocking the firetrucks! Why, it's the GOP! A-oog-ah! Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!
Aren't they supposed to be helping to fight the fire? Apparently not, unless you count plastic flowers in their lapels that squirt water. In fact, some of them even fan the flames, hoping Obama will be blamed for it. And didn't their main stagehands start the fire in the first place?
As I said, a lot can happen. But at this point, the GOP needs to worry less about winning the election, and worry more about surviving this debacle as a party. In politics, you can survive having people revile you. But you can't survive if they all start laughing at you, and the GOP have turned themselves into a very tasteless but ongoing joke at this point.
But the huge changes sweeping Europe and Russia and the middle east, born in distant Tunisia, are approaching America faster and faster, and if all the GOP has to offer is clown parades, then America's best hope is that Obama will remember his principles and stand resolute and unsmiling.
We don't need clowns for our leaders. We need courage.