You have doubtless had the experience that something is missing and you don’t know what that something is. You would know instantly if you came across the missing something and I am not referring to Governor Rick Perry’s much discussed television lapse, although I could. Because it was the surplus of televised debates that had been on my mind and something about them was missing. Then it occurred to me out of the thin television air. It was as if someone had snuck up behind me and popped a paper bag full of air. Ohio’s Republican Governor John Kasich used the words “public servant.” The missing concept revealed.
“My view is when people speak like this in a campaign referendum,” Mr. Kasich said, “you have to listen if you’re a public servant.” Ohio overwhelmingly rejected a law that restricted the collective-bargaining power of some 350-thousand government workers. Now, that law that Kasich championed will never take effect.
But it is the idea of public service that has been missing in the Republican debates because it is all about them and not about us.
In the last decade, US television audiences began their affair with so-called reality TV shows. Suspending the notion that such shows have production requisites, such as cameras, lights, audio, make-up, direction, catering, transportation and lots of folks behind the scenes, reality is just an abstraction. The sponsored GOP debates are also such an abstraction in addition to being a relatively cheap shoot. They are to professional politics what wrestling is to professional sports.
It’s like watching a reality version of Gilligan’s Island as an elimination game show. Just look at the cast. Seven contestants are or have been elected public officials and one has never held public office. Three candidates are from the House of Representatives and one is from the Senate. Two are former governors and one is a sitting governor. There is a white woman, a black man, two white seniors and four middle-aged white men. Republicans call this diversity.
100% divided by 8 equals 12.5%. Polls only make the television event dubious.
Here is what is apparent. Gallup shows that Huntsman, Santorum and Paul do not register among likely Republican voters. What that means is that the money is not there. Gallup also reports that Romney, who has been running for president for five years, is the most likely to make it to the finals of the contest to win the Republican nomination. He is dull. So is the contest. There is no debating. Except for Perry’s lapse, debate moderator John Harwood said on PBS Washington Week, the television show would have only been about people only reciting lines. The Perry gaffe made it interesting.
The Tea Party stains Bachmann and Cain: Bachmann, who thinks US default on its debt is good and Cain, who thinks sexual harassment is an acceptable management style. Age dims Paul and Gingrich: the Libertarian and the former speaker could be a formidable tag-team for one presidential term, as US comic relief in a troubled world. Texas dung sticks to Perry’s pointed-toe boots, by his admission, and it stinks.
By the way, Romney and Perry may have the campaign money, but their support of US military intervention in Iran lacks money. They have not said how they would have the US pay for yet another war. Neither did George W. Bush, the former Republican president, who paid for two wars by deficit spending.
So, what about public service? There isn’t any. Romney knows what it is but won’t admit it. Huntsman and Santorum know what it is but lack the money to demonstrate it. Bachmann and Cain do not comprehend what it is. Paul and Gingrich are just there for the show. And none of them mention public service – that something missing in their television show.