Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Stop The Madness- Or Silliness

A stopped clock, as the tired cliche goes, is right twice a day and John King was right at least once last night during the Repub presidential debate (transcript here) he hosted in Manchester, New Hampshire. In the midst of a chat about immigration, King noted "There are an estimated maybe 20 million illegal immigrants in this country. People have different numbers."

In 2005, two Bear Stearns employees estimated the number of illegal immigrants at 18-20 million. Now, more than six years later, that number somehow has dwindled to 12 million as claimed by most observers, primarily because others do it, and 20 million might be discomfiting.

Still, it is tempting to ridicule CNN's King for asking each candidate a frivolous question "to learn a little bit more about these candidates and their personalities." Especially, that would be, given the burden of serious issues, such as the impending cataclysm if the U.S.A. does not reduce the national debt by demolishing Medicare, Medicaid, disaster relief, and almost anything that isn't the Defense Department.

But that would be too easy. So, instead, consider that one candidate gave by far the best answer, which indicates why that individual has as much chance of being the GOP nominee as, say, Markos Moulitsas.

Tim Pawlenty, asked if he preferred Coke or Pepsi, promptly gave the correct answer: Coke. Queried "Blackberry or I-Phone," Ron Paul replied simply "Blackberry." Asked "American Idol" or "Dancing With The Stars," Newt Gingrich immediately responded "American Idol."

A few of the candidates, thankfully, gave the questions as much thought and attention as they deserved: 1-2 seconds. So did Herman Cain, who when asked "Deep dish or thin crust?" replied "deep dish." Which probably is a good reason to avoid Godfather's Pizza.

But Michelle Bachmann recognized a political opportunity when she saw it. She was asked "to you, Elvis or Johnny Cash?"

That put her in a bind. Presley was the king of crossover; starting as primarily a country performer, he morphed into largely a rock performer with considerable appeal to country music fans. Johnny Cash was a country singer but generally without the hard edge that characterized (and made great) the genre of his era. They both had an appeal across the music spectrum, making difficult any effort Bachmann might have made to reach out to a subset of voters with her answer. So, being underrated as a politician, she replied, courageously, "That's really tough. That's really--- both."

When King followed up with "both," Bachmann said "yes," and a moment later added "I've Christmas with Elvis" on my iPod."

Brilliant answer. She loves Elvis, doesn't say she likes him more than Cash, and even through a little shlock religiosity in there with "Christmas with Elvis." No doubt the traditional version of the music, on her I-Pod. We do Christianity high-tech in the Bachmann household, and make sure everyone knows it.

But if Bachmann was playing to the nation's Repub voters- and she was- Romney was determined to appeal to New Hampshire voters, many of whom have fled the high taxes of Massachusetts while maintaining their sports loyalties, all the better to claim a Boston heritage when convenient. King asked "Imagine you're getting to the barbecue joint. Maybe it's here in New Hampshire, maybe it's South Carolina ordering some wings. Spicy or mild?"

Remembering his new image- the Man Who Can Be Photographed Only Without A Tie, even if inchorent with the dark suit he wears- Romney responded "oh, spicy. Absolutely," adding "And, by the way, Bruins are up 4-0....." (in the sixth game of the Stanley Cup finals.) Pandering to the audience, but then, he really, really, really, does want to win that first in the nation primary.

But the best, and dumbest, answer of the night came from Rick Santorum, probably because his question was the first inkling of this obnoxious approach. Queried "Leno or Conan," the former Pennsylvania Senator replied, clearly uncomfortably, "Probably Leno. But I don't watch either. Sorry." Himself uncomfortable- but insufficiently- John King responded "All right. That's all right. That's the answer -- the answer is the answer."

It is candor like that which has made Santorum a bad politician and has made him along with Herman Cain (never held elective office) and Newt Gingrich (yesterday's news) as likely to be the GOP presidential nominee as is Joe Biden. The proper answer to each question was "don't watch either" or "don't like either" or "don't watch either" "Randy Travis" (video below) or "Johnny Paycheck" (video way below) or "calzone" (o.k., maybe not that one).

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