A question: have you watched any of the presidential debates? And if so, have you watched more than one? And if so, are you not either related to or working for one of the candidates?
The debates seem designed to bring out the least attractive features of all the candidates — and, alas, the candidates have no shortage of unattractive features. Democrats argue about who was the earliest opponent of the Iraq intervention, while Republicans simultaneously declare their piety, their love for Jesus and their determination to round up 12 million people and dump them on the other side of the Rio Grande River.
Is such shameless pandering really what primary voters want to hear?
Have Democratic voters forgotten that the U.S. invasion of Iraq was supported by overwhelming majorities in both houses of Congress, not just because of supposedly cooked intelligence by the Bushies, but because such an intervention seemed both necessary and inevitable? And do their Republican counterparts seriously believe that the United States ought to undertake forced deportations and relocations on a scale that only Nazi Germany has ever attempted?
I don’t think so.
The Republicans I know are not interested in demonizing illegal immigrants — they just want to tighten our borders and figure out what to do with the folks who are already here. None of them seriously believe that we can, or should, try to locate and deport every undocumented worker in the country.
And the Democrats, knowing perfectly well that every one of their candidates believes that the Iraq war was a mistake, are looking for competence and electability, not ideological purity.
Looking over the candidates, once you’ve weeded out delightful sideshows like Ron Paul, Mike Gravel, Duncan Hunter and Dennis Kucinich, over-hyped duds like Fred Thompson and de facto vice presidential candidates like Bill Richardson, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd, it’s hard to be very excited.
Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, Mitt Romney and John Edwards are yesterday’s wine, still fighting yesterday’s fights. They’re cynical, manipulative and as transparently mendacious as Barry Bonds. Electing any one of them would simply guarantee that the sterile infighting of the last two decades will continue for another four years.
Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee are the Jimmy Carters of this year’s race.
They’re decent, idealistic, well-meaning lightweights, who would be absolutely overwhelmed by the demands of the presidency.
So who’s left? No one.
That’s why we need some new candidates, and I have a couple of great ones — one Republican, one Democrat.
For the GOPsters: A two-term U.S. Senator, whose time in office was marked by thoughtful, bipartisan legislation, and who earned the respect and affection colleagues and voters alike.
He retired from the Senate a few years ago and assumed the presidency of a great university, whose once-sterling reputation had been sullied by the missteps of his predecessors. Thanks to his skillful administration, and to his unquestioned moral stature, the university is once again thriving and respected.
For the Donksters: This western governor led his party from the political wilderness to statewide domination in just a few years. For the first time in 46 years, Democrats control the governor’s office, both houses of the state legislature and a majority of the state’s congressional delegation.
He’s far from a traditional liberal — a career prosecutor, he’s a pro-life Catholic and served two years as a Christian missionary in Africa. Like his Republican counterpart, he’s thoughtful, articulate and fair-minded. In person, again like his Republican counterpart, he’s extraordinarily impressive.
Unlike our current dismal crop of candidates, these men have something of the aura of, say, Adlai Stevenson or Dwight Eisenhower. They’re serious, competent men, well-suited for the world’s most demanding, and most unforgiving job.
For the Republicans: Colorado University President Hank Brown. And for the Democrats: Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter.
It’s too bad they’re not running — either of them would be infinitely preferable to any of the existing candidates.
Meanwhile, the Dougster’s off to Denver, where he’ll bloviate, fulminate and accomplish nothing. He’ll be the least effective, most despised legislator in a powerless minority. And that’s appropriate, since he might have had more to do with the Republican decline than any other single individual.
The Bruce-authored Taxpayers Bill of Rights amendment to the state constitution, with its sly, underhanded and unworkable fiscal constraints, defied common sense. But Republicans felt that they had to embrace it — and as its effects, particularly on local governments, became more pernicious, a majority of voters came to oppose it.
These voters — whether moderate Republicans, independents or Democrats — abandoned doctrinaire Republicans for Democrats. In a conservative western state, where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than 150,000, it was quite a feat.
Without Doug Bruce and TABOR, the Republicans might still be in the driver’s seat — so we can be sure the remaining legislators will enthusiastically welcome him to their much-diminished caucus.
And as they listen to him give speeches on the floor of the House, they may recall the immortal words of the Bard:
“… a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
John Hazlehurst can be reached at John.Hazlehurst@csbj.com or 227-5861.