The Not So Great Debate

In the wake of the GOP debate in South Carolina, I have decided that Herman Cain was not only the clear-winner, but that he’s now the guy to beat. He’s bright, speaks well and seems to be free of the sort of baggage that career politicians always seem to be carting around. Even when given the opportunity, Mitt Romney refuses to disown RomneyCare, while Newt Gingrich is being ridden piggyback by a sex life that even has Bill Clinton shaking his head and going “Oh my!”

I would suggest to Tim Pawlenty that he learn what to do with his hands before the next debate rolls around. As it is, he comes across like someone who graduated in the bottom third of the class from the Harry Truman School of Public Speaking. He comes across like a robot whose batteries are running low.

One of the things I like best about Mr. Cain is that, so far as I know, he didn’t announce the formation of a committee before deciding to toss his hat in the ring. Frankly, I don’t want a president who has to form a committee before making any decision unrelated to ordering breakfast or having an affair.

I must confess that of the five men on stage, there were only two who didn’t seem to think their goal was to put us to sleep, and they were Cain and Ron Paul. After events like this, I always find myself wondering why Republican politicians, who never tire of getting applause by merely mentioning Ronald Reagan’s name, never take five minutes to figure out what made him such an appealing candidate. It wasn’t just his looks. If it were that simple, Governor Romney would already be ensconced in the Oval Office.

The fact is, Republicans are just as bad, if not worse, than liberals when it comes to communicating. Perhaps the problem is that they become so accustomed to being treated like potentates by their staffs, their colleagues and legions of lobbyists, they forget that most of us regard them as self-important simpletons. They get up there like high school valedictorians, stringing together bromides and platitudes, totally devoid of humor and originality, and expect us to swoon at their brilliance. Reagan may not have had a very distinguished acting career, but he knew how to deliver a line and make it sound spontaneous, and he certainly knew the difference between a good script and a lousy one.

Just because politicians take their own clichés seriously and deliver them with great solemnity doesn’t mean that any of us are under any obligation to feign interest. It’s time that Republicans running for office realized that it’s not illegal to occasionally break the law of gravitas.

In trying to find a way to express the awful feeling I get when having to listen to one of these bores, I kept coming up with words like “queasy” and “stomach-turning.” Which, I suddenly realized, is exactly how I feel when listening to Garrison Keillor’s prissy singing voice.

Unlike such naturals as Reagan, Herman Cain and Jack Kennedy, most politicians unfortunately share the personality traits one usually associates with a sack of potatoes.

Still, I should hasten to add that if in the 2012 presidential election, the bag of spuds has an (R) after its name, it has my vote.

©2011 Burt Prelutsky. Comments? Write Burt!
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Author Bio:

Burt Prelutsky, a very nice person once you get to know him, has been a humor columnist for the L.A. Times and a movie critic for Los Angeles magazine. As a freelancer, he has written for the New York Times, Washington Times, TV Guide, Modern Maturity, Emmy, Holiday, American Film, and Sports Illustrated. For television, he has written for Dragnet, McMillan & Wife, MASH, Mary Tyler Moore, Rhoda, Bob Newhart, Family Ties, Dr. Quinn and Diagnosis Murder. In addition, he has written a batch of terrific TV movies. View Burt’s IMDB profile. Talk about being well-rounded, he plays tennis and poker... and rarely cheats at either. He lives in the San Fernando Valley, where he takes his marching orders from a wife named Yvonne and a dog named Angel.
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  • Wil Burns

    “Why do so many people keep saying that Newt is so smart?”

    I saw him on MTP and everything he said was incredibly stupid. I just wanted to reach inside the TV set and smack him silly with his stupid ideas on the economy and health care, for example. Also his criticisms of Obama are completely inane.

    Kenyan anti-colonial behavior? WTF?

  • Bruce A.

    We keep electing career politicians & look at the shape the USA is in.
    Business sense & common sense have disappeared from Washington DC.
    I hope Herman Cain has the money & backing to go the distance.

  • Burt Prelutsky

    Dear Mr. MacKay: I agree with all your points. I just hope Mr. Cain has the fund-raising ability to carry off a long, expensive campaign. Congratulations to you and your fellow Canadian conservatives for setting us such a fine example with your recent resounding victory.


    • Cameron D. MacKay

      Dear Mr. Prelutsky:
      I appreciate your congratulatory comment on our recent federal election victory as most Americans consider Canadian politics at the outer edges of the universe. However, given the cultural similarity of both countries and given that P.M. Harper is a noted political strategist, the Republican Party may wish to take some leaves out of his playbook. Specifically:
      1. Harper did not concede the ethnic vote to the Liberals although historically the Liberals held a monopoly in those sectors. He spent years telling Italians etc. that they were small c conservatives who emphasized family and church and that being a large C conservative was their natural choice. He wanted them to become an integral part of the productive segment of society. He decided that his foreign policy would unequivocably support the State of Israel and this converted the Jewish community. He took firm steps to stop illegal immigration while at the same time he increased the volume of legal immigration for persons who had needed expertise and qualifications. All of this seemed to sell with the existing immigrant communities as evidently they came out and voted for him.
      He took away rural constituencies from the Liberals and New Democrats by (a) supporting the abolition of the long gun registry which is a typical bureaucratic waste of money and treats law abiding rural folk as criminals and (b) he developed a whole series of policies to counter the urban power bases predominance over the rural sector.
      He eliminated the anti-american attitude which was prevalent with the Liberal Administrations and calmly pointed out that America was an excellent neighbour and ally even though it was 10 times more powerful than Canada. This appealed to most people in the mainstream of society who operate in a highly integrated economy and deal with Americans on almost a daily basis. It isolated the Left who have a hypocritical holier than thou attitude towards the U.S.A.
      He ran a clean competent administration in which his stimulus package was doled out primarily to build infra structure based on the needs and priorities of the Provinces and the Cities. The Auditor General (who is completely independent of Cabinet) gave him high grades for a non-partisan impartial expenditure of these moneys.
      He openly supported the private sector as the revenue and employment engine of the country and kept a handle on the growth of the public sector. He lowered corporate income tax continuously over the past 5 years so that we could compete in the international economy. He blocked any attempt at a “cap and trade bill” while at the same time focussing on sound environmental policies. All of this got the business community and an amazing number of their employees on his side.
      Here is his election platform in a nutshell. We are coming out of a recession but the recovery is very fragile so I cannot promise you any big spending programs. That would be irresponsible and hurt the most vunerable in our society. The best thing for Canada is to stay the course and not get sucked in to all those expensive social programs the Left is promising you.
      Canadians seemed to appreciate that he was giving us the straight bill of goods and gave him a majority.

      • Paul Courtney

        Please let me join in the congrats to Canadian conservatives, eh. Our paper in Dayton usually keeps Canadian elections beyond the outer edge of the universe, so I was amazed to see two articles in the lead up. Both seemed to be written by giddy schoolgirls, about a supposed late surge by the left. Having done that, the paper was forced to report the outcome, and its ill-disguised distress was my satisfaction.

  • Cameron D. MacKay

    Mr. Prelutsky:
    As a Canadian conservative, who closely follows American politics, allow me to reiterate a few obvious comments which possibly American Republicans may be reluctant to espouse lest they appear self serving.
    1. I hope the Republican Party give Herman Cain serious consideration because (a) unlike Obama he is a man whose experience actually qualifies him for that high office; (b) unlike Obama he both understands and embraces the American market system (i.e. capitalism) (c) unlike Obama he has some visionary ideas (e.g. his fair tax proposal) to deal with the economy of the 21 century and is not stuck in the ideolical socialism of the 1930’s which has no applicability to a Postmodern world; (d) unlike Obama he does not play the “victim/race card” and wants to preserve a society based on merit rather than ethnicity.
    2. I suggest that the fact that Cain is an African American will not be a detriment since the allegation that Republicans are racist (as a general proposition) does not seem to have any foundation in fact. It seems in the last election the Republicans were more than successful in electing Latino’s and African Americans. (viz: Florida etc.)
    3. Herman Cain brings to the table competance in contrast to Obama’s startling naivete and dithering, personifies American values whereas Obama gives off the aura of a European socialist, and talks with succinct clarity about specific solutions in a time of economic uncertaintly while Obama simply reads whatever his incompetent staff put on the teleprompter.

    Cain seems to be refreshing because unlike most professional politicians he does not assume that the electorate are stupid. He seems to understand that American voters will respond to unpleasant realities if they are supported by reason and logic. I think the American voter may respond to him most favourably after having listened to Obama’s banalities and re-occuring contradictions in policy and position.

  • Burt Prelutsky

    Clarence: I believe that 90% of blacks will vote for Obama, as they would for any presidential candidate with a (D) after his or her name. But at least if Cain or West were on the GOP ticket, white people who were proud of themselves for voting for a black man in 2008 wouldn’t feel compelled to repeat that stupid mistake in 2012.

    Konrad: You are right about Reagan. But he knew how to blend his patriotism with humor to make an unbeatable combination. Going from McCain to Cain in four years is my idea of progress.


  • Doug Baker

    I’m with you, Burt! . . and, . howsabout we balance Herman with John Bolton at Veep (task him with upending the diplomatic corps @ State, while Mr Cain takes the wheels off everything from the IRS to the FCC. A total re-think of foreign aid is long overdue and constitutionally the EPA should be an advisory board. Make Congress actually pass laws and the DOJ enforce them.

  • Konrad Lau

    The major difference between Mr. Reagan and every other politician since his time is the fact that he did not separate Americans by class, social structure, ethnicity, religion or culture. His speeches were “lessons” as it were on what exactly it means to BE American, what Americans can accomplish, what the American ideal was as envisioned by the constructors of the Constitution.

    So often these days we hear political speeches made with content specifically designed to appeal to one or another group of voters. RR always made the same type of speech (even to those thirsting for bloody red meat at the Republican conventions) regardless of audience. That was the way in which he drew (read that “Lead”) all Americans to support his vision of the way it should and could be.

    I think that is what so many Americans, both from the left and right, long for…true leadership from the front that explains the American concept, leaves no one behind and makes no enemy of any American who supports that most noble of documents…The Constitution…not leadership by consensus or polling data.

  • Clarence De Barrows

    Burt: Allen West has formed no exploratory committee and he, by example, personifies the word Patriot. A Patriot that a good number of people are attempting to draft as the Republican candidate. In an earlier assessment of Allen West’s chances you told me that West really had no chance as Blacks wouldn’t vote for a Black with an R behind his name. What about Cain?

  • Shirl

    I’m just waiting to hear from the rest of the pac to make an informed opinion. The nominee will have a wall of evil to run against and whom every it might be, they will need all of our support.

  • Burt Prelutsky

    David: I didn’t know that he had played follow the leader in that area. Too bad. I wonder how one gets to be on an exploratory committee. It sounds like easy work and if it pays well, I think I’ll form an exploratory committee and look into it.

    Paul: Nor will I hold mine. The media will join those who will label Cain an oreo or an Uncle Tom. Or, worse yet, an inauthentic black…unlike the fellow with the white mother and the Arab father currently in the Oval Office.

    J.L.: I don’t know about Mr. Cain’s involvement with the Federal Reserve Bank, but I suspect that if I did know, it would mean far less to me than it would to Ron Paul.

    Best, Burt

  • Paul Borden

    So, do you suppose that when someone criticizes one of Herman Cain’s opinions/ideas that the lamestream media and other liberals will call that someone a racist? I’m not holding my breath.

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  • J.L. Tharp

    What’s the story on Brother Cain’s involvement with the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City?

  • David Hunter

    Mr. Prelutsky,
    Loved the article. However, I wanted to point out that Herman Cain did form an exploratory committee.