Guest column | James Pettican

Republican debates are a good show, if nothing else

It may soon be over now so TV reality shows will go back to their usual locales — isolated jungle islands. Who would have thought that a political debate would be such fertile ground for one?

After soon-to-be 92 years on our planet, I am more to the left politically than to the right so I'm not usually drawn to Republican debates. However, this year's GOP presidential debates may just go down as classics. Too old to TiVo or to stay up late to watch Saturday Night Live, I got more than several chuckles and a bumper crop of laughs from the battling Republicans.

Good drama can be sad and funny at the same time so maybe what we had was more drama than debate. Anyway, they eased the long winter nights and the short winter days.

Herman Cain was the master of rhymes with his "nine, nine, nine,'' which he pushed as a way to make all well in Washington D.C. and other seats of government.

If Cain had overheard me repeating his slogan, he probably would not have known that I was only repeating my German grandmother's "nein, nein, nein'' which we kids heard when we were doing something not permitted.

Jon Huntsman seemed like a level-headed guy to me and, after all, he had been our envoy to China but, somehow, he wasn't colorful enough, I guess.

Michele Bachmann from Minnesota seemed to be setting her focus on becoming this campaign's Sarah Palin and she did give it a good run. But with the original looking in and sounding off, now and then, from the sidelines, Bachmann never really had a chance.

Then there was Rick Perry, the governor from Deep in the Heart Of. If only he had stayed awake in his political science and foreign affairs classes but alas, he piled up a pretty impressive total of things he didn't know. I understand some of the ladies liked him anyway.

Another Texan, Ron Paul, was never really in the running but nevertheless he stayed a cast member longer than anyone expected. There's something about a sassy old man, I guess.

Then there is former House speaker Newt Gingrich whom some have dubbed the "baggage master" since he comes with so much of it, both personal and political. He has the look of a man who is sure he knows much more than any of us but is willing to indulge us. His body language seems to say that an impulsiveness lurks therein.

At the moment, we seem to be left with two principal players, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. The former clings to what many of us consider the myth that the government is a business and the latter longs for what appears to be a theocracy combined with the charm of America at the end of the 19th century.

I never heard any of them advocate anything I would vote for but, nevertheless, the debates were entertaining. There were the times that one of the debaters balled out that night's moderator, probably going a bit beyond the boundaries of civility but no one seemed to take that too seriously.

Maybe, for those of us who have been watching TV since the 1940s, the medium has become so been-there, done-that, that we grasp at anything that is a little different and has longer stretches between the interminable commercials. But I do know that I was not alone among the ranks of the elderly who somehow were drawn to the debates.

The tea partiers, I guess, were looking for assurance and confirmation while others among us, myself included, were fascinated by the more outrageous elements on parade.

Historically, the debates may rate the smallest of footnotes if they rate any mention at all. But for now, we ancient liberals sort of miss the gang who couldn't always shoot straight.

Retired journalist James Pettican lives in Palm Harbor.

Republican debates are a good show, if nothing else 03/17/12 [Last modified: Saturday, March 17, 2012 2:03pm]

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