Triv­ial Pur­suit with the stars

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - Opin­ion by Wes­ley Pru­den

This isn’t the silly sea­son, ex­actly. But some of the groupies and most of the pun­dits — like sportswrit­ers pick­ing the pen­nant win­ners on ar­riv­ing in Florida for spring train­ing — can’t help get­ting a lit­tle silly on the eve of the pres­i­den­tial sea­son.

Some of them are ea­ger to hand­i­cap the field — a field with a lot of hand­i­caps, an ob­ser­vant man might say — and there’s many months to go be­fore any­one be­yond the Belt­way will start pay­ing at­ten­tion to the dreaded leap-year pa­rade of pres­i­den­tial wannabes.

These early “de­bates,” such as they are, are the ex­hi­bi­tion games. Only the pun­dits are keep­ing score, an ex­er­cise use­ful mostly to the pur­vey­ors of early money. They can see who has a good curve ball, and who doesn’t.

Ev­ery early de­bate pro­duces a new hot prospect. Her­man Cain was hot a fort­night ago. And the big sur­prise June 13 in New Hamp­shire was the emer­gence of Rep. Michele Bach­mann, this time with more on her mind than wrestling with Amer­i­can his­tory.

The early rap on her was that, like Sarah Palin, she had cut his­tory class too of­ten in ju­nior high school.

The Gaffe Pa­trol, the fly­ing cir­cus of brave and peer­less pun­dits who ex­am­ine ev­ery­thing a can­di­date says with a mag­ni­fy­ing glass in search of mis­takes and “gaffes,” has been tak­ing shots at her for weeks since she put “the shot heard ‘round the world” in New Hamp­shire in­stead of Mas­sachusetts.

That was fairly triv­ial, since ex­cept for Mas­sachusetts, the New Eng­land states are the size of postage stamps, and it’s dif­fi­cult for any­one to keep them sep­a­rate.

Ear­lier, Mzz Bach­mann praised the Found­ing Fathers “who worked tire­lessly un­til slav­ery was no more in the United States.” Even an oc­ca­sional gun­ner in the Gaffe Pa­trol knows that by the time of the eman­ci­pa­tion the Found­ing Fathers, even the con­sid­er­able num­ber of slave own­ers among them, were all safely dead.

But this was not the Michele Bach­mann any­one will re­call from this de­bate, where she was Snow White hang­ing out with five of the seven dwarfs. Dopey and Grumpy couldn’t make the scene, and Sleepy, dis­guised as Newt Gingrich, slept through the evening.

Snow White took over the oc­ca­sion with the for­mal an­nounce­ment of what ev­ery­body al­ready knew, that she was run­ning. And, at least for the evening, she was the Not-Mitt Rom­ney can­di­date. Mr. Rom­ney, the pol­lanointed front-run­ner, spent the evening try­ing to prove that he was not as bad as you think, but the next morn­ing 66 per­cent of likely Repub­li­can vot­ers told the Ras­mussen poll-tak­ers they pre­fer some­one else.

For the evening Mr. Rom­ney was broc­coli, Mzz Bach­mann the pep­per­oni pizza. Ev­ery­one else was cold mashed potatos. (Or was it pota­toes?)

John King, the CNN ring­mas­ter, es­tab­lished the dim­bulb tone of an evening of Triv­ial Pur­suit, keep­ing it to the level av­er­age tele­vi­sion view­ers un­der­stand. Try­ing to plumb the cu­rios­ity and in­tel­lec­tual depth of the field, he asked each can­di­date an ei­ther-or ques­tion.

Does Mzz Bachman pre­fer Elvis or Johnny Cash? Does Rick San­to­rum pre­fer Leno or Conan, Ron Paul like his Black­Berry or iPhone best, Her­man Cain pre­fer thin-crust or deep-dish pizza, would Mr. Rom­ney pre­fer his chicken wings orig­i­nal recipe or spicy, and does Tim Paw­lenty like Coke or Pepsi? (An- swers: both, Black­Berry, deep dish, spicy and Coke.)

But John King was not swim­ming alone deep in the shal­lows. Soon the can­di­dates them­selves were com­pet­ing to see who could count the most chil­dren, like De­pres­sion-era farm­ers in tattered over­alls at a Huey Long rally com­pet­ing for the hun­dred-pound sack of Robin Hood flour awarded to the Mother Hub­bard with the most chil­dren.

“I’ve had five chil­dren,” Mzz Bach­mann said, “and we are the fos­ter par­ents of 23 great chil­dren.” No­body could top that, though Rick San­to­rum tried (“Karen and I are the par­ents of seven”). Said Tim Paw­lenty: “I’m the fa­ther of two.” Chipped in Her­man Cain: “Fa­ther of two, grand­fa­ther of three.”

They all think they can beat Barack Obama (fa­ther of two, who prefers shoot­ing hoops to lacrosse), and maybe they can. His fa­vor­a­bil­ity rat­ings con­tinue to lag in the mid-40s, and the polls sug­gest that the vot­ers have made up their minds about the mes­siah from Hyde Park.

Both Sarah Palin and Michele Bach­mann, schol­ars of his­tory or not, have demon­strated a bet­ter grasp of his­tory than Mr. Obama has about eco­nom­ics. You could look it up.

Wes­ley Pru­den is edi­tor emer­i­tus of The Wash­ing­ton Times.

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