WASHINGTON, Nov. 1, 2015 — On Tuesday, we will be exactly one year from choosing the next president of the United States.
The first Tuesday in November 2016 is Election Day, and we are not much closer to deciding who the president will be than we were a year ago. There are still so many Republicans in the race that we need to stage their debates in two prime-time tiers, with the candidates who don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell taking the early time-slot. That usually coincides with the time that most Republican families are eating dinner, and unless you still have cable, the networks won’t let you watch anyway.
The real prime-time debate is reserved for the later time slot, when the kids are on the computer pretending to do their homework, headphones on and playing video games so gory that they defy parental imagination. That is a part of the evening for front-runners so numerous that they need to jockey for position just to make it to the stage.
The Democratic debates don’t have the same problem. It has always been Hillary and Bernie and those other guys. Who are those other guys? It doesn’t matter. They will be out of the race when their family trust funds stop underwriting their folly of wanting to live in the White House. The real question for the Democrats will be whom to pick as a running mate after the primaries.
One year away from the big vote, the Democrats are hoping that Hillary will survive the ongoing controversy over her handling of Libya, wondering why her e-mails are coming out in small bunches like daffodils in spring that were planted and forgotten. They are also wondering what Bill will be doing if Hillary wins the election, a subject we can only ponder. Bernie will never survive, being a socialist, but you have to admire his spunk. His campaign is reminiscent of George McGovern’s during the lows of the Vietnam war.
That leaves you, if you are so inclined, to filter and sift through the Republicans to find your candidate, unless you have already made up your mind. This election cycle, the press and prospective voters have employed an analysis of failed campaign strategies and candidate gaffes as filters to help us make up our collective mind.
The gaffes have been extensively reported, as the job of a reporter involves hanging around politicians all day in the hope that they will say something newsworthy. After a 15-second soundbite, the rest of the media’s day is as interesting as waiting in line.
In this campaign, “newsworthiness” increases in direct proportion to the public’s reaction to that 15-second message. When a candidate fails at campaign strategy or says something so ridiculous that it enters the American conversation, it is stuck in voters’ minds.
There are recent examples of newsworthiness that deserve mention, with many more to come:
Jeb Bush – Don’t attack your friends: When Jeb was governor of Florida, he had the reputation of being a nice guy who had the interests of his constituents at the top of his to-do list. He was there for hurricanes, sleeves rolled up, ready to work on the problem. He formed a friendship with a young state senator, Marco Rubio, and the two had remained steadfast allies until the third Republican debate. That is the point where his campaign advisers persuaded him to attack his friend on the debate stage to be more like Donald Trump, who attacks everyone, and often.
It works for Trump. It fails miserably for the next in line in the Bush dynasty. After the attack, Rubio picked up a billionaire campaign supporter, and Bush sank deeper in the polls.
Ted Cruz – Don’t attack your fellow senators and the Supreme Court for disagreeing with your approach to life: While the campaign rolls on, some candidates fail to disregard past failures and attempt to impose their political positions on their colleagues and the courts. It is obvious to most voters that Cruz has failed to learn the art of problem-solving. In 2013, Cruz and conservative colleagues managed to shut down the federal government until Congress capitulated on Obamacare. He failed.
In 2016, after the Supreme Court had repelled all efforts to defeat Obamacare and upheld the complicated healthcare reform, Cruz attempted to shame his Senate colleagues by calling for a voice vote after he tried to shut down government once again, for the same purpose. He was met with a resounding “No” by his fellow senators. It became obvious that most of Congress believes him to be a pain in the ass. This is a bad position for a potential president to maintain.
Hillary Clinton – Don’t lie when confronted with the facts: The Democratic frontrunner has more baggage than all of the other candidates combined, and she maintains her lead against others in the race for her party’s nomination by lying in the face of incontrovertible facts. He husband had numerous affairs before and during his terms as president, and she was in charge of fighting what became known as “bimbo eruptions.”
As secretary of state, she maintained that the 9/11 attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, weeks before Obama’s re-election, resulted from a video that disrespected Muslims. She continued to maintain the lie even after being confronted with her own e-mails, which admitted that our embassy had been attacked by terrorists, not because of a video. She survived congressional testimony, but the public perception is that she is an accomplished liar who will do anything to resume occupancy of the White House.
Donald Trump – Don’t attack anyone who is not running for president, and don’t attack candidates who are trailing by a large margin in the polls: Trump began his campaign by attacking Sen. John McCain for being captured after his jet was shot down during the war in Vietnam. In the frenzy surrounding the entry into the race, he failed to point out that although McCain was a candidate in the 2008 election, he is not running in the 2016 election, and his potential base of veterans shrank considerably.
When the press revealed that Trump avoided service in Vietnam by seeking a medical deferment for a heel spur, it appeared that his campaign would take a major hit. He responded by attacking a legitimate candidate, Carly Fiorina, for her looks. The response catapulted Fiorina from deep in the second tier of Republican debaters to the first tier, where she stands on the same stage as Trump. He projects a mean-spirited image toward everyone, but especially toward members of his own party.
The press will continue to diligently pursue gaffes and bad campaign decisions throughout the election. If the facts and the issues of the campaign take a back seat, we are perched on a cliff of decision based on information the press and the polls deem to be newsworthy.