Reality TV Obstacle Course Has Logical Outcome
Hi. It’s been a while. I went to France for a month and returned in time for the recent Republican debate on CNBC. I was pretty jetlagged and did not make it all the way through both games of the doubleheader, but the post-debate fist shaking was of greater interest than the event itself.
I never watch CNBC so I don’t know its cast of characters. Well, except one: Jim Cramer. Even in his alleged area of expertise – investing – Cramer is a complete moron. Throughout my 17 years in the investment management business, one of my most consistent (and best received) bits of advice was first to ignore him and second to either change the channel or turn off the television. Both would have had a noticeable positive effect on investment returns. Whatever his level of stupidity about money management, it is exceeded by his stupidity as a presidential debate questioner. Even though the debate was allegedly about money, how does anyone put that guy on the air for anything of any importance whatever?
The post-debate fist shaking relates to gotcha questions, the most pointed of which require the candidate to choose between looking stupid and offending either a large donor or his voter base. Such questions do not make the candidates happy though they reflect well on the moderators who make career-enhancing points for looking tough. The party doesn’t love them either because of the likelihood they will turn up next summer as attack ads aimed at the eventual nominee.
Journalists think gotcha questions are great as long as they are not labeled as such. “Just doing my job” must make them feel better about being in a fading industry. The other fan of gotcha questions is President Obama, who likes to snicker at the whiners while suggesting their lack of readiness to deal with world leaders when they are unable to deal with debate moderators. I am pretty sure he understands that he is president, but I am not sure he thinks much about the last four words of his title: “of the United States.” Somehow, President Obama resembles a parliamentary party leader (who is supposed to be partisan) more than he appears to be president even of those who did not vote for him.
The debates are silly, but they are a symptom of the overarching silliness of the entire process. The skills needed to be elected have nothing whatever to do with the skills required to do the job. It is as if professional athletes won their positions through hot dog eating contests. If eating large numbers of hot dogs is not a skill required in the game itself why would it be a basis for selection?
The game of being elected president is not about the candidates, who now serve as paid placards for brands created by their handlers. The game pits the handlers against each other in a vast mud wrestle fueled by campaign dollars. If you happen to be seeking supporters of Citizen United, look no further than the campaign handlers whose paychecks derive from unlimited contributions.
It is of no importance to the handlers that the obstacle race requires the paid placards (AKA the candidates) to slalom through Super Pac donors, bundlers, retail contributors, debates, Iowa evangelicals, South Carolina rednecks, Facebook and Twitter morons, overlong fund raising letters, robocalls, yard signs and, finally “fuck it, how much do you want for your vote.” The handlers get paid for every step.
Choosing the President by subjecting the candidates to a reality TV obstacle course hardly tells us who will do best on the world stage. Odd, in fact, that President Obama would bring that up, as his own deficiencies suggest that a deeply flawed election process will likely have a deeply flawed outcome.