Vetting Candidates 2016: American Idol Style (Part 1 of 4)

Photo courtesy of BBC

Photo courtesy of BBC

Redmeat Rhetoric vs Substance

I’m just going to come right out and say it. As much good the TEA Party movement and conservative talk hosts and bloggers have done for motivating and mobilizing conservatives these last few years, they have fallen prey to a disease long rampant in the Democrat Party that now has infected the Republican primary vetting for 2016: emotionally charged American Idol Syndrome. Anger and frustration were pretty much the catalysts that birthed the TEA Party movement, and with all the common sense and reason that anchor the very heart of conservative thought, it just didn’t occur to me that we weren’t sufficiently inoculated. Disgust with both political parties has snowballed into fear and panic after 7 years of Obama’s fundamental transformation and a Republican led Congress refusing to stop it. So scared and starved now are we for a leader, ANY  leader, who will halt and reverse this spiral into the abyss that masses are clamoring for “an Obama of our own” to face off and beat presumed Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton.  Style now (literally) trumps substance in determining not only who should run for president but who deserves to even be seen and heard on national media and in the GOP primary debates. Welcome to vetting 2016, American Idol Style, and as a conservative, I for one am frustrated and embarrassed, and voters as well as the country lose out.

Fawning media, especially Fox News (media arm of the RNC) and conservative talk shows fuel and stoke popularity polls which now serve as the determinants in vetting people for presidential consideration. Media personalities and elitist pundits have the national megaphone to influence voters in a very big way and are in part largely responsible for creating these political rock stars of late. How else does one explain the unlikely candidacy of mild mannered pediatric neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson? People with no clue what Carson thinks or believes on a bevy of weighty issues immediately deemed him presidential material after his criticism of Obamacare at the National Prayer breakfast received national attention from conservative talk shows and bloggers. “Run, Ben, Run!!”  It’s beyond crazy to choose, or in this case, create, a presidential candidate this way. Vetting in this election cycle is virtually nonexistent.  What we have instead is a desperate and dumbed down approach to find an acceptably conservative version of Obama who can excite crowds like Obama does, and this somehow translates to an electable candidate capable of presidential duties.

I mean no disrespect whatsoever to Dr. Carson whom I admire and believe is a very fine, highly intelligent Christian man, patriot, and role model; but his entire life’s work has been exclusively in the field of medicine, and this does not translate to the ability of running the country. I’m sorry, but it just doesn’t. America is not a patient and President is not a medical position. Carson is no more prepared or able to run the country than the devoutly patriotic restaurant owner, college professor, entrepreneur, or any of the hundreds of other intelligent, principled, and articulate people I’ve heard speak so eloquently and passionately at many a TEA Party rally or town hall.  Great motivational speakers they are, yes; presidential material, no.  Absolutely and unequivocally, no.  And I’ll add that if Dr. Carson were instead a white or Asian man, the attention he received after criticizing Obama would have been very short-lived. Most people don’t want to admit that, but it’s true. Ask most any Carson supporter to be honest about this and they will tell you the same thing. And that is not racist, it’s just the truth.

The same goes for former Hewlett-Packard CEO and self-made millionairess Carly Fiorina. Her vibrant, tough talk on issues she has no experience in and harsh words for Hillary Clinton have enthralled crowds and already earned her comparisons to Margaret Thatcher; but that’s all it is. Tough talk.  Mrs. Fiorina does indeed have a very inspiring life story and is a successful and shrewd businesswoman; but I’m sorry, globetrotting and hobnobbing with heads of state on business matters is NOT foreign policy and national security experience. Okay, chalk one up for her that Bibi Netanyahu is counted among her friends, and she, like Carson, has studied up on world affairs. But let’s face it, America is not a business and the position of President is not a CEO. Nonetheless, Fiorina has tough talked her way into rising star status and up the popularity polls despite her failed one and only attempt to take out liberal Senate matriarch Barbara Boxer, and that was even with substantial help from the RNC. Eh, no matter. She’s a dynamic speaker who landed some coveted hot button questions in her first debate and used some pretty sharp and muscular verbiage in her responses; and she sounds really, really smart too. That’s because she is. Oh, and by the way, she’s a woman.  So who cares about her political inexperience and questionable views on some rather critical issues recently coming to light? Who better to go up against Hillary, right? American Idol Syndrome strikes again. 


Shiny, inexperienced, and new

This brings me to practically all the other fresh-faced, new blood candidates who have attained political celebrity or super hero status by way of keynoting at political venues and candidate forums, annual events which have morphed into contests gauging who is the most successful at inducing the crowds to their feet more often and provoking the most raucous and sustained applause from their performances. For many in the pack, it’s a good way to cover up their otherwise unremarkable, wafer-thin, or non-existent résumés or records of actual leadership experience that heretofore prominently factored to a large degree in proving presidential prowess. You no longer have to actually have a record that you’ve led on or have any experience on the issues a president will no doubt face in office, just that you can talk about it and do so persuasively. If you can do it in an entertaining fashion, all the better. Rhetorical flourish and a penchant for the dramatic come in pretty handy here. Give the people what you think they want to hear, not necessarily what they need to hear.

This is definitely a talented and diverse group of individuals, intelligent and accomplished, no doubt, but that does not mean they all should be applying for what is inarguably  the most difficult and responsibility laden job in the country, moreover, in the world. The mere fact that a whopping 17 people have come forward to offer themselves as Public Servant Number one in the most unstable, volatile world since World War II just boggles the mind. Do they all really believe they are prepared and ready to step up to the task at hand? We know now that here in America practically anyone can run for president. Barack Obama is proof that not just anyone should run for president.

No, I’m not comparing the current crop of Republican candidates to the global wrecking ball that is Barack Hussein Obama; but many in the field have been ushered into the race on a tsunami of hype and celebrity, very much like Obama, not for what they have actually accomplished or proven about themselves that would merit even consideration that they are presidential material, but merely for what they say and how they say it; not for what they actually have done but what they say they will do. Just look at how many have already flip-flopped a hasty 180 or back peddled for damage control after their initial views and policies were met with heavy criticism and/or upset their biggest donors or support base. I tend to believe the first words out of a candidate’s mouth when thrown a candid question is actually what he really believes. How many times have we already heard “What I really meant to say was …” or “You misunderstood what I said” and the classic weasely mea culpa “I’ve evolved on that issue”? I shudder to imagine one of these in the pressure cooker of the Oval Office when the heat gets turned up.

Go to Part 2


Photo courtesy of BBC