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The not-so-great debate

In the wake of the GOP debate in South Carolina, I have decided that Herman Cain was not only the clear winner, but that he’s now the guy to beat. He’s bright, speaks well and seems to be free of the sort of baggage that career politicians always seem to be carting around. Even when given the opportunity, Mitt Romney refuses to disown Romneycare, while Newt Gingrich is being ridden piggyback by a sex life that even has Bill Clinton shaking his head and going “Oh my!”

I would suggest to Tim Pawlenty that he learn what to do with his hands before the next debate rolls around. As it is, he comes across like someone who graduated in the bottom third of the class from the Harry Truman School of Public Speaking. He comes across like a robot whose batteries are running low.

One of the things I like best about Mr. Cain is that, so far as I know, he didn’t announce the formation of a committee before deciding to toss his hat in the ring. Frankly, I don’t want a president who has to form a committee before making any decision unrelated to ordering breakfast or having an affair.

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I must confess that of the five men on stage, there were only two who didn’t seem to think their goal was to put us to sleep, and they were Cain and Ron Paul. After events like this, I always find myself wondering why Republican politicians, who never tire of getting applause by merely mentioning Ronald Reagan’s name, never take five minutes to figure out what made him such an appealing candidate. It wasn’t just his looks. If it were that simple, Gov. Romney would already be ensconced in the Oval Office.

The fact is, Republicans are just as bad, if not worse, than liberals when it comes to communicating. Perhaps the problem is that they become so accustomed to being treated like potentates by their staffs, their colleagues and legions of lobbyists, they forget that most of us regard them as self-important simpletons. They get up there like high-school valedictorians, stringing together bromides and platitudes, totally devoid of humor and originality, and expect us to swoon at their brilliance. Reagan may not have had a very distinguished acting career, but he knew how to deliver a line and make it sound spontaneous, and he certainly knew the difference between a good script and a lousy one.

Just because politicians take their own clichés seriously and deliver them with great solemnity doesn’t mean that any of us are under any obligation to feign interest. It’s time that Republicans running for office realized that it’s not illegal to occasionally break the law of gravitas.

In trying to find a way to express the awful feeling I get when having to listen to one of these bores, I kept coming up with words like “queasy” and “stomach-turning” – which, I suddenly realized, is exactly how I feel when listening to Garrison Keillor’s prissy singing voice.

Unlike such naturals as Reagan, Herman Cain and Jack Kennedy, most politicians unfortunately share the personality traits one usually associates with a sack of potatoes.

Still, I should hasten to add that if in the 2012 presidential election, the bag of spuds has an “R” after its name, it has my vote.