We are about to see the most idiotic way to pick a president of the United States. At these presidential debates, you will see somebody ask a question about how to deal with terrorism in 18 countries all over the world, where the candidate has two minutes to explain how to resolve the whole problem and save the whole universe.
Why is it that we use this debate system to determine the presidency of the United States, which is considered so overwhelming that most historians have considered only five or six presidents to have been exceptionally successful? They have considered only about 12 presidents to be even passably acceptable, and over half are considered to have been huge flops. The question is: Why is it that if it is so rare for someone to succeed in the presidency that we would employ a debate system where each person has at most three minutes, and if they are lucky 10 extra seconds, to convince the American public they are fit for the job? Is there any job in the world where they determine if you should be hired based on two or three minute interviews? Even if you apply for a job as a men's room attendant, you would be subjected to have to answer questions for at least half an hour, and if you were being seriously considered you would have to come back for another half an hour to make sure you didn't contradict yourself about anything you said in the first half an hour. For a presidential candidate to reduce himself to the level of a contestant as if he were on a show like "America's Got Talent" is a grievous insult and a mockery of our most exalted office.
The world's problems have become so massive and elusive that books pop out every 15 minutes struggling with these questions while seldom finding any answers. Columnists, who are supposed to be political geniuses, write and write and write but cannot seem to come up with simple answers to complicated problems, but candidates are supposed to offer solutions in three minutes. So, each contestant has to play along with this nonsense and has to be prepared with what they hope is an attention-grabbing sentence, line or a joke that will make them jump out from the crowd.
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Every candidate knows that if you talk about terrorism, the floundering economy, or the health-care debacle, the audience will be hearing the same things from all your opponents. Although Ronald Reagan spent two hours talking about his unique solutions to America's problems, the only thing anyone remembers was that he was the great winner of the 1984 debate and probably saved his election campaign when he said to his opponent, Walter Mondale, "I will not make an issue of age in this campaign. I will not exploit my opponent's youth and inexperience." That is a lesson all these candidates will have in mind as they approach the debate, so be prepared to learn very little about what they will accomplish as a president, but instead be ready to enjoy yourself because you are going to hear more one-liners and jokes than on the Seinfeld show.
If this debate were held 50 years ago, Buddy Hackett would have been president. Today, since he is debating St. Peter, I decline to be nominated and, if elected, would not serve. My advice: Send out scouts to the various comedy clubs to choose the next president of the United States. So what if they wear undershirts instead of ties and jackets.