Commentary: 'Real' TV from Snooki to Mitt
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Feb. 2, 2012 -My two youngest daughters are trash TV enthusiasts. They started with Jerry Springer and reruns of The Dating Game but their tastes have evolved along with the genre. I think The Bachelorette and Jersey Shore are the current favorites.
The girls are both unabashed and unapologetic about their strange proclivity. In fact, they tend to revel in the bizarre proceedings they witness. The more outlandish the action, the better. "Did you see what Snooki did when ...?"
I, on the other hand, am a sensible and serious adult. Instead of wasting my time on such drivel, I watch more mature fare. I used to be a big fan of the History Channel until that network transformed itself into a how-to resource for aspiring pawn shop operators and would-be arctic truckers.
[Side note to program directors: Things that are happening right now are not yet history, even if they take place in Alaska. Reporting on the present is better classified as "current events"; current events in Alaska are merely "frigid current events." And while the background of pawned antiquities may be of historical interest, the more pertinent story here is what drove these poor wretches to hock their treasures in the first place.]
Given the dearth of alternatives for the discerning intellect, I often tune in to cable news. This habit has allowed me to closely monitor the Republican presidential primaries because the major outlets now devote approximately 23 hours a day to the race. The surfeit of coverage insures repetition, which puts me to sleep. I drift off to one set of talking heads discussing Newt's latest allegation and awake to a different panel analyzing Mitt's rebuttal.
My unwitting immersion into the sausage-making of politics has caused me to wonder if the rest of the world has decided to suspend operations until the GOP selects a nominee. Isn't anything else going on? I'm also beginning to worry that an appetite for tawdry drama may run in my family.
The object of the game is to capture the Republican nomination without being Mitt Romney. Like most realty shows, this one began with an open casting call. Because we join the program in progress, a brief recap of who's done what is in order. In the interest of brevity, candidates ranking at or below Tim Pawlenty are excluded.
Michele Bachmann: Much to the chagrin of satirists nationwide, this gaffe-a-minute hopeful withdrew from the race after she was unable to duplicate her earlier straw poll triumph when Iowans made of flesh and blood were allowed to vote.
Herman Cain: The immediate beneficiary of Bachmann's demise, this Pokemon-quoting pizza czar went down in flames fueled by serial accusations of sexual harassment and a truly remarkable ignorance of world affairs. As Harry Truman said, "If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen."
Rick Perry: Boldly demonstrated to a nation in need of no further proof that cogent public speaking is not prerequisite for the governorship of Texas.
Jon Huntsman: Labeled a traitor by the party faithful not because he filed against the man who appointed him to be Ambassador to China, but because he agreed to serve his country while a Democrat was in the White House. Small wonder nobody quotes Eisenhower anymore...
Rick Santorum: Still technically alive but unlikely to find sleeves for his sweater. Can't seem to believe that nobody wants to vote for him. Lost his bid to retain U.S. Senate seat by 17 percent - an all-time record for an upper chamber incumbent. Does anybody remember Harold Stassen?
Ron Paul: Kids like his libertarian stance on marijuana. Unfortunately, adults like Medicare.
Newt Gingrich: Responding to widespread concern over mounting public debt and an alarming budget deficit, Newt has decided the time is ripe to colonize the moon. Perhaps coincidentally, he unveiled this bold 21st century initiative while campaigning in Florida, home to the presently dormant Kennedy Space Center. (Q: If contractors charged the government $48 to deliver a case of Coke to our troops in Iraq, what will it cost to quench a thirst on the lunar surface?)
By turns venal, vicious and temperamentally brilliant, he's a staunch social conservative who believes that marriage should be between one man and one woman -- at a time...
Mitt Romney: Undeterred by the not-Romney provision, this candidate managed to turn himself into somebody else. Parlaying a massive infusion of Wall Street cash with some rather flexible personal convictions, he transformed himself from a pro-choice, pro-gun-control, universal health care advocate into a pistol-packing pro-lifer who believes that if the sick had any ambition, they'd get off their ass and fend for themselves. Favorite son of the hair gel industry.
Sarah Palin: This remarkable woman evolved from a virtual unknown into a party elder over a three and a half year period during which she accomplished every conceivable political goal except actually winning an election.
In an apparent attempt to cast her shadow over the race while keeping her options open, non-candidate Palin recently remarked that if she lived in South Carolina, she'd vote for Gingrich. But if she lived in Florida, she advises she's uncertain how she'd vote -- thus demonstrating Tip O'Neill's point that all politics is local.
There's much more that I could say about this fascinating exercise in democracy, but I have to join my daughters to see what that vamp Snooki is wearing this week.
M.W. Guzy is a retired St. Louis cop who currently works for the city Sheriff's Department. His column appears weekly in the Beacon.