There should be a better way than this

Republican presidential candidates, from left, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, businessman Donald Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson take a moment of silence for U.S. Supreme Court associate justice Antonin Scalia who died today, during the CBS News Republican presidential debate at the Peace Center, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

“There’s one characteristic of our country. We can get all lathering at the time over some political campaign promise, or some conference pledge, but if the thing just drags along long enough we forget what is was that was originally promised. The short memories of the American voter is what keeps our politicians in office.”

— Will Rogers, April 7, 1930

I don’t know about you, but I’m thankful as all get out that our South Carolina primaries will soon be over and done with. It’s time for all these “from-offs” to move on, and take their goof-ball political ads with them. Sure, it’ll get a bit lonely for some of us shut-ins, not having the phone ring every two minutes and having a recorded message asking us to please — please! — be sure to vote for him and not one of those other guys who lie about everything — what they’ve done and what they promise to do on “day one.”

Why should anyone be surprised if politicians lie? It’s the name of the game, and it gets even worse once we vote them into office. There’s an old Vietnamese story that goes something like this: “Candidates for public office are like birds without feathers — each vote being another feather. When he has enough feathers, off he flies. And we never see or hear from him again.”

I’ve watched all the “debates,” Republican and Democrat, except for the last Democrat one when there was an old movie on TV that I knew would be far more intellectually stimulating. It’s about all someone my age can take — six, eight or ten Republican candidates beating up on each other (the classic circular firing squad), a couple of hours of Hillary Clinton blaming Republicans for everything that’s gone wrong on Obama’s watch, and Bernie Sanders promising to give away the store once he’s stormed Wall Street’s topless towers. (No, Bernie. Topless Towers is not a Wall Street burlesque show. But being from Brooklyn you probably already know that.)

Really, couldn’t the Clinton campaign afford to give Hillary a voice coach, one that could travel with her everywhere she goes? Someone who at least would advise her to never, ever, laugh in public? Couldn’t the campaign find someone she’d listen to who’d tell her to tone it down a bit when she gets animated over the Republican “war on women”? When she does this it inevitably brings to middle age and senior minds “Bubba,” “trailor trash,” “bimbos,” and young, star-struck White House interns.

It’s just plain dumb to inject all this into her campaign. It’s far more sensible to let sleeping dogs lie, particularly the Big Dawg himself. Surely, there must have been someone among her principal advisors to warn her about the predictable consequences if she made him part of her already stumbling race for the White House. And by the way — how is Bubba doing on the campaign trail this time around?

And then there’s the Republican race. Thankfully, the players in this melodrama have been winnowed down from the original cast of thousands to a mere half dozen or so, but unfortunately some of those bumped should not have been and too many of those who should have been were not.

I wish we didn’t have these political cattle shows they call debates — at least not at the primary level. They’re degrading for the candidates and one suspects that they’re put on more to financially benefit the networks and showcase the moderators than they are to inform the public. There are too many gotcha questions thrown at the candidates and too much is riding on ones that leave them mumbling or stumbling for an answer. Too often, moderators act like referees in a cage fight trying to gin up some action. Too often, they let their personal political inclinations show.

If we must have debates, let the candidates themselves question each other and shut off their mikes when they go over the time limit.

Maybe then we’d better know what — and even if — the next president of the United States thinks beyond the canned sound bites their handlers feed them.

I know. An impossible dream.

R. L. Schreadley is a former Post and Courier executive editor.