- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 20, 2012

Oh woe is the American pundit, that bombastic parasite of the political realm, all bloviation and alarm. They are an unpopular lot indeed: a mere 21 percent of Americans have a favorable impression of the elite talking set, this according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll that says the findings “reflect the public’s sour mood overall.” Politicians manage a 29 percent approval rating, while opinion polls rate a fairly healthy 46 percent approval rating.

“It’s incredible to see how much of our nation’s political discussion is driven by these smirking, bubbled, back-slapping phonies. The only thing more incredible, though, is how overwhelmingly disliked they are among those of us proud to stand with the great unwashed,” observes John Nolte, a Breitbart.com columnist. “You gotta love the American people. They usually get it right.”

SCRIPTING POLITICS

The chaotic juncture of popular television and the presidency is providing evidence that the race for the White House is devolving into unprecedented trite pandemonium. Where’s the decorum, where’s the gravitas? Oh, it can be funny indeed. Take “The Simpsons,” for example. In the season premiere episode Sept. 30, Homer Simpson votes for Mitt Romney.

Barack Obama? I already have one wife telling me how to eat, plus he promised me death panels and Grandpa’s still alive,” Homer reasons before picking Mr. Romney; the voting machine screen then rewards him with a look at the candidate’s federal tax forms.

Yet the candidates now appear swept away in show biz, willing to appear anywhere, anytime. There’s crabbiness afoot among the ladies of ABC’s “The View,” who quibbled mightily after Mr. Romney was heard framing their daytime talk show as a “risky bet” for Republicans who must face women who were “sharp tongued and not conservative.” That revelation was included in the damning “47 percent” video footage that caused him such angst this week.

And now, surprise. President Obama and first lady Michelle are suddenly appearing on “The View” on Tuesday.

Ann Romney, meanwhile, Tuesday makes her first appearance on NBC’s “Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” a show that has already hosted Mrs. Obama three times. Then there’s CBS late-night host David Letterman, who has sat down with Mr. Obama seven times. Mr. Letterman still assures the public he doesn’t “hate” Mr. Romney, though the same “47 percent” video also revealed the Republican saying “Letterman hates me because I’ve been on Leno more than him.” The inevitable headline follows:

“Next Up On Letterman The Romneys?” asks the New York Daily News.

THE HISTORIC CAMPAIGN

“I discovered that being a president is like riding a tiger. A man has to keep on riding or be swallowed.”

- (Harry S. Truman, in a remark to reporters Dec. 3, 1945.)

THROW OUT THE SCRIPT

Are the upcoming presidential debates just a staged chatfest between President Obama and Mitt Romney? Yes, says George Farah, executive director of Open Debates, a nonpartisan nonprofit that includes conservative analyst Bay Buchanan and former congressman John Anderson on its board of directors. The group is intent on reforming debates to “better serve the interests of the American people,” it says.

“For the first time in history, the Commission on Presidential Debates informed the candidates ahead of time of what topics will be covered by the moderator during the first presidential debate,” Mr. Farah says.

“The candidates shouldn’t be told what the questions are before the exam. Obama and Romney are running for the highest office in the country and, like their predecessors, should be compelled to think on their feet during the debates, rather than recite a series of memorized sound bites.”

Mr. Farah calls it a “radical departure” from previous debates, and one that demonstrates the willingness of the commission to submit to the “anti-democratic demands of the major party candidates.” In July, lawyers for the Obama and Romney campaigns negotiated a detailed contract, he says, and now conceal that contract from voters.

In 1988, the League of Women Voters refused to implement debate contracts and accused the campaigns of “perpetrating a fraud on the American voter,” Mr. Farah adds. Even then, the commission implemented the contract and has sponsored every debate since. He calls it a monopoly that has yielded “sanitized” formats and an exclusion of third party challengers, something that Libertarian hopeful Gary Johnson has been complaining about all along.

BUMPER PATROL

“The Constitution is not a list of suggestions.”

- (Bumper sticker spotted in Stafford, Va.)

WEEKEND READING

Kudos now, for friends of tax payers. The Council for Citizens Against Government Waste has released its annual ratings parsing the voting records of all 535 members of Congress for signs of frugality, praising in particular those lawmakers who seek to protect the citizenry and just plain save money. At the very top of the heap are Republican Reps. Steve Chabot of Ohio, Tom Graves of Georgia and Ron Paul of Texas, plus Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania.

See it all here: ccagwratings.org.

POLL DU JOUR

• 43 percent of Americans say the secret “47 percent” video featuring comments by Mitt Romney will make “no difference” in who they vote for in the presidential race.

• 51 percent of Republicans, 27 percent of Democrats and 53 percent of independents agree.

• 36 percent of Americans overall say Mr. Romney’s comments will make them “less likely” to vote for him.

• 4 percent of Republicans, 68 percent of Democrats and 29 percent of independents agree.

• 20 percent overall say the comments will make them “more likely” to vote for Mr. Romney.

• 44 percent of Republicans, 4 percent of Democrats and 15 percent of independents agree.

Tip line always open at jharper@washingtontimes.com.