Rex shares his thoughts on the Iowa caucuses.

Read a transcript of this Rex Murphy episode

The Republican Race

Thursday, January 5, 2012

If you think the world is falling apart - and many people do - and if you think that to some degree the job of holding it together falls to the leadership of the United States - a reasonable assumption – then this, 2012, must be a very bleak year.

For what has the leadership of what we once called the free world come to? The Obama blimp, the once so buoyant, so steady a vessel of hope and change, all that we have been waiting for has long since tattered and deflated, come to earth. Three years in office have changed the Light-Bearer to just-another-ordinary-and-somewhat-more-partisan-that-usual Mr. Politician.

Obama doesn't have it anymore. So the spectator swivels his attention to the prospective candidates from the other party, the Republicans, and it's a little like going from a troubled sleep to a full bore nightmare. Is this - meaning the primary process - the way to choose a person for the most significant position in all the world? Dog the Bounty Hunter on certain nights is more dignified.

Can any process which allows Ron Paul, isolationist, fundamentalist libertarian, as someone seriously to be contemplated for presidential office, be itself taken seriously? Can a process which elevated for a bizarre moment the pizza baron, the enthusiastic but utterly amateur, Herman Cain, be taken seriously? Is Mitt Romney, who has slightly less voltage than a stack of cardboard, the man to lead the world? Santorum, Gingrich, Bachman - this is not the "A" team; and it's only the "B " team in a world with a two-letter alphabet.

And what are these primaries anyway - a series of high school display debates, seven or eight candidates furiously going from auditorium to auditorium, some of them burning money by the bushel, fighting among themselves - it's a pathetic audition ceremony for so august an office.

So then, if one looks at the US and despairs that its current President is not up to the job, that the world is in one of its more parlous and perilous moments. Is it then possible to look to the Republican slate - largely a collection of everyone’s third choices - and feel a gust of sane optimism? No.

There's no one on board of that ship to inspire the passengers. It's frightfully mediocre - maybe a good cast for small-city mayor - but for President of the United States?

As I said at the beginning, don't look south this year, if you wish to take on cheer. Politics in the US is more and more a branch of its awful reality TV shows. It hinges on the same qualities they do: exhibitionism, humiliation of the players, and cynicism. Not a good thing for that great Republic. Or for those of us who wish it well.

For The National, I’m Rex Murphy.