Roger L. Simon

The Political Debate as Reality Show

It was the debate that was over in less than five minutes.

Although the setting was more dramatic as the numbers dwindled down to a precious few, the Thursday event was again a meaningless discussion signifying nothing. Once again, all the candidates, with the exception of course of Paul, essentially agreed on everything of significance. And there was nothing new in what the congressman had to say either.

This is debate?

No, it’s a festival of nitpicking for the benefit of the mainstream media — aka and f/b/o Barack Obama.

Far and away the most exciting moment, in fact the only moment of faint interest, was the first, when Newt Gingrich excoriated the smarmy John King for opening the debate with a question about his marital life. Newt made mincemeat of King — but even that we have seen before.

This is the political campaign as reality show. Romney, Santorum, Gingrich and Paul — another episode of the Real Housewives of South Carolina. Or is it Desperate Housewives?

I am not exaggerating in the slightest. Unbeknown to the national television audience at home, just previous to the actual broadcast, a warm-up guy for CNN came out to prep the audience, just as they would do at a game show. “Let ‘em hear you, South Carolina!” The audience, well accustomed to “The Voice,” “American Idol” and “The X-Factor,” did just what they were told.

While this was going on, off in the media center where I was sitting, the blasé press around me scarcely looked up at the jumbotrons. They had seen this dozens of times before, hoi polloi being manipulated. When the Pledge of Allegiance began, only a handful of the four hundred or more journos in the room put their hands to their hearts. They continued typing and gossiping.  Elite media indeed.

And then, when Newt did his take down of King, and the audience erupted into a standing ovation, there was not a ripple from the crowd in the media center. They knew this was directed at them. I looked over at Joe Klein who had a smirk on his face.

This is what we have come to in our country. Politics as reality show. Rick the family values scold, randy Newt with his one-liners. Stodgy, reliable Mitt and loony old Ron. What a series.