Running for president, for cash, is obscene

June 26, 2011|By TIM ROWLAND

For all the hand-wringing over negative campaigning, there's nothing new in it. Everything from naughty wives to illegitimate children were deemed suitable election issues to bring up in the nation's young years.

What is brand new this year is running not for the office itself, but for profit.

This shatters the previous limits to cynicism, where at least the fringe candidates of the past were honestly seeking office to promote their agendas, not fatten their wallets.

Donald Trump was never going to run for president. For one, it would have stirred up too much unwanted scrutiny over past dealings and behavior on his part that probably couldn't weather the public spotlight. We saw how fast he beat a retreat on his promise to release his tax returns if President Obama released his birth certificate.

Trump's act was straight out of Barnum and Bailey, designed to attract attention and money. Mostly money.

I doubt Trump hates gays, I doubt Trump believes (or cares) that Obama was born in a foreign land and I doubt Trump thinks about climate change much one way or the other.

But he knows that people who do hate gays, deny climate change and think Obama's presidency is illegal are the quickest to open their wallets, so that's where he stacked his chips.

Then we were treated to the Palin family's excellent adventure — part family vacation, part publicity grab, part chance to soak the dupes who support her out of even more of their cash.

I believe her "SarahPAC" is simply a legal mechanism for raising money that she can spend on herself, without having to actually use it to run a campaign. Turns out that grand shopping spree of hers when she was running for vice president was no illusion. For Sarah, it's always been about more cash for Sarah.

She will never make a serious run for president, because she would get slaughtered and getting slaughtered would damage the brand. People don't pay as much to see a loser, and certainly she's savvy enough to know that. At least I think she is — we'll see.

She does get credit, however, for actually believing what she says; unlike Trump, she's no phony. It's just a pity that as she flies mothlike around the presidential campaign porch light, she has lowered the bar to the degree that anyone may gain entry.

Michele Bachmann has been widely praised lately in the press for "not looking crazy" and for the fact that "she doesn't lie reflexively, like Sarah Palin." Hard as it might be to believe, these were intended as genuine compliments.

Howard Baker, call your service.

Then along comes Newt, who if nothing else wins points for what my folks used to call sticktoitiveness. But that's all he's ever going to win, a point not lost on his previous staff members when they figured out he was a lot more interested in selling books than running for office.

Newt, however, doesn't have the charisma of Palin or the star power of Trump, so he has to actually toss his hat in the ring in order to attract any attention.

For all his ubiquitousness on chatterbox TV, Gingrich is holding onto relevancy by the skin of his teeth. People are figuring out you are not necessarily an intellectual just because your ideas come from outer space.

It also hurts the ole rep as a brainiac if you can't remember your position on Libya or Medicare for more than two weeks at a time.

Of course positions are immaterial if you're only in it for the loot. Just say something inflammatory baby, and they'll keep buying your books.

It's interesting, because what we are seeing now has never happened before in history. A mere decade ago, no "candidates" would have thought to run for president of the United States simply to make buckets of money for themselves or improve their appeal to reality talk-show television.

The selfish actions of Palin, Trump and Gingrich are beneath contempt for anyone who cherishes this nation. The office of the presidency was not designed to be a ticket to personal wealth and lucrative television and book contracts.

It is also a serious discredit to the media that they will droolingly report every last second of Palin's and Trump's publicity stunts, while ignoring serious-minded policy ideas from declared candidates such as Romney, Paul, Pawlenty and Santorum.

You can't ignore these parasitic people; they are like the proverbial train wreck and they are everywhere. But it's OK to see them as long as we see through them.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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