Running for president was once the province of seasoned public servants with extensive knowledge of law and history, and practical experience managing complex enterprises. Today running for president is a public relations strategy for boosting book advances and landing contracts with television news networks.
Remember when Sarah Palin was the darling of the right and she was on the news every day pontificating in her uniquely incoherent way? Remember when reporters followed her brightly colored bus around the country desperately trying to get her to look in their direction?
Remember when Donald Trump was on the news every day with increasingly wild assertions about his own magnificence or the President’s citizenship? Remember how unquestioning the press was about his phony resume and declarations of achievement and wealth?
Remember when Chris Christie was on the news everyday parading his arrogance around as if it represented moral character? Remember how he led the polls for the GOP nomination despite not even being a candidate?
Remember when Michele Bachmann was on the news every day after she won a straw poll in Iowa that had a notoriously spotty record for predicting the GOP nominee? Remember when she was the front-runner for the Republican nomination and the heir to Sarah Palin’s Tea Party princess crown?
Remember when Rick Perry was on the news every day and was heralded as the serious contender for the GOP nomination with executive experience and bona fide credentials? Remember when his name could mentioned without invoking uncontrollable laughter?
Before long we will be asking: Remember when Herman Cain was on the news every day and leading in the polls against more establishment candidates with conventional backgrounds? Remember when people actually took seriously the former head of a pizza chain as a possible president of the United States?
But the real question we should be asking is what has happened to our national pride? What has happened to the aspiration for excellence and the admiration for brilliance? Why have so many Americans embraced an anti-intellectual pursuit of averagism? When did their standards decline to the point that they have contempt for Harvard graduates and reverence for governors who quit mid-term?
The parade of Republican front-runners would be an embarrassment to any party other than one preoccupied with tea. And the thinness of their character is evidenced by how quickly they disappear, leaving merely remnants with vague resemblances to persons we think we used to know. Which leaves us asking, Sarah who?