Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

A Grand Old Photo Opp

Dear GOP and Fox News Officials:

Reports indicate you are flummoxed at the growing number of declared Republican presidential candidates, which will make a coherent debate impossible. Not to worry.

1024px-2012_Republican_Presidential_Candidates_caricatures_bigSqueezing more than a baker’s dozen freshly scrubbed, beaming candidates on a single stage is a plus, not a minus. With so many candidates and so little time, there is less chance of a major verbal gaffe that could make the whole group and the entire political party look ridiculous.

Unless Rick Perry forgets his own name, how much trouble can the candidates get into when there is only is enough time in the debate to mention their campaign tagline, thank their family for letting them run and throw a few choice barbs at Hillary Clinton.

Instead of a problem, a crowded presidential debate platform is an opportunity – a photo opportunity. There are people in America who don’t know there are still that many registered Republicans.

What a photo opportunity it would be. Gobs of white guys, one woman, one African-American, one East Indian, one who has Cuban parents, someone from New Jersey and a crypto Canadian. This would prove the GOP is big-tent diverse.

Let’s face it, you have a bunch of candidates, but no frontrunner. Even if you cut off the debate at the top 10, you will have candidates on stage who draw single-digit polling numbers. Worse, most of them can’t help themselves from talking too much or saying something stupid.

Like Senator Rick Santorum lecturing the Pope about climate change. Or Dr. Ben Carson comparing Obamacare to slavery. Or Governor Scott Walker saying standing up to union protestors in Madison is a qualification to stand up to Islamic State jihadists in the Middle East. Or Jeb Bush giving one of his four views on the Iraq war. Or bachelor Senator Lindsay Graham floating the idea of a “rating First Lady.” Or former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee publicly fantasizing about taking showers with the girls at his high school.

Then there are the rogue candidates like Senator Rand Paul who had the audacity to blame GOP hawks for the failures in Iraq. Or Donald Trump who may try to fire a fellow candidate. And don’t forget every fact checkers dream come true, Ted Cruz.

If you thought the Republican Party had trouble managing its message in 2012, this could be galactically worse.

Far better to tee everyone up to make clever quips about Hillary and denounce President Obama for failing to lead, overstepping his authority and dashing hope. And then take selfies.

Focus the debate on wit, not ideas and policy differences. It’s summer and no one is paying attention anyway. Let the viewers see gleaming teeth, not listen to garbled sentences. Don’t give viewers finger food about Common Core; give them red meat about Hillary’s secret emails.

CE0mlTFXIAAxVRgThe worst thing you could do as managers of the debate would be to limit who can appear on stage. The ones left off will get as much coverage as those you allow on stage. Clump them all together, suggest at least a couple wear something other than a red tie and let them puff out their chests. Prime the press with stories about the steel reinforcements it took to make the stage safe. Take a picture. Take a lot of pictures. It’s the best thing you have going.

As the saying goes, a photo opp is a lot safer than a 1,000 words.

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