How the GOP Presidential Field Is Like "The Amazing Race"

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Are you on tenterhooks? Will Mitt make it out of the Cayman Islands and into the White House? Will Newt take the full "wild and woolly" ride on the primary roller coaster to the Republican convention? Will the two of them and their PACs eat each other alive by next week? Will Rick and his single Wyoming funder hang in there until his "man on dog" sex comment finally fades from Google? And Ron Paul -- yes, we're on first-name terms with the other three, but not Paul, the guy who insisted he'd be home reading an "economics textbook" while other Republican candidates piously opted for watching a football game -- will he continue to make statements about U.S. global policy that would normally send a Republican to hell? And honestly, did you really imagine that Elizabeth Warren wasn't going to have something strong and supportive to say about the Pats in the Super Bowl, after the previous Democratic senatorial candidate blew her chances with a dismissive comment about Fenway Park?

You thought I was talking about American electoral politics? Not at all. I'm discussing the latest version of The Amazing Race. And if you're like me, don't you miss the contestants who have already been eliminated: Herman ("Ubeki-beki-beki-stan-stan") Cain, Michele (who mistook a serial killer for a movie star) Bachman, and the other Rick, whatever-his-name-was, the Texan who just couldn't count to three?

I mean, aren't you having a blast watching this bread-and-circuses spectacle, which in January captured a staggering 41% of the combined media newshole, 64% of cable TV's? There's a headline a second, a new poll a minute, an angry set-to an hour. With only three primaries and one caucus out of the way, the Republicans have already had 19 (count 'em 19!) televised "debates," and my hometown paper is running daily front-page stories about the race with double- or triple-page inside coverage. In a season when spectacle and Super Bowl normally go together, the entertainment extravaganza of the moment remains the race for the White House -- and in football terms, we're still in the wild-card round of the playoffs.

I mean truly, did you ever dream that a moribund Democratic presidential race and a Republican one led by Mr. Mitt, the plastic quarter-billionaire, would be competition for that single holiest night on the sports calendar when everyone but the Giants, Patriots, and Madonna is expected to couch out? Fortunately, as TomDispatch Jock Culture correspondent Robert Lipsyte reminds us in "On Super Sunday, Occupy Your Mind," whether you're watching a Republican debate or the Super Bowl, it's wild and woolly America all the way to the end zone.

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s as well as The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute's His latest book, The United States of Fear (Haymarket Books), has just been published in November. / By Tom Engelhardt

Posted at February 2, 2012, 6:11am

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