Satire Can’t Top the Real Republicans

When the real presidential debate is funnier than Saturday Night Live, the country's in trouble.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Candidates in the 26-debate GOP marathon seem already to have hit the wall.

With the 12th debate last Saturday and the 13th this coming Saturday, alternate front-runners in the Republican primary such as Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Herman Cain have fallen back, drained and giddy, and now it appears that Newt Gingrich, the second oldest and seemingly the least in shape, is striding toward the head of the pack.

Who would have thunk it back in the spring, as Gov. Perry might say.

Not even the comedy troupe of Saturday Night Live was able to top the outrageous performances of these eight GOP candidates debating their way to party nomination for the U.S. presidency.

Hands down, Perry bested Bill Hader’s tragicomic portrayal of the sitting governor of oil-rich Texas who could not recall the Department of Energy as the third U.S. agency he would eliminate straightaway as president. With the SNL crew mimicking the other candidates guessing at the befuddled governor’s elusive third choice, Kenan Thompson waded in as a wide-eyed “Herman Cain.”

The serially accused sexual harasser offered to stop Perry’s torture by agreeing to “tell you about the women. I’ll tell you all the vivid details, and there are a lot; just leave this poor man alone.”

Still, the comedic triumph of Team GOP over the SNL troupe firmly establishes their act to date as a campaign running beneath the dignity of satire.

Such political burlesque might bring reality-show belly laughs but for the fact that this TV contest for the chief challenger in a two-party system is seen around the world — a world rocked by political-economic turmoil, Pakistan and the dread of nuclear weapons. And just as wacky Perry — a former front-runner with some $17 million in contributions — controls the Texas death chamber, the chief executive fingers the U.S. nuclear trigger that can destroy the planet several times over.


Mercifully, the Saturday-night debate on foreign policy was scheduled too late for spoofing by the SNL crew. This GOP swipe at foreign policy proved much too bloody to be drained through the filters of satire.

Rep. Bachmann, for instance, who sits on the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and should know better, pressed for a return to the interrogation technique judged as torture by just about every military and diplomatic expert. Both candidates Barack Obama and John McCain — a former prisoner-of-war torture victim — stoutly promised to end waterboarding during their ’08 campaigns.