You can't make this stuff up," Johnny Carson used to say when truth trumped fiction in one of his monologues. The line is perfect for the current GOP presidential campaign, where the candidates' seemingly serious pronouncements leave joke writers with little to add.
The last time national politics provided such comedic lowlights was in 2008, when Tina Fey did her first Sarah Palin send-up on Saturday Night Live with a script that was remarkably close to Palin's actual remarks, including, "I can see Russia from my house." Who could make that up?
Here's a Top Ten list of what's strange but true in the campaign so far:
#10 - Newt Gingrich's proposal to have school kids work as janitors, starting at age 9. He would fire the "unionized janitors" and replace them with low-paid students, working under a "master" janitor. It's hard to imagine a plan that sweepingly offends more people - educators, students, parents and janitors, to name a few.
#9 - Rick Santorum's assertion that states should have the right to ban contraception, despite the 1965 Supreme Court ruling to the contrary. Is Santorum aware that the overwhelming majority of Americans uses contraceptives, and few would be willing to move to another state to preserve that right?
#8 - Mitt Romney's declaration that he's not focusing on helping the "very poor." At least he was being honest. If one of the wealthiest men ever to seek the presidency can't get votes from poor people, it's probably a waste of time to help them.
#7 - Ron Paul's suggestion that the federal tax rate - for everyone - should be "zero." That's the type of nonsense that really fires up Paul's determined followers, and it would probably make him a viable candidate if such fantasies were even remotely feasible.
#6 - Paul also advocates abolishing the minimum wage, claiming that such regulations make it more difficult for poor people to get jobs. If nothing else, Paul's plan would make it easier for kids to earn a dollar an hour as janitors in a Gingrich administration.
#5 - Santorum's vow to cut federal food stamp programs because people are too fat. He said this exact mouthful: "If hunger is a problem in America, then why do we have an obesity problem among the people who we say have a hunger program?"
#4 - Gingrich's pledge not to debate President Obama if a professional "reporter" is allowed to be the moderator. He probably believes this fits with his bashing of all "elite media," but no reporters? Such nonsense doesn't even play well on Fox News.
#3 - Romney's plan to address the immigration problem by having 12 million or more undocumented people "self-deport" back where they came from. You have to believe Romney wonders how that ever popped out of his mouth - and now he's stuck defending it at every campaign stop.
#2 - Gingrich's promise to build a colony on the moon by the end of his second term. Gingrich has fantasized for several decades about lunar development; he once authored a blueprint for making the moon the 51st state. That's got to make voters in Puerto Rico feel good, not to mention the earth's unemployed, hungry and homeless. And what are budget-slashing, deficit-reducing conservatives to make of a multi-billion dollar moon mission?
#1 - Romney statement he "misspoke" about poor people. Actually, he said what he believed, and repeated it at least three times before claiming it was a slip of the tongue.
As we said, you just can't make this stuff up.
- Peter Funt is a writer and public speaker (www.CandidCamera.com).