Steve Eaton: Bus rides and parachutes could improve presidential politics

Published: Friday, Sept. 28 2012 2:00 p.m. MDT

President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign event at the  Cashman Center, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) (Carolyn Kaster, AP) President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign event at the Cashman Center, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) (Carolyn Kaster, AP)

We are getting to that point in the presidential elections where some of the foolishness is set aside and we can get down to the serious business of picking our next leader.

This is when we try to figure out who can best bring people together to work for the good of the country by pitting the two candidates, who are capable of raising and spending money the fastest, against each other. We ask them to get up on a stage to demonstrate their leadership abilities by having them argue with and criticize each other before a live audience of millions. The presidential debates are upon us.

Up until now, the election has focused on seeing which candidate could go the longest without saying something that could be lifted out of context and called a "gaffe." Now, instead, we'll be watching to see which candidate can go the longest in a debate without saying something that can be lifted out of context and called a "gaffe."

It's not that there hasn't been some serious campaigning. One of the candidates, and I won't say which one, has sent large, colorful, empty campaign buses around the country to help us decide who would be the best guardian of our money. I'm not naming names because I don't want the other guy to feel bad because he doesn't have as many empty buses available to him. But he shouldn't feel at a disadvantage. He has this cool plane with a bump on it that he borrowed from Harrison Ford and a fleet of bullet-proof cars.

The bottom line is that both of these candidates want to connect with the average voters who struggle to make ends meet and let them know that they will care about them deeply until the election. And while holding campaign rallies where we are allowed to scream our praise at them and applaud enthusiastically is one way to do that, I have a few new ideas I'd like to throw their way.

Why not let some of us ride around in the buses? We had one stop in Logan recently and there wasn't even a surrogate on it, that I know about. If a crowd of hard-working Americans is willing to gather just to look upon a campaign bus and imagine a caring candidate inside, wouldn't it make sense to have a bunch of real people on the bus?

You could have 10 or 20 people at a time taking turns getting off the bus and getting praised enthusiastically while connecting with the other average voters. The more articulate and creative bus riders could get off the bus and shout promises at the crowd to make them feel loved. If the crowds got too big, you could send a couple of campaign Cadillacs around the country, too, and have contests to see who could drive two of them at the same time.

Or the other guy could take people on his airplane with him. We could convince him to do this by booting off the press and letting real people sit in the back. It would be a big party and if anyone tried to get too serious or started to ask questions, like the press always does, everyone could go downstairs and watch the candidate throw the offending people off his plane like Harrison Ford did in "Air Force One." We'd give those who had literally fallen out of favor with the candidate colorful parachutes with campaign slogans on them and the promise that someone would eventually find them and feel their pain.

But such talk is probably foolish at this point because the debates are what it is all about. And yet, while it may be disrespectful for me to suggest this, I think there are a few ways we could make them more interesting.

The use of a fire hose would change things quite a bit. What if all the impartial fact checkers the TV people employ were set up back stage and had the power to blast a candidate with a fire hose whenever he stretched the truth or misstated a fact? I'm not talking about a sustained blast that would force us to stop everything to go try and find the candidate, but just a short burst that would knock them off their feet.

Too extreme? How about arming each candidate with a bike horn? That way instead of having to patiently wait, sighing heavily, while the other candidate went on and on about you, you could presidentially honk your horn to drown him out. Then, sometime during the opening statements the networks could make the debate screen into a little box of honkers and we could watch regular network programming while we enjoyed the debates, too.

And now that the replacement refs are out of work, what if we brought them in and let them call penalties on the candidates and gave them the power to keep score or suddenly end the contest? A little humor wouldn't hurt things any. We could even test out the candidates by rolling a football across the stage and letting them each dive to see who was best at recovering fumbles. The refs could then rule against the winner and we could see how the candidates deal with an injustice. That might create some very entertaining "gaffes" and we'd get to see Mitt Romney's hair messed up.

Of course, I believe a combination of all three ideas would work best. I know, I know, I didn't build this campaign or our democracy. There are going to be some bumps in the road in an imperfect system. If they put me in charge, I'd probably just get fired by someone who likes to fire people and then I'd end up being dependent upon the government.

Instead, I'll just sit back and watch them argue. Oh, I'll have my own bike horn to keep me company, even though that's not my first choice. My wife has already warned me that — "especially during the debates!" — garden hoses are not allowed in the house.

Steve Eaton lives and works in Logan, Utah. He can be reached at Eatonnews@gmail.com

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