Mike Huckabee talking too seriously about sausage and pigs. Rick Perry as a real-life Yosemite Sam. Donald Trump as the builder of a border fence casino hotel. Sarah Palin talking like a slam poet, replacing Matthew McConaughey in that odd Lincoln ad.
Jon Stewart wrapped all this and more into his segment on the Iowa Freedom Summit Monday night. As he pointed out, even the name of this tune up event for presidential contenders is special, as it implies everything from here is downhill, freedom-wise.
Why does the Republican Party want to limit debates during primary season? Watch this segment, and you’ll understand.
But we digress. The Iowa Freedom Summit was held over the weekend in Des Moines. It was sponsored by Iowa Rep. Steve King, one of Washington’s sharpest voices against immigration reform. As a sort of unofficial beginning of the presidential season in the first-in-the-nation caucus state, it attracted a big turnout. Serious contenders for the nomination appeared, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose walkabout speech impressed many attendees.
“Despite the questions about [Walker’s] charisma, he’s getting rave reviews for his passion in his appearance this weekend,” wrote Eliana Johnson of the right-leaning National Review.
Did funnyman Mr. Stewart focus on this? No, he did not. He shaped his eight-minute segment around the speakers who won’t be president, in his words, but are using the pretense of a candidacy to audition for jobs at Fox News.
And when you’re snipping out seconds from a long speech, you can come up with funny stuff. "Take Ted Cruz. He's running seriously for the White House but may have difficulty attracting votes beyond his conservative base. He told the audience they would hear lots of speakers claim to be true conservatives.
“Gosh darn it, who diddly, I’m conservative,” said Senator Cruz of Texas, imitating these unnamed fake right-leaners.
Stewart loved that. “Who Diddly, I believe, was Bo Diddley’s less-talented brother,” said Stewart.
Cruz “appears to be crossing over from down-home conservative to Ned Flanders territory,” Stewart added, referring to a cartoon character from “The Simpsons.”
Then came Mr. Huckabee and his sausage metaphor. It involved people who deny that hogs must by slaughtered for sausage [laws] to be made, but who want to eat sausage anyway, without that mess.
“We need to do some pig-killing. To get to the sausage,” said Huckabee, in the clip on the “Daily Show."
“That’s a deeply disturbing metaphor. It’s going to be hard to out-backwoods that,” said Stewart.
But Mr. Perry did. His overly emotive speech seemed a bit forced. Stewart compared the ex-Texas governor to Howard Dean, the Democrat whose “scream” in Iowa allegedly destroyed his presidential ambitions, and to Yosemite Sam, the revolver-toting hombre in constant search of rascally rabbit Bugs Bunny.
At least Perry, Huckabee, et al, will actually attempt a candidacy. After them came the folks who, as Stewart pointed out, are not ever going to run, but like to pretend they are. For instance, there was Mr. Trump, who talked about the need to build a border fence.
“It’s got to be a beauty. Who can build better than Trump? It’s what I do,” said Trump, apparently offering himself as a government security contractor.
Then came Ms. Palin. We’ve described her Iowa appearance elsewhere – it didn’t go well, even without Stewart’s writers picking only the worst clips.
Apparently her teleprompter malfunctioned. That’s the charitable interpretation. As Stewart said, eventually “her subjects stopped talking to her verbs." Then he ran a clip of her inserted into that Lincoln ad where the McConaughey character rambles on while driving soulfully through empty big city streets.
“You know, the man can only ride you when your back is bent, so strengthen it,” says Palin from the Lincoln’s seat. “Then the man can’t ride ya and America won’t be taken for a ride.”
Yes, very funny. But this is exactly why the Republican National Committee wants to limit and control official debates. (This wasn’t a debate, obviously, but it was a big joint appearance, and thus debate-like.)
In 2012, the ephemeral candidates such as Herman Cain sucked up lots of media attention and became bit players in a continuing reality show series in which their humorous remarks and personalities were exaggerated. The RNC wants to avoid that this time around.
That’s why they’ve cut official debates roughly in half, to nine. Republican officials are working to get more conservative media members involved in the panels.
Candidates who participate in unsanctioned debates will be banned from future official gatherings, according to the RNC.
Plus, we bet Trump’s debate invitations will get lost in the mail. Or disappear into a spam filter. Or otherwise fail to ever appear at his office.