Watching the Republican candidates vying for their party's nomination for the last six months reminds me of pre-1992 Olympic basketball games: while the rest of the world was allowed to bring their best players to compete, Americans found themselves cheering on wannabes and has-beens, even as their best players were thousands of miles away, competing against each other in the NBA.
Sure, there was the occasional fluke victory as in 1984 when the amateur American ballers nabbed the gold, but for the most part American basketball prior to the 1989 decision to allow NBA stars to play was an unfair contest that matched the best talent the rest of the world had to offer against second-rate American talent.
Barack Obama is anything but second-rate talent. He's one of the most charming, witty, personable and ideologically fully-formed presidents the Democratic party has ever produced. Unfortunately for Republicans and those who just love a well-fought presidential race, the GOP's answer to Obama has much in common with the quality of players that were offered up every four years by a nation that was forbidden from putting its best basketball players forward.
Of course, in the case of the hapless GOP there are no rules that actually forbid them from putting their best players on the court, but it's President Obama's good fortune that the superstars have chosen to watch from the sidelines as the hapless amateurs attack one another, fighting for the right to face him in a match that they are simply ill-equipped to win.
To be sure the GOP does indeed have a formidable starting five, any of which would mean serious trouble for the president: Senator John Thune of South Dakota, who looks like a cross between JFK, Reagan and Abe Lincoln is a superstar who inexplicably sat the race out; New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who would have destroyed Obama in a debate, also begged off citing "not being ready," as though that excuse would have been accepted by a draft board seeking similar service to one's country from any 18-year-old during wartime. (Dear Sirs: Thank you for your draft notice, but I don't feel ready to go to Vietnam at this time.) Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan may be new to politics, but their up-and-comer status surely meant they should have taken a stab at running. Then there's cool-as-a-cucumber Virginia governor Bob McDonnell, whose combination of slickness and substance makes him an attractive candidate for the GOP, but who also found a reason not to run.
Of course it's a free country and nobody can be compelled to run for president, but I find it curious that the very candidates who complain that the Republic may be at stake unless President Obama is defeated, suddenly cite family issues and "not being ready" when it comes time to fight for the things they believe in.
I have nothing against Gingrich, Romney, Santorum, Paul or the already-losts, but they are not the best the GOP has to offer, but rather the amateurs who are sent off to face the best the other side has to offer. Just as the amateur American basketball players sometimes bested the pros from other nations, victory is still possible, but unlikely given the quality of Barack Obama's play. And if the GOP loses as increasingly seems likely, they will have only themselves and their starting five to blame: superstars who weren't "ready" to suit up when their team called them into the game.