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Tom Gerdy Headshot

The Greatest Show on Earth

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"Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, welcome to the greatest show on Earth!" My guess is that most of your thoughts take you straight to the memories you have been given by the Ringling Brothers and P. T. Barnum. When the ringmaster with the deep booming voice speaks those words under the big top, you know you are in for a special treat. Phineas Taylor Barnum and the Ringling Brothers are often thought to be the greatest showmen. Unfortunately, their reign as kings of that world is threatened. The threat doesn't come from a rival circus or the World Wrestling Federation. The challenge to that title is coming from the presidential candidates as they fight for a spot on the ballot in 2012.

As we begin to again travel the long and painful road that is the presidential campaign season, we are already witnessing the beginning of the games they play. It is showmanship at its worst. The candidates' weapons of choice include smoke, mirrors, misdirection, twisted truths, diversions, avoidance, outright lies and manipulation of the media and voters. The best magicians in the world don't come close to the illusions these professional politicians perform daily.

It is a sad state of affairs that we get nowhere near addressing the true challenges of our country because of the way the game is played. Again, the voters hope the candidates will be educating them about the issues and possible solutions. The hope is that they will be debating their opponents with arguments based on facts. Again, it looks as if the voters will be disappointed because many politicians don't seem too concerned about facts. The process has degenerated into something rivaling professional wrestling. The platforms of parties and candidates are based on sound bites and wind direction, revolving around votes, money and power, with full-time creation of perceptions despite reality.

The election of a president in America has become like a knife fight because a knife fight has no rules. For some strange reason, the knife fight in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid comes to mind as I listen to the candidates weave their tales. When challenged, Butch says let's talk about the rules. While everyone is trying to figure out what rules there are in a knife fight, Butch kicks his challenger in the groin.

Even though we are again starting this campaign season like a knife fight, I want to avoid getting kicked in the groin again. Unlike the rule-less knife fight, I want some guidelines. The following is just the short list:

  1. Before every campaign speech, there will be a moment of silence to honor those who have given their lives for our country. Maybe that will help us prioritize and focus.
  2. Snopes will be given equal time to review every campaign speech and point out lies or twisted truths. Daily reports will be given on how each candidate does on the "truth meter." For each lie told, the candidates will be required to donate50,000 to reducing the national debt. If this election is anything like the last election, we might eliminate that debt by the time November 2012 rolls around.
  3. All political commentary shows will have a disclaimer explaining that what is said is opinion-based. TV shows will have a crawler at the bottom of the screen and radio shows will have to play the disclaimer each time they come back from a commercial break. We do it for cigarettes, and some of these political commentators are much more dangerous than cigarettes.
  4. Campaign spending will be limited to2.00 per registered voter for any candidate, so spend wisely. That should be about four hundred million per candidate. If they can't convince people to vote for them with that much money, they must be a pretty weak candidate. I wanted to set it at1.00, but I feel generous today.
  5. Religion is personal, so it will remain out of the discussions. I don't care if you go to church in a cave in Idaho and worship a 1957 Chevy Bel Air. If you can help end these wars and stabilize our economy, you are my candidate.
  6. The source of funding for all political ads trying to influence voters will be public information. Let's leave influence peddling to organized crime. Our political system is not organized enough to handle secret donations.
  7. All political campaigns will be required to donate1.00 for every dollar spent on the campaign to charities I will preapprove, insuring that some good comes out of every political camp even if their tactics have done damage.
  8. Birth certificates or college transcripts will never be mentioned again. I might not be proud of my college transcripts, but my customers never asked for them because they want to focus on important issues.
  9. It is a fact that 74.2% of all statistics are made up on the spot. Any charts or statistics politicians or political commentators use must be fact checked in advance.
  10. Last, but not least, politician's hairstyles are off-limits. I do have serious problems with Trump's, Kerry's, and let's not forget, Blago's style statements, but they have nothing to do with their ability to serve. This is about their character, not their coiffure.

This is just a start. So, ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, let's remember that this campaign is not about "the greatest show on Earth." It is about helping keep America the greatest country on Earth.