12/06/2011 02:41 pm ET Updated Feb 04, 2012

Send in the Clowns -- and the Cynics, and the Clueless and the Reality Show 'Stars'

The criticism expressed by the pundits on the slate of Republican presidential wannabes has been quite fierce -- from the Left and from the Right.

Judging from the muted, lethargic responses by Republicans -- sometimes even agreement -- one would think that the GOP has decided to "Send in the Clueless" to, first, "undersmart" each other and, subsequently, to attempt to outsmart Obama.

E. J. Dionne Jr. calls this spectacle "A GOP reality-show race" and goes down the list of what makes it so, concluding that the Republican establishment is essentially powerless to save matters, as it "sold its soul to the tea party, sat by silently as extremist rhetoric engulfed the GOP, and figured that swing voters would eventually overlook all this to cast a vote against a bad economy."

At the New York Times, Paul Krugman takes a different tack.

In "Send in the Clueless," Krugman first points out that while 2012 should be a year of Republican triumph, "the G.O.P. may nonetheless snatch defeat from the jaws of victory -- because Herman Cain was not an accident."

After explaining the basic requirements to be a viable Republican candidate these days -- denounce Obama, denounce Big Government, denounce high taxes -- Krugman concludes that there are only two ways to make the cut: "to be totally cynical or to be totally clueless."

Read here which candidates make the cut and why, and why "whoever finally gets the Republican nomination will be a deeply flawed candidate."

Of course, no story on the GOP's Rational Reality Show would be complete without a reference to Mr. Cain's significant and historic contributions to the show.

Referring to the dreadful possibility that "even a deeply flawed G.O.P. nominee might very well win the presidency," Krugman asks, "But then what?" and says:

The Washington Post quotes an unnamed Republican adviser who compared what happened to Mr. Cain, when he suddenly found himself leading in the polls, to the proverbial tale of the dog who had better not catch that car he's chasing. "Something great and awful happened, the dog caught the car. And of course, dogs don't know how to drive cars. So he had no idea what to do with it."

The same metaphor, it seems to me, might apply to the G.O.P. pursuit of the White House next year. If the dog actually catches the car -- the actual job of running the U.S. government -- it will have no idea what to do, because the realities of government in the 21st century bear no resemblance to the mythology all ambitious Republican politicians must pretend to believe. And what will happen then?

Good question. Hopefully, the dog will at least be surrounded by savvy dogs that have stopped chasing cars.

Read more here.