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The American presidential spectacle

Prominent US trial lawyer Reuben Guttman shares his thoughts on the spectacle that is the US presidential election.

Every four years, the world is treated to the spectacle of the Summer Olympics, where athletes run their legs in a show of skill and strength. Coinciding with this occurrence is the American presidential election, where candidates run their mouths.

The Republicans have enough candidates to stage two debates. Those candidates with lower poll ratings are relegated to sitting at what amounts to the children’s table, where – naturally – the debate starts earlier. Presumably this is so the children can be tucked in while the front runners do their business.

The Democrats only have three major candidates and are having a go at it without any children this time around.

Though hard to discern, there are strategies to these matches of American intellect. Just as an Olympic distance runner saves his or her strength for the final lap, US presidential candidates try not to burn any intellectual reserve this early in the game. Standing behind their podiums, they take notes, adjust their glasses, and give each other gimlet eye glances. The winner is the one who says the least while maintaining the optics of communicating the most.

The Republicans thrive on debating who is a real conservative, who is more electable, and who has more guns.

For their part, the Democratic debate is just as vacuous; is Bernie Sanders a socialist and what extracurricular activities are on the agenda of Hillary’s husband, the former president? The third candidate, Martin O’Malley, seems to get lost in the mix. No surprise there; when he was governor of Maryland, most Marylanders only knew that he was the governor because signs on the highways said so. Sadly, those without an automobile were left clueless.

If Martians were to invade and randomly channel surf, they might actually confuse the debates with a reality TV show. Come to think of it, the Martians would be right.

All of this is unfortunate. There are real issues. The next president will have the ability to make appointments tipping the balance of the judiciary including the Supreme Court. Obamacare is still a work in progress and the next president needs to do something about the Centers for Medicare Services, which in privatising the Medicare system allows more theft than would be sustained by an electronics store with a plate glass window during a lengthy power outage.  There is also much to discuss on the foreign policy front, including a massive trade imbalance and regulation of publicly traded companies in a global economy.

But for now, why talk specifics when we, Americans, are still tuning in to watch the spectacle?

Reuben Guttman is a trial lawyer and founding partner at Washington, DC-based firm Guttman, Buschner & Brooks.

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