Monday night's great game found a great ending to an otherwise lousy book --the Bowl Championship Series ("BCS").
In its long and mostly controversial history, the BCS had produced a handful of memorable games --among them Ohio State's double-overtime win over Miami in January, 2003, Texas triumph over USC there years later, and last night's incredible contest. It also produced an aura of greatness around SEC football, especially concerning Alabama, and though the Ohio State Buckeyes made the most BCS Bowl appearances of all with 10, no one in Columbus or anywhere outside of the south is shedding a tear for the demise of the complicated system that killed off key traditions and allowed computers to determine who qualified for the one game that really mattered.
Now there will be three games that matter, and may that number grow in the future. Playoffs --event the shortest, two game series-- is the best way of deciding "best"-- and a champion will now have had to win consecutive huge games with attendant pressure and hoopla under the lights while tens of millions watch. There are a few --including the estimable and deeply experienced Jeffrey Anderson writing in the Weekly Standard-- who do not like where college football in heading, but if the goal is clarity about which is the best team in the land, the new College Football Playoff ("CFP") if a vast improvement over the BCS chaos.
Which of course brings me to the presidential nomination process. The 2016 edition of that demolition derby is already underway, and if anyone doesn't believe me, he or she should watch yesterday's edition of CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper and then read my interview with Tapper about he and his guests' discussion of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (The transcript of my interview with Tapper is here. The Daily Caller's take on my take of Jake's panel's take is here. See what I mean: Begun.)
Begun, but not yet organized. That organization will be the subject of my interview with RNC Chair Reince Priebus on today's show. The 2012 and 2008 Republican nomination processes were catastrophes for the GOP, an insane combination of the archaic when it came to caucuses and primaries --Iowa must go first, New Hampshire second etc-- and the incomprehensible, contrived and wholly random sequence of GOP debates, which evolved into an endless mud wrestling match of 30 rounds. Neither John McCain in 2008 nor Mitt Romney in 2012 benefitted from the fiascos, and we forget how terribly the 2008 Democratic nomination process spun out of the control of the Democrats. (We forget because the financial panic of the fall of 2008 rendered everything before it moot.)
The centerpieces of the general campaign --the debates with their absurdist "town halls" and left, left, and way-left-of-center questions and assumptions-- are also broken beyond repair. The very act of voting --who gets to do so and when-- is scrambled from state to state with the dope-smoking state of Colorado now embracing something akin to "everyone gets mailed a ballot six weeks early" rules.
The Framers would not be pleased. Getting to a new president is as entertaining as the best BCS-era shout-fest in a bar leading to blows over the Big Ten's September out-of-conference opponents or the legitimacy of saying "student-athlete" in connection with any number of specific programs. "Entertaining" is most definitely not the point, however. Finding a man or woman capable of winning the general and competent in the vast array of skills needed and ready to deal with Putin and the PRC politburo --this is what the system should be designed to produce. Not entertainment.
Priebus is a very smart fellow, and the parts he can control, mold and amend he is moving to control, mold and amend, with an early GOP convention a certainty and its location in a key city with necessary facilities and easy access is a certainty. (Did someone say Cleveland?) Fixing the primary calendar is a much more difficult task, but he and his team are wrestling with that too, and there is a very good argument that serious GOP candidates should simply say "so long" to the Iowa fire drill which isn't a fair assessment of anyone's strengths or weaknesses. New Hampshire, yes, a swing state with tradition and retail campaigning but also a real primary. South Carolina and Florida, yes and yes, also key tests of real strengths. But beyond those three primaries the RNC must impose a rational order: Favor primaries that are closed so that Republicans pick their nominees, and test the field and finalize the candidates in states that must be won if the White House is to be achieved --places like Ohio, Virginia and Colorado. And not by caucuses but by mass voting which is the same way those states will be won in the fall of '16.
Like the realities that finally brought change to college football, the realities of politics in the new era should force the GOP at least to impose order on its own nominating process. We don't want or need a long circus that entertains the Manhattan-Beltway media elite. Republicans and especially the vast center-right coalition that elected Reagan and W want to win the White House. That means a set of rules changes designed to produce the strongest nominee.
Time to bid farewell to the nostalgia and the needs of the cable networks. Time to win.