Paul Greenberg

As next year's presidential campaign revs up, the lack of candidates who talk like adults grows conspicuous. There's a surplus of presidential hopefuls, but a shortage of serious ones.

The country has a president who's campaigning for re-election, but not on his record at fixing the country's problems. Instead, he concentrates on blaming others for them -- the Republican who preceded him in the White House, the Republicans in Congress, Republicans in general. ... He tends to psychoanalyze the opposition (bitter people who stick to their guns and religion in a crisis) rather than answer its arguments.

Our president tends to think in slogans (Hope, Change, Audacity!) rather than think. Is he a serious man, or just very serious about winning another term in the White House? Decisions that need to be made now -- whether to build a major new oil pipeline or how to balance the budget or make ObamaCare work if it can -- are put off till safely after the 2012 presidential election. In place of leadership, the American people are offered postponement.

As for the opposition, one loses count of how many GOP contenders are currently in contention. Every presidential debate in these over-televised times seems to be less a debate than an audition. Talking points are rolled out and snap solutions proposed for problems that are anything but a snap. Lincoln-Douglas it ain't. What it is, is the age of the sound bite.

Who's got time to discuss the issues in any depth? What we want, or the admen say we want, are PowerPoint presentations. It's the selling of the ideas that matters, not the quality of the ideas themselves.

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The press, now known as The Media, is much too involved with the horse-race aspects of the coming presidential election to check out the candidates' simplistic solutions to complicated problems in any depth. (Who does Rasmussen say is ahead this week, this morning, this hour? That's what counts, isn't it?) The Fourth Estate is reduced to the role of sportswriters covering The Big Game -- except sportswriters may write better. And have a much better grasp of their subject.

Exhibit No. 1: The difficulty the commentariat has had getting a handle on Herman Cain's magic 9-9-9 elixir for the American economy. Maybe because there isn't one. The details keep changing -- if they were ever spelled out in the first place. By now the 9-9-9 Plan would make one of Rube Goldberg's contraptions look sensible. At least Rube's inventions came with illustrations.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.