A review of episode one of 'The G.O.P.'s Got Talent'

For political junkies, the mere thought of it gets us all to tingling. It's the equivalent of the day pitchers and catchers show up at spring training or the kick off of the Hall of Fame game for football fans. (For U.S. football fans, that is. For soccer fans, it's the equivalent of handing out the first bribes of the season to a FIFA official.) It's a new beginning.

It's the first real debate of the presidential campaign season and it was scheduled to take place last night in New Hampshire. Dutifully, I settled into the dent in my couch made the night before while gleefully watching the self-destruction of LeBron James, and I waited for the fireworks to begin.

Unfortunately, I must have had the channel wrong because what I saw on CNN was something that looked like an elimination round for the Stepford version of "America's Got Talent." A combination of the vaguely deranged and the semi-robotic moving their lips but apparently speaking in sounds only Republicans can hear.

I squinted and leaned closer to the screen looking for some semblance of presidential candidates but this group look like they were roughly up to competing for the job of Deputy U.S. Secretary of Commerce.

Here we have a country that is in the midst of a protracted economic calamity, precious little is going right, the current president may be the last holder of that office ever to be referred to as "the most powerful man in the world" and these seven non-entities were the best America's opposition party could come up with?

Pizza executive Herman Cain? A man who could barely string three words together and yet managed to reveal volumes about how little he knows or understands about domestic or foreign policy? Governor Tim Polenta ... a big, steaming plate of bland mush? Ron Paul? America's crazy uncle who looked like he wandered into the wrong bingo game? Mitt Romney? A man whose name is Mitt? The man most likely to become America's first animatronic president? Newt Gingrich? The unsightly piece of spinach on the big fake smile of Republican politics? Michele Bachmann? Who indicated proudly that she had had 23 foster children? 23 foster children? Was she auditioning to become the first human collector to have an episode of "Hoarders" devoted to her? And Rick Santorum? Mr. "Man on Dog?" Mr. "Intelligent Design?" The guy who tried to blame the Hurricane Katrina disaster on its victims?

Where do they stand? They're against big government ... except when it comes to women's reproductive rights in which case they feel the government should regulate what women do with their internal organs. They feel government is incompetent ... except apparently the military to whom all but Ron Paul would defer on most big issues ranging from how to handle Afghanistan to how to manage the basic civil rights of citizens who happen to be in the military. Muslims, for the most part, make them uncomfortable but they are not for deporting them immediately. Or was that immigrants? Well, basically they don't much like either group. They believe Obama has it wrong on the economy and that the way back to growth is through a lower deficit and lower taxes. The impossible math of that aside, apparently they think the main structural problem facing the U.S. economy is the structure of the U.S. government and that other competitive factors ... like, say, the comparative advantages of the rest of the world don't really figure in the equation.

Of course, I oversimplify. They had differences of views. And apparently the commentators were all very impressed that they didn't fall down like Shania Twain at the CMT Awards. But I have to admit, I came away pretty disappointed. At least when the Mavs-Heat game slowed down, I was able to switch to watch the Tony's. I mean try as these G.O.P. wannabes might to tap dance around substance, facts, or the substantial reasons why each of them would fare badly against President Obama, they really couldn't hold a candle to the amazing Norbert Leo Butz or spectacular Sutton Foster. The only thing the two telecasts had in common was that the acknowledged big winner of each was Mormon. But as you might have gathered, I'd only actually pay to see one of those. (Hint: It's the one where you actually get to see a live performance.)


David Rothkopf

Hillary for president

My hands-down pick for best rumor of the week goes to the story that Hillary Clinton would like to be next president of the World Bank. While some folks I spoke to suggested it might be true, according to today's Washington Post, Secretary Clinton has officially and unequivocally shot down the story. Too bad. It is one of those stories that is so good it ought to be true. It makes so much sense I hope she'll reconsider.

First, the story is good because it has strong internal logic. Secretary Clinton has stated repeatedly that she expects to leave her current post by or before the end of the first term of the Obama administration. Given her great success as secretary of state, her high level of energy, and the contributions she can continue to make going forward, she will need to move to a suitable next position. Nothing could be better suited to her commitment to development issues, women's issues, education, and related concerns than the top job at the World Bank.

Further, the administration seems to have been moving recently toward seeking to uphold tradition by advocating that the World Bank presidency remain with an American. They had been wavering on this, but Bob Zoellick, current bank president and a man whom many believe would like to hold on to the job, has been making a strong case around town that a non-U.S. president would be a nonstarter if the bank wants the support of the U.S. Congress. And it does.

Next, the story is appealing because it would be so good for the bank. Clinton would easily be the highest-profile president of the World Bank in its history, edging out Robert McNamara, and she comes with none of his baggage and a worldview that dovetails beautifully with the bank's mission. She would energize the place and immediately give the bank a more central role on the international stage simply by virtue of the attention she would attract and the political gifts and relationships she would bring to the job.

Finally, while I am a strong advocate of righting the wrongs within the international financial institutions in terms of the way they underrepresent in their leadership structure many of the world's most important populations, the most underrepresented group by far are women. Having a woman as president of the bank would therefore be a big step forward and having perhaps the most important advocate for women's rights on the planet in that job would be an even bigger plus.  The prospect of having women run both the IMF and the World Bank -- given the likely ascension of Christine Lagarde to the IMF top job -- is very exciting, a long-overdue opportunity for the majority population on the planet to be more appropriately represented at the head table of the planet's political structure.

It would also be a big win for the Obama administration. Clinton would be an extremely effective advocate for the president's agenda and, in all likelihood, a legacy appointment that would continue doing good for years after this administration is over. Further, it provides both an excellent exit for a top cabinet member, a chance for her to continue to be involved in key international issues, and opens up the big suite on the seventh floor at the State Department to be occupied by the likes of Sen. John Kerry.

Kerry is a fascinating story in his own right, a man best known today for a not-terribly-glorious performance as a presidential candidate who, since that moment, rather than fading away, has redoubled his work ethic and grown greatly as a leader and a foreign-policy thinker. The Clinton-Kerry shuffle would end up strengthening the president's ability to achieve his long-term international goals and, in the end, would likely be one with considerable appeal around the world.

From the perspective of those policies, it is very likely that the second term of the Obama administration will see a foreign policy much more focused on economic issues than security questions. It will be one in which many of the biggest issues will involve promoting stability through promoting growth and job creation (interesting how that resonates with the likely domestic agenda, isn't it?). Whether in the rapidly changing Arab world or in specific flashpoints like the Palestinian territories; whether in seeking stability as America pulls out of Iraq and Afghanistan, or in seeking to address the festering and potentially greater security challenges in Africa or Pakistan; whether in continuing to foster critical growth among aspirant populations in China, India, southeast Asia or Latin America; or whether promoting sustainable solutions that help combat climate change or the spread of disease, the role of the World Bank and the development community will play its most important role in U.S. foreign policy since the first post World War II days, when it was created.

Further, there are other places like North Korea and Cuba where possible political upheavals may call for rapid economic responses... much as disasters also certainly will. In all these areas, having a strong partner at the bank will be especially important to President Obama... and having strong leadership at the bank will be especially important to the world.

For all these reasons, the Clinton to the World Bank rumor is an exciting one, and we should all hope it comes to fruition. I have long thought Hillary Clinton would make an excellent president, and this should be one instance in which Barack Obama should agree.