Have you spent any time pondering the fact that those of us who offer political commentary often suffer no consequences when we’re flat-out mistaken? Probably not; you’ve got more significant matters occupying your mind, like deciding whether to open the door with your left or right hand. But just for a moment, consider how unfair it is that we expect you to ignore the reality that we are sometimes dead-wrong — just like we pretend it never happened. And we get away with it.
Up until now.
As a public service, and to fill a glaring need, I’m introducing an initiative to encourage readers and viewers to hold us responsible when our vacuous predictions don’t have the slightest resemblance to what turns out to be.
Let’s call it the Pundit Accountability Project, or PAP for short. And allow me to dive right into this uncharted territory, to boldly go where no man has gone before. Right now, with no hesitation, I’m going to forecast how the first GOP debate will play out. Once it’s over, you’ll be able to match my prognostications with what actually took place. Is that revolutionary or what?
Actually, there will be many different things going on: Scott Walker, for instance, will be called upon to show that he is able to intelligently address issues that don’t involve union-bashing. He’ll display whether he now has a grasp of issues that touch areas outside the state of Wisconsin — like foreign policy or the economy. He’s been studying, cramming with various experts and reading “The Presidency for Dummies.” We’ll see if it pays off.
Rick Perry will have the same kind of test, although the bar is lower for him. All he’ll have to do is remember the points he wants to make. And, of course, demonstrate that his new glasses give him intellectual power that many believe had been missing.
Ted Cruz has the opposite problem: high expectations. We’ve been told and retold that he is a super-skilled debater, and this will be where he shows whether he can live up to the hype. After all, this is a debate. Isn’t it?
I ask because the event will not be without a certain amount of intrigue. Will Mike Huckabee come up with something new that is grossly offensive, to match his likening the Iran deal to the Holocaust? Will Rick Santorum show that, finally, he has accepted the cultural reforms of the 16th century? And will the likes of Graham, Fiorina, Carson, et al., get any notice whatsoever from their basement lounge debate?
Let’s see: I think I’ve covered all the bases. Let me check my notes: Oh yeah, Donald Trump. I almost forgot. A few people will be interested to see if he says anything memorable, trashing his opponents to their face, or if he just blends into the woodwork like Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio certainly will. Jeb and Marco are like that … maybe it’s a Florida thing to be so buttoned up. Donald Trump could just play it cool and leave the mean and nasty to Chris Christie, who can’t help himself. I have absolutely no confidence in that Trump prediction. None whatsoever.
One other bit of soothsaying on my part: More people will watch this first debate than a Fox News executive could have imagined in his wildest dreams. And these guys have some really wild dreams. They’ll be establishing a high standard for the presidential race that promises mainly to have really low ones.
Most importantly, you’ll have the chance to decide whether I was right or wrong. Thanks to the PAP, you’ll be able to judge my pap. I’m beginning to think that maybe not being accountable is highly preferable.
Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN