The 2012 GOP presidential debates were a carnival, but the 2016 editions are shaping up to be the Greatest Show On Earth. Given early speculations about who is in and how they roll, the Mainstream Media expects that the expected 46 (at least) debates beginning right after the turkey and football on Thanksgiving 2014 should be terrific.
Reince Preibus, the estimable chairman of the Republican National Committee, doesn't want an NBA-season long set of debates but the cable suits cry out for them. Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Gov. Scot Walker, R-Wis. -- these are all first tier candidates, and the second tier "hey look at me" folks could be entertaining additions as well.
Preibus is a very smart guy, though, and knows the debates hurt, not help the eventual GOP candidate, particularly as it would take an Asiana Air-like approach to disturb the glide path Hillary Clinton is on to the Democratic nomination.
Sure, there is that Benghazi thing where she vanished after talking to Gregory Hicks at 2 a.m. as the chaos was crescendoing, and then never checking back with Hicks after the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens and the other brave Americans.
Hillary could have been arrested for leaving the scene of a crime so quick was her exit from proximity to the unfolding catastrophe. Not for nothing as she trained for seven decades to get out of the way of avalanches of disasters. No, she'll get the nod and begin her long delayed March on Washington -- the Glorious Restoration!
Meanwhile the GOP scrum will look like a Looney Tunes free-for-all as the Tazmanian Devil, Bugs, Yosemite Sam and Marvin the Martian (King, Cruz, Christie and Paul respectively and respectfully) fall into an extended, sprawling brawl over defense spending and the glories of Hurricane Sandy relief.
Good times, that. Imagine Ryan looking at Kasich looking at Walker looking at Rubio wondering when to dive on to the pile, as Governor Perry checks to see if brought his holster. Then Newt walks on stage unannounced ... Or not.
Preibus is said to be plotting an mere eight debates with delegate penalties attached to those who play in non-sanctioned games. Perhaps he should hire the NCAA to run compliance with what is a vitally necessary reform.
It isn't that the debates are themselves bad. Right now I could take the four above named gentlemen on the road, sell thousands of tickets to fill local GOP coffers, and advance many debates on topics like immigration, budget reform and national defense. People are hungry for real debate among the big names but never ever get them, at least never moderated by a fair minded center-right set of reporters and broadcasters.
The fall of 2016 should just feature Jake Tapper hosting four sit-downs, three for Hillary and Not Hillary, one for Ken Salazar and Tom Cotton. (Lots packed into that sentence but the Examiner is hell on the word count.)
But there's no reason not to have a mini-road show of a few of the bigs early on. Enthusiasm builds, as does lots of data to generate and collect by Mr. Chuck DeFeo, the new RNC digital master of the lists. Make the "conversations" of 2014 among the bigs available for those who sign up during RNC sponsored viewings. Have the viewers comment. Build the list. Build the brand.
But most important, build the case that because Hillary could not find the time to call back Mr. Hicks as Bengjazi burned, she shouldn't get a call-back herself.
HUGH HEWITT, Washington Examiner columnist, is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio show host who blogs daily at HughHewitt.com.