Howie Mandel would liven up a boring presidential debate

The verdict by all the TV pundits about the last presidential debate was unanimous. It was boring. Unlike, say, those riveting post-debate, cable-TV shows. There’s nothing like the excitement of watching a bunch of old men repeat the same things you just heard over and over and over again. Change the channel and there are five more of them. They’re like drug dealers. You arrest one, and another two take his place.

The debate was so boring it only got 62 million viewers, but then, it was only two guys vying for the most powerful job in the world. Whoops, I mean the second-most powerful job in the world. We all know Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve, has the most powerful job in the world. And it’s funny, I can’t find anyone who will admit that they voted for him. Another 62 million people were going to watch the debate, but they were in a fetal position under their covers, clutching their latest 401(k) statement and trying to figure out if they could afford the name-brand dog food for dinner.

It was obvious that neither candidate watches much television. They didn’t seem to know the rules. When you win something on television, like $100 or a new Norelco shaver, you’re supposed to jump up and down, wave your hands, kiss people next to you, high-five anyone within high-fiving distance and act like it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to you. McCain and Obama just stood there every time they made a point. What a couple of stiffs! But the TV audience, not being as clever as highly paid pundits, seemed to think that they were watching something important, something that only happens two or three times every four years, something so rare that was worth sitting through, even if it didn’t have any car chases, alien abductions, million-dollar prizes, forensic medicine, psychic policemen or teenage girls behaving badly.

Go figure.

It was boring because neither one of them screamed at each other; neither one banged his shoe on a lectern; neither one told Tom Brokaw to shut his pie hole, neither of them unbuttoned their shirt to reveal a big red “S,” neither one of them burped, neither one of them copped to a smack addiction. It was almost as if the candidates were talking about their deepest-held convictions, things they had thought about for a long time, things they had learned from years of personal experience. In other words, boring things.

It didn’t have to be that way. Instead of talking about stupid old politics, we could have put them on “Deal or No Deal” and had them guess which aluminum briefcase holds the least money. Now that’s the way to pick a president! Nothing boring there. Think of how much better it would have been if Howie Mandel had been the moderator instead of boring old Tom Brokaw. Jeez, what a lump he was. Just sat there asking questions about health care and the economy and the war. Bo-ring! If Howie was too busy to do it, we could try to get Alex Trebek or Jeff Foxworthy. Instead of a debate, we could put both of the candidates on “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” Forget the voting, just make the winner president. Now that would get some ratings and keep the pundits from being bored.

When did it become the job of presidential candidates to keep pundits from being bored instead of just running for president? It appears to date all the way back to early October 2008, when many political pundits realized their retirement funds had been cut in half.

Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at

Copyright 2008, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.

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