At the most recent count, there are 18 more Republican presidential debates to be held.
Yes, 18 more opportunities to watch Texas Gov. Rick Perry do his Porky Pig imitation, to hear Rick Santorum swear that he's really running for the nomination, and to hear Herman Cain explain how he, as a black man attending college in Atlanta in the mid-1960s, somehow "missed out" on the Civil Rights Movement.
These things are high drama, indeed. We have:
• Newt Gingrich trying to show that he's still relevant nearly 20 years after his political high point.
• Jon Huntsman saying, "Hey, I'm Mormon! That redneck cracker-ass preacher from Texas was attacking me, too. Please mention me in your articles when you mention how he went after Mitt Romney. Or, just mention me for anything at all."
• Ron Paul hoping that the mother ship doesn't come to retrieve him before the New Hampshire primary.
• Michele Bachmann longing for the old days when Newsweek was putting a crazed picture of her on its cover.
I highly recommend that you watch one or two (but, for goodness' sake, not all 18!) of these things. You'll see just how tenuous the Republican Party's grasp on reality is these days. There is one big drawback, however: Due to the influence of the media (and not just the hell-spawn at Fox), these candidates all speak a bastardization of English, one in which up is sometimes down (unless it benefits the rich, in which case it's up); black is occasionally beautiful (although sometimes it's just a crutch); and poor is bad, and rich is good (although one can never be rich enough).
In order to maximize your understanding and enjoyment of the upcoming debates, I offer this glossary of terms and buzzwords that will certainly be thrown out by some, if not all, of the debaters. Just think of these as subtitles in advance.
The phrases to watch out for include:
• Class warfare. This is the knee-jerk response when anyone or anything correctly points out the glaring (and growing) disparity between the rich and the shrinking middle class.
• Job creators. The queen mother of all cynical terms supposedly applies to the really rich people who have silos full of money and for whom Republican politicians shamelessly shill in an endless effort to slash taxes so there can be ...
• Job creation. This is what happens when the Silo People hire butlers for their butlers and maids for their gardeners. To be fair, they also occasionally create jobs by hiring new lobbyists, purchasing congressmen and having larger silos built.
• Too much regulation. To Republicans, this means any regulation. It's really creepy, but I think that a lot of Republican zealots believe that government regulations somehow force greedy people to be even greedier.
• Tax and spend. This is apparently meant as a pejorative by Republicans, although it's spelled out as one of the responsibilities of Congress in Article I of the U.S. Constitution. How else is our government supposed to function?
• My husband is not gay. If Michele Bachmann says this, it may mean, "He used to be gay, but we cured him using God and aversion therapy, just like in Clockwork Orange."
In Bachmann's case, that means he was strapped into a chair; his eyelids were propped open; and he was shown a slide show featuring former Arizona Congressman Jim Kolbe.
• Half of all Americans don't even pay taxes. This is one of Sean Hannity's favorite mantras, which means it can't possibly be true. And it's not. Nearly half of all Americans don't pay federal income taxes, which is already a big difference from what Hannity and the candidates are claiming. A large portion of that group is made up of Social Security recipients. (Social Security benefits generally are not taxed.) The rest are people who either don't make enough money to meet the minimum threshold for paying taxes or have enough deductions (child care, education, etc.) to keep them from exceeding that minimum standard.
It should be noted that many of those deductions (plus the elevated minimum standard) were put into the tax code during the Bush tax-cut frenzy of the early 2000s. If you want everybody to pay taxes, then come out and say so. Don't hide behind inflammatory half-truths.
It's not always what people say, but how they say it. Lenny Bruce did a bit where he said that Lyndon Johnson spent his first three months in the White House learning how to pronounce "negro." I'm sure that in these touchy (pun unavoidable) times, all of these overpriced handlers and advisers are making sure that their respective meal tickets pronounce the word "harass" so it sounds like the last name of the actor Richard. You want that first syllable to sound like "hair," not "huh."
You just know that if it's pronounced so it sounds like "her-ass," somebody on the stage is going to get the giggles.
Even then, it's not completely safe. If I were on the panel of questioners, I'd bring up the topic of the female members of 19th-century President William Henry "Tippecanoe" Harrison's family. Sooner or later, somebody would use the phrase "Harrison women," to which Herman Cain would respond, "It's just a hobby."