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Stephen Colbert’s unfunny run for president

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I don’t find comedian Stephen Colbert’s involvement in the Republican presidential race the least bit funny. Oh, I get the part about parodying the craziness of campaign finance and the farce that raising and spending oodles of money has made of our politics. I understand his disdain for the GOP field. It is indeed hard to decide which candidate to dislike the least.

But disgust with the corrosive effects of super PAC money and coolness toward the likes of Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum are no excuse for trying to disrupt the presidential election system, as it appears Colbert has tried to do.

It’s one thing to play presidential politics for laughs. It’s quite another matter to run ads against candidates. A super PAC supporting Colbert urged Iowans in to write in Rick Perry “with an a” (Rick Parry) on the Ames straw poll, Politico reports, and recently has run ads in the Palmetto State accusing Romney of being a serial killer because the former Massachusetts governor “believes corporations are people and used to chop them up while at Bain Capital.”

Yuk, yuk, I suppose.

I fail to see the humor in Colbert urging South Carolinians to vote in Saturday’s primary for businessman Herman Cain, who dropped out of the presidential race but whose name remains on the ballot. Throwing away votes degrades a system already brought low by the unprecedented airing of negative ads so early in the nominating process.

Besides, too much has gone into getting the right to vote to treat the ballot like a game. Cain, who held a joint rally with Colbert in South Carolina on Friday, should know better.

Colbert’s suggestion that people vote for Cain is almost akin to Rush Limbaugh urging his GOP listeners in Texas and Ohio to vote for Hillary Clinton in 2008 just to keep the Democratic primary battle going. Limbaugh called that contest “too good a soap opera.”

Pranks, I suppose, have their place. But in a process that picks the president of the United States? It doesn’t touch my funny bone.

To be clear, there are good and sufficient reasons not to want any of these Republican candidates to make it to the White House. But that doesn’t mean it’s fair to interfere with the established process by which they try to get there. Candidates, regardless of party, deserve more respect.

Seeking the presidency is tough and demanding work. Only strong, disciplined candidates with a message and the means to deliver it will survive. That is why so many presidential wannabes are left standing on the sidelines.

Qualifying to run for president is the easy part. Be a natural-born U.S. citizen age 35 or older and a 14-year resident of the United States, and you are good to go as far as the Constitution is concerned.

The road gets rockier from there, however.

There are the personal sacrifices of time, family and privacy, and the wear and tear on the body and psyche.

It’s a marathon that only a few are built to run.

Just ask Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman, Michele Bachmann, Cain and now Perry.

And of course, once again, there’s the money.

Acquiring the millions needed to get a presidential campaign off the ground requires grueling hours of asking people and groups to part with their treasures on behalf of your cause.

Now introduce into that mix an entertainer who takes neither himself nor the political process seriously, who lives for laughs and satire, and has the prominence and enough dough to form a super PAC and try to muscle his way into the nominating process. The result is a mockery of the race.

Maybe I’m becoming a curmudgeon. But I don’t see the humor.

kingc@washpost.com

More from PostOpinions: Gerson: The Americans no one wants to talk about Parker: Newt Gingrich and the forgiveness ploy Robinson: Republicans have a one-track mind Milbank: What’s become of the religious right? Krauthammer: The GOP’s suicide march

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