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Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016 12:20 am

Shameless in, shameless out: Running for president in 2016

 Editor’s note: Roger Simon’s column substitutes this week for Jim Hightower’s column, which was not available at press time.

“We live at a time of great events and little men.” No, this was not said after the last Republican presidential debate.

It was said more than two centuries ago by Honore Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau, a leader in the early days of the French Revolution. The quotation appears in Hilary Mantel’s historical novel, A Place of Greater Safety, which means we are not 100 percent sure it was said, but it certainly should have been.

It doesn’t take any great leap of imagination to look upon our current presidential campaign and say Mirabeau was correct. Great events swirl around us – we are mired in crises both foreign and domestic – and yet what little people we have to lead us.

People are being barrel-bombed and forced from their homes by the millions in Syria. North Korea, which is led by an absolute dictator of questionable sanity, brags it has just developed a hydrogen bomb. The United States faces an economic outlook this year that runs the gamut from bleak to catastrophic.

And what do I see at the very moment I type these words? I see Donald Trump standing in front of a mannequin of John Wayne in Winterset, Iowa, where Wayne was born and spent the first seven years of his life.

Tuesday, the Wayne family endorsed Trump for the presidency. This is live cable network news.

A reporter asks Trump the importance of this endorsement.

“I think endorsements are, depending who makes them, valuable,” Trump says. “Some don’t make a difference. But I think having a John Wayne and John Wayne family endorsement means a lot.”

But wait. There is a far more important endorsement at hand aside from that of an actor who has been dead for 36 years. Sarah Palin would endorse Trump later this day.

Palin was one of the least-qualified candidates in the history of the vice presidency, which is saying something considering the job has virtually no duties. Yet Republican nominee John McCain sacrificed what was left of his credibility by claiming that Palin was ready to become commander-in-chief should something incapacitate McCain.

This is what running for president does to you. If you were not shameless going in, you will almost certainly be shameless going out.

Before bidding farewell to The Duke, The Donald is asked by a reporter about the toxic tap water in Flint, Michigan.

The Michigan attorney general has said: “The situation in Flint is a human tragedy.”

Hillary Clinton has said: “I think every single American should be outraged.”

Bernie Sanders has demanded the resignation of Michigan’s governor for acting too slowly. “A man who acts that irresponsibly should not stay in power,” Sanders says.

And Trump? “I shouldn’t be commenting on Flint,” Trump said.

In times past, candidates said running for president was meaningful, win or lose. That’s because they got to meet real Americans up close and experience their lives and hear about their hopes and dreams.

Not anymore.

Last month, in a gymnasium at the Pennichuck Middle School in Nashua, New Hampshire, Trump said, “Honestly, unless I win, it doesn’t mean a damn thing to me.”

Big problems and little candidates. They seem to go hand in hand.

Roger Simon is Politico’s chief political columnist. His new e-book, Reckoning: Campaign 2012 and the Fight for the Soul of America, can be found on Amazon.com, BN.com and iTunes. To find out more about Roger Simon and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.

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