There's an old curse that begs, "O that mine enemy would write a book." That's a desire getting big play in the debates between Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who are both trashing my dad Ronald Reagan's so-called "11th Commandment" that Republicans must refrain from attacking each other in public.
Like just about everybody else, I'm being wearied by both Romney and Perry citing passages from each other's books to prove a point. All they do is prove that they can read and write. We need more than that in a president.
Romney and Perry need to knock it off. What we really want to know is exactly what they, as president, would do to get America back on the right track. We want to know what their visions are for America's future. Their public spats are simply giving Barack Obama juicy material for his TV ads in the general election in 2012.
Moreover, they have managed to transform a previously politically unknown pizza mogul, Herman Cain, into a real player in the presidential sweepstakes and given a lot of publicity to his 9-9-9 Plan, which lays out his means to get this nation back on track.
Cain's 9-9-9 Plan is taking hold of the public's attention because of its simplicity and clarity. It's easy to understand and you don't have to read a book to grasp its essentials. Romney and Perry need to adopt the old standard of "keeping it simple, stupid." The public has neither the time nor the will to wrestle with complex political propositions.
With all the focus on book passages, Perry and Romney have also given Newt Gingrich a new lease on his political life. Gingrich doesn't waste his time prattling about literature. He doesn't direct you to some pages in some book. Instead, he answers questions directly and without waffling. He also has a vision of what America can be under the right leadership. He has something Perry and Romney appear to lack - a vision of an America reborn and the ways to get there; Professor Gingrich provides that without being professorial.
Republicans have certain core values - we believe in small and limited government, legitimate states' rights, and in adhering to the principles enunciated in the Constitution. Those values enshrouded in the Constitution have transformed what was once a collection of frontier communities into history's wealthiest and most powerful nation. Candidates for the Republican presidential nomination need to prove they understand exactly what the Constitution demands of them and show they are willing and able to conform to those demands.
Nowadays, politics has come to be seen as just another spectator sport, like football or baseball. We treat candidates as players in a sport, chalking up their hits, runs and errors. Unlike sports, however, politics affects the lives and futures of every single American. Unfortunately, unlike Vegas, what happens in Washington doesn't stay in Washington - it hits us exactly where we live.
The media are no help in giving us the information we need to make informed judgments about candidates. Instead, many in the so-called mainstream media have allowed themselves to become cheerleaders for leftist political candidates and causes. They need to be reined in by an alert public and forced to fulfill their responsibilities as news sources, and not as advocates for one side or the other.
These are the sort of solid issues with which the candidates need to be dealing. So far they are not doing so. Until they do it's hard to take them seriously. And, like it or not, politics is serious business.
• Michael Reagan is the son of President Ronald Reagan, founder and chairman of The Reagan Group, president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation, and the author of "The New Reagan Revolution." He can be reached at Reagan@caglecartoons.com.