A grimace for those smiling and scowling candidates

What actual hope is there for the country in any of those faces?
What actual hope is there for the country in any of those faces? CNN

Early Sunday morning, the first click onto Twitter splashed across the screen the five smiling faces of the front-runners in the presidential race.

“All-Star CNN ‘State of the Union’ Lineup ... 9 a.m. ET/PT,” the tweet promised.

Actually, it was four smiling faces and a scowl. No, more like three smiling faces, a smirk not very well disguised by a smile, and a scowl. I’ll let you guess.

My wife and I had gone to the Triangle, where both of our daughters live, for a Friday-Saturday visit that turned into an idyllic escape. I had completely forgotten the circus had been in South Carolina.

The first photo in the CNN post was of Donald Trump, the victor, I would soon learn. He had steamrolled Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, bagged the state’s 50 Republican convention delegates, and rendered extinct the last of the presidentially inclined Bushes.

Also pictured were Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. In Nevada, there had been another circus. Clinton’s photo appeared above Sanders so I knew Nevada hadn’t quite felt the Bern.

I kept staring at the tweet and those faces as the steam rose from the coffee. It was like seeing a train wreck – I couldn’t look away. I just kept thinking, “apart from the ‘not-as-bad-as-the-other-guy’ tale so many voters tell themselves, what actual hope is there for the country in any of those faces?”

Take Bernie Sanders. If elected, he’ll be required to affirm an oath of office wherein he swears to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” So as a self-described “Democratic Socialist,” his first official act as president will be to stand on the Capitol steps and tell a lie.

What about Hillary Clinton? She was recently asked point-blank if she has always told the truth to the American people.

“I have always tried to.”

But truth isn’t something you try to tell. Truth is either told, or it isn’t. Or are you saying, Mrs. Bill Clinton, that it depends on the meaning of truth?

Is there any real hope on the GOP side? They’ll say yes, of course, but start with Marco Rubio. Republicans have decided being an ineffective freshman senator is only an insufficient stepping stone to the White House if you’re Barack Obama.

What about Ted Cruz, the senator who positions himself as an anti-establishment outsider Big Washington is afraid of?

Cruz’s campaign and supportive super PACS have raised millions from very typical GOP donors. He met his wife, Heidi, when they were both advisers on George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign. She is on leave from a big job with Goldman Sachs, which gave Cruz a half-million dollar campaign loan he failed to disclose. One could hardly be a bigger establishment insider than Ted Cruz.

And then there is Ringmaster Trump who, just ask him, will Make America Great Again. The Presidential Candidacy of Donald J. Trump is a mockery as spot-on and riotous as anything ever conceived by Christopher Guest and his “Spinal Tap” and “Best in Show” buddies.

It is written that in a democracy, we get the government we deserve. If that’s true, we need to stop looking at the smirking, scowling candidates, and start looking in the mirror.

Keith Larson can be heard weekdays 9 a.m. - Noon on WBT AM/FM.