Gordon Robison Megalomaniacs like Trump lack the ideology to inspire party faithful and are not centrist enough to challenge Obama. What have we learned about the American politics from watching the Republican presidential candidates, and would-be candidates, over the last few weeks? First, that with only nine months remaining before the nominating process formally begins the GOP field remains unsettled. Second, that because of this uncertainty entertaining - but ultimately pointless - things are occupying everyone's attention. On one level, it is significant that the Republican field is (finally) beginning to take shape. A number of serious candidates are officially 'in': Former governors Mitt Romney (Massachusetts), Tim Pawlenty (Minnesota) and, probably, John Huntsman (Utah) along with former House speaker Newt Gingrich. Several other potential A-list candidates have formally announced they are not running (Haley Barbour, Mike Huckabee and John Thune). A few big names, notably Sarah Palin, remain officially undecided. And then there is the strange case of Donald Trump. For a few weeks, last month the billionaire real estate developer and reality television star seemed to monopolise the political conversation. He latched onto 'birtherism' - the ridiculous, and not-especially-subtly racist, idea that US President Barack Obama was born in Kenya rather than Hawaii - and rode it, briefly, to the top of the polls among potential GOP candidates. When Obama released his birth records, Trump gave a self-congratulatory news conference claiming credit for the President's actions, and used the occasion to start demanding his university transcripts. After that everything, for Trump, quickly went wrong. First, he was savagely mocked at the annual White House Correspondent's Association dinner. Then, only hours later, news of the US military operation to kill Osama bin Laden broke - making Trump's pandering to the know-nothing wing of the Republican Party seem petty. He dropped in the polls and disappeared from the national conversation almost as quickly as he had arrived. In the same way that the 9/11 attacks made the media obsessions of the preceding months seem embarrassing and inconsequential, the operation to kill 9/11's mastermind reminded the political world of the fundamentally grave choices a President must make. The blow-hard businessman suddenly became almost impossible to envision in the Oval Office, and the national political conversation rapidly migrated elsewhere. Trump's meteor-like candidacy is a reminder of two very different, but equally important, aspects of the American political scene. First, as presidential campaigns in the US have gotten longer they have become increasingly prone to strange enthusiasms: Odd moments during which somebody whom no one should be taking seriously fascinates the political media for a few weeks. Inevitably, everyone comes to their senses and moves on, scratching their heads and wondering, in retrospect, why they ever thought Fred Thompson, Bruce Babbitt, Phil Gramm or Paul Tsongas was headed for the White House. Those names don't ring a bell? That's my point. Each of them, for a brief moment, was thought to be riding a wave towards the presidency. Google them if you're really interested. The second thing exemplified by Trump is the belief, widely held among Americans, that running a government is similar to running a company. Therefore, so the theory goes, corporate titans ought to make excellent politicians. Business tycoons are accustomed to giving orders and getting results. Government, in a democracy, is about give and take with civil servants and legislators, who have their own agendas, owe you little or no loyalty and most of whom you cannot fire. Doing it well, in short, bears little resemblance to running a profitable company. Granted all of that, why would anyone vote for Trump: A megalomaniac self-promoter with zero political experience whose record as a businessman is far from perfect? The answer is: They won't. Trump may have (briefly) done a good job of embodying the frustrations of the angriest of Republican voters, but when it comes to actually picking a candidate for President, the people tend to take their responsibilities as voters seriously. In a time of both war and continued economic uncertainty it is difficult to imagine the bluster-prone Trump sharing a stage with Obama in a presidential debate and coming over as anything, but a dangerous buffoon. Which leaves the Republicans still in search of someone both ideologically pure enough to inspire the party faithful, while sufficiently centrist to be a credible challenger to Obama. That is a tall order - one that nobody in the current field seems ready to fill. n Gulf News