The big winner in the Republican debates …

… is Caligula’s horse Incitatus, no longer the gold standard for distinction beyond merit.

… has clearly been Caligula’s horse Incitatus.

For close on two millennia the poor beast, the victim of his master’s insane (or perhaps jocular) intention to make him Consul, has been a proverb for those offered for posts beyond their capacities. Here, for example, is John Randolph of Roanoke on John Quincy Adams’s choice of Richard Rush as Secretary of the Treasury:

Never were abilities so much below mediocrity so well rewarded; no, not when Caligula’s horse was made Consul.

As a result of the Republican debates, we can now give the innocent Incitatus – who never, after all, ran for Consul, or even galloped for it – a rest. Perry, Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich, and Santorum are all clearly less qualified for the office they seek than a horse would have been to serve as Consul. The Presidency, unlike the Consulate under the Emperors, still has real functions.

And at least Caligula proposed the entire horse.