Thursday, June 21, 2007

A National ‘American Idol,’ Boring Us to Death

The run-up to the primaries—still an agonizing six months away—has become a political parody of American Idol, with pasted-together faux ‘debates’ blindsiding a dozen wobbly candidates with questions like ‘all those who believe God created the earth, raise their hands.'’

It’s seriously become a matter of whether anyone will really care by the time this presidential-election cycle is over. Here we are, still with 502 days left before we actually walk in to our polling-places and the media is consumed with (sigh) Hillary’s choice of theme-song for her candidacy.
Five hundred and two days remaining to hit us between the eyes with such important issues.
Americanidol_2 The run-up to the primaries—still an agonizing six months away—has become a political parody of American Idol, with pasted-together faux ‘debates’ blindsiding a dozen wobbly candidates with questions like ‘all those who believe God created the earth, raise their hands.’
That format isn’t about learning anything useful, it’s about hyping the media event and providing next week’s fodder for the national press and TV to chew over. There is no one interested but the media, no one who cares a full year and a half from the finish-line and nothing to be learned from candidates who are too traumatized to say anything remotely useful or insightful.
The job-description for presidential hopefuls has become that of a plow-horse; keep your head down and pull.
Sanjaya_2 Sanjaya kept our attention for about a month, but even American Idol had the mercy to leave us alone after their prescribed 16 weeks. Witness the multiple embarrassments at this week's annual Take Back America conference of liberal activists in Washington, as reported by the Washington Post’s ‘sleuth blog’;
  • Sen. Hillary Clinton got to test out her brand new campaign theme song -- "You and I" by Celine Dion. Unfortunately, the song debuted at a forum at which the senator was booed for blaming the Iraqi government for the mess in Iraq.
  • Rep. Dennis Kucinich waltzed on stage in the ballroom of the Hilton Washington to Neil Diamond's "Coming to America." Not to be superstitious or anything, but "Coming to America" was the theme song for Michael Dukakis's 1988 presidential campaign, and we know how that story ended.
  • Former Sen. John Edwards and Sen. Barack Obama apparently had a moving handshake backstage. Moving ... in that they both kept moving and barely looked each at other as they did a quick walk-by handshake as they passed each other in a hallway.
  • Obama's youth outreach director, Hans Riemer, packed the place with Obama supporters in sun dresses and flip-flops and shorts and t-shirts by offering them free tickets on Facebook. And it worked! Obama won the straw poll, Edwards came in second and Clinton third with.
Who knew Dennis Kucinich could waltz? So the best the press could find to say of this liberal activist orgy is that a theme-song got tried out, a candidate ‘waltzed on stage,’ two candidates disingenuously shook hands, Obama’s guy packed the house and the straw-poll proved its entertainment value, but not much else.
You gotta wonder what the candidates think as they drop off to sleep after an event like that.
Simoncowell Move over American Idol. Don’t be surprised if the next contrived ‘event’ is hosted by Simon Cowell instead of Chris Matthews, assisted by the spaced-out Paula Abdul and the entirely forgettable Randy Jackson.
Simon might actually do something useful for America by thoroughly trashing the credentials of presidential candidates instead of kid-singers, attacking them on matters of personal style and testing the limits of their ability to survive being scorned.
All of which are earth-shattering matters that will be played out over the next 502 days, largely determining who represents the presidential aspirations of the two national parties.
We'll settle for that, substituting for any substantive positions on the issues that threaten the fabric of our society. God knows it’ll be more fun than listening to positions on debt, health, international relations or what the hell to do with all those retired people who keep streaming on to the social security system.
After this commercial, we’ll take a quick look at Sam Brownback, Jim Gilmore, Mike Huckabee, Duncan Hunter, Ron Paul, Tom Tancredo and Tommy Thompson (the ex Governor of Wisconsin), not to be mistaken for Fred Thompson (the actor)—names instantly recognized, monikers to quicken the heart and grab headlines—if any of them had said anything worth headlining.
Mittromney It’s the known Republicans who are in trouble, these 502 days before our national dilemma. John McCain detached from his ‘straight-talk-express,’ Mitt Romney standing four-square against every issue he stood for (before they became unpopular) and poor old Rudy hoping no one opens his closet. Will the Sanjaya among them survive? Or are they all Sanjayas?
Fifteen Republicans face off against nine Democrats, 24 no-names and a recognized face or two. It’s no wonder Mike Bloomberg has just left the Republican party to become a registered Independent. Opportunity or embarrassment, take your pick, but Mike's a savvy guy with his own bankroll, waiting for the inevitable smoke to clear.
Which would all be merely tiresome and boring, if it wasn’t for the fact that the country is in a hell of a mess and seven Senators and four Representatives aren’t (and will not be for the next 502 days) representing anything but their own interests. Senate investigations, immigration legislation and the killing-fields of Iraq be damned.
Simon Cowell can afford to spend his time with the nonsense of American Idol. For one thing, he’s not an American citizen and for another he’s made millions off being bad mannered, baiting the fragile psyches of the untalented while we watch like buzzards in the sky. Simon is a schoolyard bully (or more likely was bullied) and it is increasingly an American pastime to watch the anguish of the defenseless writ large upon our screens.
Seeing the profit, TV jumped in and made an 80-week, no production-cost hit out of what was once the long (and thankfully) dry season between political contests. Evening out their opportunities for political income, they
  • exploit the latest Obama faux pas,
  • delight in whatever Hillary misstep comes their way,
  • declare in Fred Thompson the rebirth of Ronald Reagan,
  • snicker at Rudy and
  • celebrate the slickness of Mitt
Whores to the end, pundits left and right declare their winners and losers on exactly the same terms as they ‘report’ on the nation's fascination with Paris Hilton. For the same reason--it's cheaper than chasing down an actual story. After all, it’s only the welfare and freedoms of our own country at stake.
What’s a bigger game-show than that?
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