Game-Show Politics

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Many of us wish the clock could be stopped. And perhaps, just perhaps, by staying in that wonderful dream state, most of our problems could be solved.

Half-awake, what passes for our brain goes into a replay of what we saw a few hours before on television: two people competing, one so confident from the onset of the contest, apparently assured a victory. Suddenly, the other, a beginner in the game, starts to grasp for a laurel wreath apparently within grasp.

The beginner has problems. He throws out some old and trusted family friends and pushes aside, never to be discussed again, some youthful problems. He changes images a couple of times and believes that this will result in a win.

The former very secure contender, now second best and trailing, makes brazen attempts to recapture the hearts and minds of us all. Everyone is reminded that the opera is not over until the fat lady sings. And the fight continues.

No, we are not writing about Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama. We are writing about the contest between the finalists for the title of "American Idol," the spectacular Fox TV show.

Perhaps to add to the confusion, there are some statistics that show that about 98 million people paid and gave their votes by telephone to confirm the winner. And that is a mere 24 million fewer than go to the polls for free.

Everyone will agree that candidates for the presidency are brave, upright, handsome, well groomed, superbly educated, brilliantly briefed on the world's problems and thoroughly nice people. But the candidate is dependent on his or her campaign manager and advisers, who are, or should be, hucksters of the snake-oil-salesman variety.

A campaign manager's duty is to get the maximum exposure for the candidate's strong points, minimize the bad points and use her or his every waking minute. As many of us watch television avidly and most view "American Idol" regularly, why should we be surprised that campaign appearances by every candidate look like a repeat of an "American Idol" show?

Both are intensely competitive. There are the same kind of insults and put-down's -- justified on the basis that the performer (sorry, candidate) is going on to the next level. Many of the "lose" factors are that a candidate or performer is not sufficiently qualified for the next round or that "discovered" mistakes from the distant past will be repeated again and again.

We have achieved a new level -- the medium common denominator. …