Sex Appeal, Sax Appeal, American Idol, Idle Americans & The President
Posted by imrananwar on September 12, 2008
It is hard to imagine it was nearly 16 years ago that a brash, bold politician named Bill Clinton put his media-savvy personality, charm, good looks and sax-playing ability to good use on American television.
He showed up on TV as a guest of the now-defunct show with Arsenio Hall. (You remember him as the guy whose face flashes in the hit song “Straight Up (Now Tell Me)” by singer-dancer-choreographer, and now a judge on the hit TV show “American Idol”, the cute bundle of energy, Paula Abdul). Clinton did not do this while running for Mayor of some small town, but as a Presidential candidate of the United States of America.
Political analysts, and pundits, diverged in their views on the move. Some thought it cheapened the Presidency, making Presidential candidates act like actors or musicians hawking their latest books on late night shows of Jay Leno or David Letterman, or showing their tender sides on Oprah Winfrey’s show. Others thought it was a brilliant move. It enabled Clinton to connect with a politically disconnected youth population that was more interested in how high Madonna’s skirt was than in how low global opinion of America was.
In the end, Clinton won. This was partly for his savvy moves, and partly because George H. W Bush (father of the current lame-duck American President George Bush) was a clueless President who oversaw the US economy sliding into recession. (Like father, like son?)
And in the long run, American politics became even more inextricably mixed with show business, and the selling of candidates as products not leaders.
The victory of style over substance was visible all through the current Presidential election campaign now taking place in America. Despite not having too much experience, Barack Obama was able to use his star power and personality, his eloquence and some great ideas, to build a campaign. This has enabled him to overcome even the challenges of being inexperienced, Black and having a Muslim sounding name! He was able to beat out Hilary Clinton (who should possibly have learnt to play Guitar or Saxophone like her husband). Obama made a far more experienced and well-known Senator John McCain have to play catch up throughout the campaign.
But what advantage show-biz type political exposure giveth, so does it taketh away. John McCain’s campaign was in dire straits (some say it still is). But, more than any specific problems, it suffered the worst malaise in the world of politics today – it lacked “interestingness.”
There was just nothing exciting about a Presidential candidate who, despite being a war hero and long term senator, was seventy-something years old, and totally boring.
He had sided with George W. Bush in his disastrous policies on Iraq, and had no clues on how to solve Americans’ other major concern, the failing economy. On top of that he was jumping around from issue to issue.
He was weakly trying to appear relevant in a world driven by the star power of Barack Obama. His old guard Republican money machine, often selling out American interests to oil companies and the military industrial complex was being beaten by Obama’s money and public awareness juggernaut on the Internet. Youth was lacking in McCain and his campaign, while it was central in Obama’s campaign.
To make matters worse, McCain actually tried to cut into Obama’s mass popularity by implying that he was a mindless celebrity. In a now infamous TV commercial, McCain ridiculed Obama by comparing him to blonde bimbos like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton (previously my target of ridicule in another article). The only thing was, the technique backfired.
Paris Hilton (“famous for being famous” and infamous for her interesting “home videos”) was the wrong target to poke fun of. Not only was Paris Hilton’s mother a donor to McCain’s election campaign, to her credit, Paris Hilton played along and turned the tables. Enjoying being the center of attention, she turned that into her own political ad. You can see it on YouTube ridiculing John McCain, his campaign and so-called energy policies.
During all these McCain blunders, Hilary Clinton kept fighting Obama for the Democratic nomination. This time around, though, her very popular husband, Bill Clinton lost his groove, and was not able to swing support in her favor. Maybe it is because he said politically incorrect things while tooting his and his wife’s horn, but he also did not show up on TV to play the saxophone. That may have worked better than some of the things he said. Result: Hilary lost to Obama.
It seemed like a done deal for Obama to beat McCain. To top things off, Obama, whom the Republicans accuse of being inexperienced, chose quite a good candidate for Vice President. Senator Joseph Biden, while even more talkative than me after having four drinks of Pepsi and coffee, has vast foreign policy and Washington experience.
That is when the Obama campaign seems to have lost some momentum. Instead of building on this great candidacy they appear a bit rudderless right now.
There is also the question of race. When someone asked the question “Is America ready for a Black President?” one of my favorite TV personalities in America, John Stewart, reportedly said that before Bush’s election “No one asked if we were ready for a moron President!” But, whether Obama can turn his dynamic rise into a historical election remains to be seen.
That is when John McCain did the dumbest thing in the world – which just may put him into the running again to be President.
After ridiculing Obama for his lack of experience, seeing that Hilary’s loss had upset some women voters and people wanted change – he picked a very inexperienced woman governor of Alaska to become his Vice President.
How poorly selected was this woman, Sarah Palin?
After she was nominated it came to light that, despite the Republican’s often holier-than-thou attitudes and anti-choice agendas, Mrs. Palin’s underage daughter is pregnant. Now the Republicans are trying to sound more “open minded”. Instead of Palin’s daughter’s boyfriend being arrested for the crime of statutory rape, he was sitting front row at the Republican National Convention. What a joke.
But, wait, there’s more! Candidate Sarah Palin’s selected was so poorly vetted, it has now also been found that her husband belonged to some sort of militia or anti-USA organization that wanted Alaska to secede from the USA. Good old Sarah Palin also had used office funds for her personal use. On top of that, she used State funds to hire the lawyer to defend her in the case of that corruption. And we complain about Pakistani politicians!
You would think all these reasons would be enough even for a corrupt Pakistani political party to throw out the candidate in question. But, for the Republicans desperate to breathe new life into a comatose candidate like McCain, she is nothing short of a miracle.
She is not Virgin Mary, but she is their Hail Mary pass at scoring a touchdown this election. Sarah Palin is very attractive, as is McCain’s wife Cindy. This may be an election in which these two women’s looks may well decide the election.
Just like selling a new shampoo, the selling of the Presidential candidate to the American public now requires sex appeal, even more than sax appeal!