Voter, Voter, In The Hall; Who’s The Brightest Star Of All?

I have always found it interesting the way politics and show business have mixed in recent years not just in Pakistan but also in America.

In the good old days, for example, when John F. Kennedy was President of the United States, the tendency was for politicians to have secret affairs with movie stars. Over the years the relationship between movie stars, TV actors, show business personalities and political leaders became more open.

It started with politicians getting married to show business personalities and eventually to movie actors entering politics and running for office.

One would have assumed that developing or so-called Third World countries like Pakistan were more likely to have movie stars, cashing in on their popularity and name recognition, become successful politicians. One would also have assumed that a supposedly more educated country, or society, like the United States would be less likely to allow such cashing in of fame and celebrity, especially at the national leadership level.

So it is interesting and ironic to see that in Pakistan, in general, movie stars, or even renowned celebrities (who also happened to be great people), like cricketer Imran Khan, were not truly able to make a successful transition to politics at the highest level and at the highest office.

Sure, respected and popular people like the late actor Muhammad Ali, did run for seats in parliament. Cricketer Sarfraz Nawaz, with his relationship to a movie star, also made a play for a seat in an Assembly seat.

Maybe there are a few other examples. But I do not recall anyone who was able to make a serious play for the highest office in the land, whether Prime Minister or President of Pakistan.

In the United States, on the other hand, the same forces of celebrity, fame, name and face recognition, as well as hero worship were at work – but surprisingly at a much higher level.

One does not have to see too far back into recent history to see how quickly American politics moved from having a president having an affair with a movie star (like JFK and Marilyn Monroe) to actually electing Ronald Reagan as president of the most powerful nation on earth.

On top of that, the same Ronald Reagan, that many people claimed to despise during his presidency, considering him nothing more than a talking head, all recognize that he ended up being one of the most powerful American presidents ever.

To this day almost every single American candidate for the presidency, especially from the Conservative or Republican side, has always gone above and beyond to prove how much like Ronald Reagan he or she is – even if they themselves had nothing in common with Ronald Reagan, or even having been closer to a movie studio than a visit to Universal Studios theme parks!

This hero worship was also apparent when Arnold Schwarzenegger, also known as The Terminator, was elected "governator" of California. The reason this is important to note is that California is more than just one of 50 states in the United States. Even as a stand-alone economy it would count as the 12th largest country/economy in the world. And Schwarzenegger is still running that state. So, quite clearly it is more than just a temporary bout of celebrity worship that puts and keeps people like him in office in America.

Of course, there are other cases of movie stars dabbling in a political activity, but more as activists than as candidates. Some of them do this even at great personal cost.

After all it is the public that gives them their wealth, fame and career, and the public can take it away. That is why I have such immense respect for showbiz personalities like George Clooney, Sean Penn, and others, like Oliver Stone. They have boldly spoken out against George W. Bush and his idiotic policies which have turned a global superpower like America almost into a Third World country, on the brink of economic ruin.

Who can forget the lovely, and talented, Dixie Chicks, a wonderful trio of singers from Texas, who apologized to the world for the idiotic Bush being from their state and country, USA. They lost Millions of Dollars in record sales for their bold action from the rednecks that used to buy their CDs.

One also has to acknowledge some of these movie stars and even their producers who not only speak their opinions boldly, they even put their money where their mouth is. Oliver Stone‘s latest movie, "W" is a clear attack on Bush and exposing his inner circle of crooks and cronies. I plan to watch that movie after the elections.

Most recent examples of such personal and business risk-taking in movies include the movie Syriana, in which George Clooney exposed the evil so-called foreign policy that the oil companies and Washington use to control regimes in the Middle East.

I am surprised that more Americans, more Pakistanis and more Muslims/Arabs have not seen that movie. If you haven’t I strongly urge you to rent it out on DVD. Your viewing it will not help the producer make his money back, but it will give you a great appreciation for such creative people who risked their personal, financial and career assets on the line for their beliefs and to speak the truth.

Coming back to the topic of politicians and their connection to movie stars or showbiz, by the time you read these lines a new president will already have been elected in the United States.

I wish I could predict right now the words I will be saying on November 4 while covering the US presidential elections for Geo TV and MAG. But one of the interesting things to see will be what role, if any, movie stars’ supporting presidential candidates will have had.

John McCain appears to be on the losing track. But, I do not trust the American masses to look beyond Barack Obama’s race and skin color, as well as Muslim sounding name, to elect him president.

To get more of that so-called redneck vote out in his own support, the Republican’s latest rally brought out Arnold Schwarzenegger to root for John McCain the white candidate.

On the other hand Barack Obama is no slouch in the celebrity endorsement department either. Not only does he have the support of movie stars like Mark Wahlberg, several of the above-mentioned celebrities, Oprah Winfrey, as well as having his own star power – he also has the charisma of Bill Clinton now apparently on his side. That does not even count the increasing number of renowned Republicans like non-movie star but multi-star General Colin Powell endorsing Obama. 

And, in another illustration of how things can go full circle, Bill Clinton’s "boring" vice president, and democratic party candidate in 2000, Al Gore, has gone from being almost the President of the United States to almost being a "movie star" himself  – with his very popular documentary on global warming. As you can imagine, Al Gore is also rooting for Barack Obama.

We will wait and see which candidate’s ideas, personal magnetism, or movie star support wins this election. So we have to ask the "VOTER, VOTER, IN THE HALL; WHO’S THE BRIGHTEST STAR OF ALL?"

We’ll find out on November 4, but stay tuned and follow my coverage on GEO TV November 3-5, 2008, live from Washington, DC!

Imran Anwar is a New York and Miami based Pakistani-American entrepreneur, Internet pioneer, inventor, writer and TV personality. He can be reached through his web site http://imran.com and imran@imran.com

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Selling Books By Offending Already Oversensitive Muslims

“Here we go again,” is all I can say. Regardless of whatever rationale the author of the upcoming “novel” “Jewel of Medina” may have for writing a book about the wife of Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), it will turn out to be exactly what various people want.

Some will cherish the opportunity to see how already oversensitive, and ready to blow things up for any excuse, Muslims will take offense. Others will love the opportunity to sell more books, that would otherwise not sell. Some Republicans will surely find a way to hold Bill Clinton responsible, and blame Barack Obama just for having a Muslim sounding name. Democrats will do their bit of hand-wringing about censorship not being in anyone’s interest.

Opinions welcome.

Sex Appeal, Sax Appeal, American Idol, Idle Americans & The President

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!

Three Blind Mice Or One Boring Politician?

A FaceBook friend of mine, Amanda Bateman, posted a comment on her profile page with an interesting premise – that the three leading anchors on regular TV, Katie Couric, Brian Williams and Charles Gibson (plus, one assumes, their networks) are biased against poor Senator John McCain.

Her brief posting, cutely titled, “Three Blind Mice”, simply stated, “And the biased media continues…should we be surprised? Probably not.”

That was followed by the following three URLs.

http://newsbusters.org/blogs/kyle-drennen/2008/07/17/network-anchors-join-obama-world-tour-little-coverage-mccain-travel

http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2008/07/if_a_network_anchor_falls_in_t.html

http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=news/entertainment&id=6274320

Not that the media does NOT have a bias. Of course it does. It always appears biased in favor of whoever you oppose! But I was amused to read the first link. So, I posted a follow up note to Ms. Bateman’sc comment.

I acknowledged that she did make a valid point. But I went on to say that it was amusing to read the first link and have a real pro-Republican blogger quote the… (gulp)… New York Times for an objective comment. 🙂

I did not check that blog’s previous postings to see what they may have to say about some opinions that Fox News Channel simply is a Republican Party propaganda machine.

This is not to defend the anchors Amanda criticized above, or their myopic lemming-like networks. But, let’s not forget that, media bias not withstanding, the media reports things based on interestingness from the public’s perspective.

So, Britney Spears‘ sister having a baby gets on the cover of People magazine but not, say, the Sudanese leader possibly being charged with genocide.

Is that particular choice a show of “bias” against black politicians or world leaders? Of course not – though I am sure some will want to think so. No. We have to look at other possible angles also.

Even my Republican friends, and objective conservative media professionals all admit, McCain has just not been a very interesting candidate or politician in a very long while. He is NOT good at thinking on his feet when an unfamiliar question is posed to him.

(See this video online of him totally lost and clueless http://act.credoaction.com/campaign/mccain_respect_contraception/ ).

He seems uncomfortable with his position. All he can do is appear “resolute” in sticking to the failed policy of the war in Iraq.

People immediately “accuse” me that I must be some extreme liberal, or Democrat, if I dare criticize anything about Republicans. But, in fact, I am a thorough independent.

Ironically, I had been a loud supporter of John McCain for President in 2000 and fully believe we would have been far better off as a nation having him, despite his somewhat loose-cannon personality, as President than the joke of the millennium George W. Bush that fate, and the Supreme Court, foisted on us.

(2004’s re-election of George Bush is something Republicans and his voters have to take the blame for and know that history will judge their actions as the most destructive single influence starting America’s decline in the world at a time it should have been getting far more loved, respected and emulated worldwide).

So, much that I supported McCain over Bush in 2000, and much that I respected him for being a war hero (as opposed to a war Zero like Bush), I cannot bring myself to support him for President of the United States in 2008. He has served his country ably, well, sincerely, and should be commended and respected for that. That alone is not reason to elect him President.

Does that mean, somehow, that Obama is the perfect candidate. Surely not. Obama can make mistakes, Hillary can still cause trouble enough for the Democracks — sorry – Democrats to lose the election.

That means McCain can obviously not give up. But, just being a candidate does not a campaign make. He needs to smarten up. He has no momentum at present. He has no great ideas. He is sticking to bad ideas on Iraq. He is not exciting to the populace. Even worse, especially from the media perspective, he is just not interesting anymore.

That is what his campaign in disarray has to focus on. Try to make him be more exciting, interesting, and, yes, more creative and original than he is at present. Can it be done?

What do you think?

Economy, Russia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan – Bad News All Around

Everywhere, on every news site, it seems there is nothing but conflict and bad news. The good news is… hold on, I am looking. Nope, I did not find any.

Just the top stories in “MyYahoo” is a litany of bad news, followed by worse.

It appears that the economic crisis we are facing today, with bank stocks melting (don’t even ask how much I lost on Citibank alone), hundreds of thousands facing foreclosure, credit cards and others squeezing customers, oil trying to hit $200, is not going to get better any time soon.

Item one, at least on my view of “Top News from Reuters”, is a report saying the government is mulling taking over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. What that means is that despite recent claims by their management, and top Bush economic officials, that the organizations have enough money, they in fact are preparing for a bailout. What that means for the rest of the economy, and for the American tax-payer, remains to be seen.

The second item shows that the Russians, still following the policies of Mr. Putin (whose eyes and soul apparently Mr. Bush seems to know intimately well), are actually using the recent Iranian missile tests as a reason for the USA NOT to deploy a missile shield. I am not quite sure I understand the “logic” of the Russians. I can understand them not wanting the US to deploy weapons systems that negate Russian military power, but using the (fairly) successful Iranian missile tests as a reason against that defies logic.

Wait, there is good news. The new iPhone is being snapped up by customers around the world. Great news. But, much that I love Apple and the iPhone, in the grand scheme of things, and in the serious issues we face, it is kind of silly for that news item to be displayed at par with the economic meltdown in America, the Russian military grumbling and the roar of Iranian rockets and potentially soon, Israeli jets.

The next item has me scratching my head. The Mexican government, which does not want to take back its 12 million illegal immigrants (including the many criminals and gang members they sent over), nor wants us to build a fence to keep these illegal hoards out of America, is taking us to court! And, not even our courts, but the ‘World Court’, where they are fighting to save five Mexican criminals from execution for deadly crimes committed in the USA! So, not only are we supposed to welcome their illegal riff-raff with open arms (doing which both Obama and McCain are falling over each other to show love for illegals), we are also supposed to welcome, and allow to roam free, those among them who commit murder or heinous crimes. Amazing.

For a second, my attention was caught by the next item – which could qualify as good news. Lebanon may be able to form a unity government. Whether that is good news or bad depends on which side of their internal strife you are on.

But, before I could dwell on that item, the last news item in that list of six top stories was just more bad news on several fronts.

Things in Afghanistan, the place where Bin Laden and his henchmen hid and planned their attacks on America, are getting worse. The Taliban are resurgent in Afghanistan, and we are losing soldiers in Iraq. The Afghan government is getting weaker and Bin Laden is nowhere to be found, and we are preparing for an attack on Iran.

And, what did we just manage to do? Our mistaken bombing just killed 47 civilians there, including women and children. Surely not a sign of success in winning hearts and minds. Bad, very bad, news.

With Bin Laden still out there, the Taliban attacking us and our allies more and more, Iraq still a morass, our economy in meltdown, and oil aiming for $200, what is a President to do… why, start a new war of course! Hello, Iran. Hello, $300 oil. Hello, total economic meltdown.

What do you think?