Tune in to the hottest reality show: Election 2008

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January 29, 2008

1:44 AM

Since when was television so exciting? While the Writers’ Guild strike has derailed much of prime time television, the current presidential election has piqued my interest more than “Desperate Housewives,” “House” or “Lost” ever did. With witty banter, pointed accusations, great hair and Oprah, this presidential election couldn’t be more entertaining than, well, “The West Wing.”

p. The Democratic primary in South Carolina perfectly captured the party’s cut-throat nature. Bill and Hillary Clinton spent the week berating Barack Obama about the Illinois senator’s lack of experience and dealings with questionable fundraisers. While the Clintons’ attacks were nothing new, Obama’s retort was a real zinger. At last Tuesday’s debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Obama said, “I can’t tell who I’m running against sometimes.” While Obama makes a good point, he also proves to have a capacity for pointed humor.

p. Clinton is not without the ability to command my emotions; while she is never made me laugh like Obama, the former first lady nearly brought me to tears earlier this month. After her loss in Iowa, Clinton was speaking to a group of New Hampshire well-wishers when she broke into tears. “Some people think elections are a game, lots of who’s up or who’s down, [but] it’s about our country, it’s about our kids’ futures and it’s really about all of us together,” she said. Some debate has centered on Clinton’s use of these tears as a means of using her gender as a crutch. Even if Clinton employed emotion to cast herself in a different light, is there anything wrong with it? In such a heavily covered campaign, Clinton cannot be blamed for using any method — tears or otherwise — to win.

p. Currently, the Republican campaign lacks the panache of the Democrats. Mitt Romney and John McCain are currently waging war in Florida. I take issue with their banter, not because of substance, but because it isn’t interesting. McCain and Romney needlessly go back and forth on the ex-governor’s call for a pull-out from Iraq. Unfortunately, there were no tears and no humorous quips to enliven the debate.

p. Even McCain’s ads against Romney lack originality. On Friday, McCain’s campaign released an ad that depicts Romney windsurfing, an obvious reference to negative ads run by George Bush against John Kerry. I will not deny the ex-governor’s political opportunism, but I will admonish McCain’s lack of creativity in pointing it out.

p. With Fred Thompson’s dropout from the presidential race and Rudy Guiliani’s anticipated exit if he loses in Florida, both parties can brag about another point: great hair. Romney has a full head of hair, and McCain sports an impressive coif for someone over 70. Clinton always looks well-kept, and Obama’s short hair looks sporty on the young senator. While John Edwards was critiqued for spending a reported $400 on his locks, it certainly was money well spent. In fact, Edwards joins the ranks of Bill Clinton, who in 1993 was critiqued for spending $300 on a haircut in Los Angeles.

p. These candidates all recognize the importance of image, and some, more than others, have done a nice job of cultivating this image to the ever-present media. With all the talk of gender, race and age, it would seem that image has become an increasingly important factor in the campaign of 2008.

p. But image is not something new to American politics, as author Ben Shapiro points out in a new, punnily named book, “Project President: Bad Hair & Botox on the Road to the White House.” “When we vote, we vote not for a platform, but for a person,” Shapiro writes. “And we judge our presidential candidates the same way we judge everyone else: based on the whole package.”

p. As it turns out, Abe Lincoln was not opposed to Clinton-like jabs when he ran for office, nor were Thomas Jefferson supporters afraid to deliver McCain-style insults against the mental stability of John Adams. Americans have been voting superficially for a long time, so why stop now?

p. If politics lacked drama, only the most devoted of nerds would appreciate it. In addition to helping us make up our minds about candidates, as Shapiro argues, drama makes politics worth watching. So, instead of lamenting the descent of American politics into a messy muck of mudslinging and superficiality, enjoy politics for what it is: the best damn show our forefathers could have created.

p. __James Damon is a Confusion Corner columnist. He’d be happy to cut your hair for a mere $250.__

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