It was painful to watch the Republican debate last night – but not unamusing sporadically. Some of the highlights for me were when Romney confessed that he had some kind of epiphany and determined that everything he had stood for was wrong—and he had to come 180 degrees on all his principles. Rudy Giuliani said pretty much the same thing but claimed to have put New York City back on the right track—so now he needed to come 180 degrees on his core principles. McCain tried to be tougher than tough, furthermore now we needed to lay waste to Iran. Most everyone agreed we needed to do that. But not one of them admitted that it would be impossible to lay waste to Delaware given the resources and people who have been rained away by the folly in Iraq. Oh yes, some said “there was a bit of mismanagement.” I don’t know what ‘a bit’ means but in my book it is not hundreds of billions of dollars spent without any return. Is a bit one life or 20,000? I had a friend, Phoebe Galgiani, with whom I traveled around the world about 30 years ago. At that time she was well into her 70’s, but she was quite the adventurer and had the uncanny ability to understate the enormous. When we were in Calcutta she remarked the “it would be a very nice place if only they would tidy up a bit.” Is that what they mean by a little or a bit.
I get how candidates have to position themselves so one appears to be different than the next. I even get why you would flee from this President and try to get as close to the Reagan Presidency as possible. But I don’t get how they could be stupid enough to avoid a real conversation about terrorism and the dwindling of resources. Iran, Korea, urban Chicago, helping to make things better in any of these places is not without a price tag. There is no sale price. We don’t get a discount on the work that really needs to be done. And there’s no ‘two for one’ sale. And exactly what is better? Is it like ‘a little bit?’ Better according to whom. And how do we measure? If kids in Chicago can read, that is certainly better, but if women in Iran are still discriminated against, and we have eliminated their electricity—probably water, and further antagonized their unemployed youth - is that how we define better? Idle threats merely make us look foolish to the countries who we threaten and antagonize our allies, who are already so disappointed in what we have become. Have the Republicans learned nothing from the chaos this Administration has created?
Whew! I guess I told them. And I didn’t mean to pick on Chicago. We are so fortunate in this country to have the luxury of standing back and looking at all the evil throughout the world and not having to deal with them in any real way. The closest we come to any thing horrible is reality TV. It is there that we can look inside two degenerate families and see what happens when they swap wives. Wasn’t swapping wives something we did in the 60’s but it was fun. It is there we can see what happens when a sexy guy decides it’s easier to go on TV and have 20 women beg for his attention then to make a phone call and get a date. It is there where some women comes into your home and deals with your obnoxious children in a way that you could never have done – because you are equally obnoxious. And it is a place where, as a has-been actor, or the hated ex’ of a superstar you can dance your way into the hearts of America. In fact, why shouldn’t reality TV be a role model for the Presidential campaigns.
Just think about this as a possibility. American Idol: Who should be the President. Every week they meet in a debate. Republican and Democrat alike. It can be every other week for each Party. But they meet and they discuss issues or they come to blows, or they tap dance into the hearts of Americans across the country. And every week, the one who has the least votes has to drop out of the race. By January of ’08, there would be no need for primaries—America Voted and we know who best suits the nation. Then in September ’07, the two candidates would meet in the first of a series of general election contests and by November, America would have a clear understanding of who the candidates were and why they deserved to be President. We have been looking for a way to involve more than 30% of the population in a Presidential election, why not look at American Idol as a model for how to get people involved in electoral politics.
I had such hope in 2004. When Bruce Springsteen walked over a thousand kids to register in Wisconsin, I thought we had found a way. And in fact, more young people registered to vote than ever before — but they didn’t vote. So if a televised talent contest is the way to demonstrate that your vote can make a difference, I say let’s use the Idol approach to get people to the polls. We’re just sayin... Iris