If you were wondering why everyone running for president was talking like a wrestler yesterday instead of retaining some semblance of dignity, you'll be happy to find out the candidates were merely practicing for a new presidential tradition begun by George W. Bush: Appearing on a TV game show and cracking jokes. That might sound a little cheesy, but it was for a good cause. The president, you see, wanted to honor an Iraq veteran with the sort of dignity only host Howie Mandel can conjure on Deal Or No Deal. "Are you ready to get some acknowledgement for your hard work and bravery?" Mandel asked. Oh, sure, what the hell:
Elitism is to the 2008 campaign as communism was to 1950s politics: a career-breaker. And pop TV is the antidote, a free platform to rub shoulders with viewers who only glancingly pay attention to the news. Making nice on a cooking program or game show is the macropopulist equivalent of knocking down pins in a bowling alley in Altoona, Pa., or belting down Crown Royal whiskey in a bar in Crown Point, Ind., only better: the setting, be it Rachael Ray's kitchen or Howie Mandel's array of suitcases on "Deal or No Deal," is as familiar as home to millions of viewers. None of the presidential candidates want to be seen as snooty or overeducated, which must be why on Monday, all three provided taped greetings to wrestling fans watching "WWE Raw" on the USA network.
This is, of course, the mediocrity-celebrating, "I-just-want-a-president-I-could-have-a-beer-with" attitude that got Bush elected eight years ago and that voters were supposed to be totally over.