Have you seen Bob Dole on TV? No, not the Bob Dole who can't cash a check in his hometown. Nor Bob Dole the peacemaker in Kosovo. What a waste of time that was. That effort's doomed until the Europeans admit that for the better part of a decade there's been a war on their continent. If they don't care, why should we? Unless of course someone strikes oil there, or tries to sell nuclear weapons to terrorists, or insists on buying bananas from the wrong countries.
I'm talking about Bob Dole selling a miracle cure for erectile dysfunction, or ED, a sad but true side effect of the treatments for his prostate disease. I've seen some amazing things on TV, like Jack Ruby gunning down Lee Harvey Oswald, or Alan Shepard playing golf on the moon, or Norman Lear cleaning up Red Foxx enough for prime time. But watching a former Washington power broker calmly discussing his own private parts and being paid to do so ranks with the most bizarre. I wonder if this is the beginning of a trend.
Advertisers have always hired celebrities to testify and inveigle. Nowadays actors seem to get more parts in commercials than in the shows they interrupt. Famous athletes have been part of the mix too, but their usefulness has diminished somewhat due to criminal activities, juvenile bickering, and just plain greed over the terms of excessive contracts. Maybe famous out-of-work politicians will fill this void. Not that they're any more trustworthy. They merely offer alternative celebrity status.
Plus they have the tools for the job. Politicians know how to read a teleprompter, use slogans and soundbites effectively, and persuade you that your money needs to be in their pocket. They've mastered the delicate balance of sincerity and hypocrisy so indispensable to thriving hucksters. And they know how to use TV. Whatever else you can say about the inauspicious beginning of the BBIC (Baby Boom In Charge) era of US politics, you have to admit that these people understand the persuasive power of TV. It's the most crucial and expensive factor in any campaign.
But TV exposure during the election is just the start. Once they get to Washington, they face more cameras than constituents. The nation's capital has always had plenty of two things, politicians and saloons. Sometime back in the 50's, saloonkeepers added TV to the organizational culture of booze and conversation. Now many DC watering holes have become News Bars, with multiple TV screens, remote controls for the patrons, and closed captions for those who just want to watch. With three 24-hour a-day news networks, six hours or more of local newscasts on four local TV stations, and two channels of C-Span, there's plenty for the politicos to consume, cuss, and discuss. In short, Washington has become a place that exists on the boob tube as much as on the banks of the Potomac.
I have no doubt that the age of the politician turned huckster is upon us. I foresee droves of them nightly in my living room, selling soap as easily as citizenship. I wonder what Bill Clinton will be hawking? He wouldn't be very convincing at marketing a miracle cure for ED. But then again, no one believes the guy anyway.