I admit, at first I was tickled with the idea of presidential candidates and their sidekicks making morning View and late-night Letterman appearances. I started looking forward to Saturday Night Live again. Heck, Caribou Barbie's appearance on this past weekend's episode probably drew more viewers than all presidential debates combined.
I even laughed at Obama and McCain's self-deprecating humor at the recent white-tie Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner in New York. Presidential candidates reportedly attend this fundraising roast every four years, but we – Joe Plumber Public – haven't been privy to it until the wonders of YouTube delivered the rip-snorter of an evening to our PowerBooks this month. I felt like the kid who snuck downstairs undetected after bedtime, watching parents get f***ed up and wacky at their dinner party. So this is how adults act when nobody's looking?
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But as I watched McCain and Obama, all relaxed and suddenly real in their tuxedos, poking fun at each other, yucking it up with the power elite in the audience and acting like they were on Last Comic Standing, I started to feel like the awkward outsider who suddenly realizes all this fun is at her expense.
There was McCain, not coming across as pissy and constipated as usual. And there was Obama, winking back at him. One day they're in a debate, attacking each other over ACORN, the War and "hidden agendas;" the next, they're all cozy, har-harring over the same jabs.
Will the real presidential candidates please stand up? Should I be worried that these guys are at their most comfortable telling jokes? Who are we electing ... comedian-in-chief?
It's beginning to feel like this election is just part of a staged theatrical performance put on by a small group of super-rich American aristocrats to distract the rest of us from that fact that, no matter which side prevails in November, they all win. I'm starting to think that the surreal comedic turn to this year's race is inadvertently providing us with a rare window into the basic truth that the privileged few are hoodwinking and screwing the rest of us. Again.
Go ahead, have a good chuckle guys. Eat your $32,000-a-ticket dinner while I serve my kids yet another round of Hamburger Helper. I'm still looking for the humor in unemployment, unattainable healthcare and paralyzing gas prices.
Yes, I know that the ability to make fun of oneself is a marvelous attribute. Sometimes you just have to laugh. But do we really want the Leader of the Free World busting out knock-knock jokes and one-liners?
The presidential campaign has gone pop culture on us and I can't help thinking we've all lost some dignity in the process. You gotta wonder when Rachael Ray, Ellen DeGeneres and David Letterman become part of the political conversation and Barbara Walters' koffee klatch grills McCain harder than he's been grilled by anyone in the mainstream media. What's next? "Live from the White House, it's Saturday night?"
It's great that the presidential candidates are making themselves more accessible to the viewing public. But I worry that The View and The Daily Show have become the only source of political news for many people. I predict this year's most popular write-in candidate will be Tina Fey.
Maybe after the punchline is delivered on Nov. 4 we'll realize the joke's on us.