The Commons is a weblog for concerned citizens of southeast Iowa and their friends around the world. It was created to encourage grassroots networking and to share information and ideas which have either been suppressed or drowned out in the mainstream media.

"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Paris Hilton for President

Paris Hilton for President
by Hunter (dailykos)

Sat Jun 09, 2007 at 05:18:05 PM CDT

Attention, please. I have learned some very important and interesting and remarkable things, and they are things which we must discuss, right now, and at length, and to the exclusion of all else.

I don't wish to panic anyone, but I have just learned that Paris Hilton went to jail. Except then she got out of jail, because she was sad, and she got a rash, and jail was intolerable; perhaps there was a pea under her mattress. But then -- wait, this is important -- everyone got mad, and she was ordered back to jail, because the judge determined that being sad about going to jail wasn't actually a legal reason for being let out. And people drove various places, and there were various buildings and courtrooms and mansions involved, and ankle bracelets, and parents were there, and prosecutors, and she was seen wearing various things. And then some other stuff happened, but my vision got blurry and I had to step away for a moment.

This sequence of events, mind you, is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING THAT WILL EVER HAPPEN IN YOUR LIFETIME, at least for this particular week. It is VERY IMPORTANT that you know what is happening to Paris Hilton during every particular moment of this day, and yesterday, and the next few days, because WITHOUT THIS INFORMATION, YOU WOULD NOT KNOW ABOUT IT. And that would leave you feeling vacant and hollow. There would be an emptiness in your life, if you had to wait until the next morning to find out where Paris Hilton was, or what she was feeling, or what a hundred different people thought about her and her wealthy travails at that particular time.

She might get another rash -- and you wouldn't know it for hours. She might throw up, and in the void of a media vacuum, it would be as if it had never happened at all. She might make a homemade shiv from her own sense of ostentatious entitlement, and kill three other inmates, and you would not know, you would not be prepared for it to happen, it would come as a shock to you, and would rattle the foundations of your existence. It is for this reason that the entire media infrastructure of this nation exists. To make sure you know the things you must know in order to live and be happy and keep informed about the world around you. To make sure you know, at any given moment of the day, what is happening to a wealthy, spoiled young heiress of no identifiable talent, responsibility, or political or social significance. This, finally, is news. A white girl, excess, sin, sex, crime, and melodrama. Something you can rally a network around. Something you can rally a nation around.

I am finally beginning to understand the appeal of Fred Thompson. Even though he seems at a loss to describe, rationally, why he might want to become president, or what he might do when he was president, or what the difference might be between being president and having a really good sandwich, the simple fact cannot be argued: Fred Thompson has been on the TV. And being on TV is, in these most modern times, exactly equivalent to reality. It's better then reality, even: it's megareality, for those people who, unlike you, can afford to supersize their reality, and bling it out a bit. Reality is not reality unless it has a narrative, and a plot, and is populated by people more attractive and influential than you. Fred Thompson is an accomplished lawyer, because he played one in a fictional TV show. Fred Thompson became a Senator because in a movie, he had played a Senator. In the same way that Paris Hilton is important because there is an entire industry which revolves around telling us she is important, Fred Thompson is presidential because on the TV, it currently says so.

Thompson, inescapably, has been on TV. This is inarguable, and with that one sparkling nugget of experience, the case is -- or should be -- closed. Like Reagan, he has played roles which required looking earnest, which is entirely the same thing as being earnest. He has read lines which were witty and articulate, which is exactly the same thing as being witty and articulate. Like a political version of Paris, we are required to be entranced by him, because somebody in charge of such things decided that he was "attractive", which is exactly like being intelligent and knowledgeable, except much better, because attractiveness is worn on the face and in the hair, admired by all, whereas more ephemeral "intelligence", if it threatens to be made visible for even a moment, is roundly disliked and frowned upon. Attractive people -- and by that I mean, the people who have been deemed to be attractive not by you or I, but by people whose entire jobs it is to decide these things and announce them earnestly on the newsstands and the Idiot Box -- are celebrated, are fawned over, are sought after. Intelligent people, though, are just pushy. Al Gore thought he was better than you; this is why he was loathed. The handsome Thompson, however, is better than you, by virtue of the aforementioned being attractive whilst on TV, which makes it all right. He deserves entry into the race, based on those qualifications: he is eminently presidential, based on that resume. He is Reaganesque, even, if Reagan had been less of a 50's-era leading man type and more of a tenderized, slightly doughy, puzzlingly lumpy ex-football player turned midpriced motivational speaker.

I'm not sure whether Thompson ever played second fiddle to a dull-eyed and vaguely unwilling thespian chimp, however. But if both Ronald Reagan and Dick Cheney could do it, I'm sure Fred could if the situation ever came up. Which, no doubt, it might.

Thompson could have been, however, lacking one critical requirement for the presidency. Thompson was elected to the United States Senate after he portrayed a Senator in a movie, thus giving the American people a nice fictionalized demonstration of how he'd look in the role -- a visual aid we get much too infrequently, in these days when we are Far Too Goddamn Stupid To Extrapolate These Things Out On Our Own. He's played the director of the CIA, he's played military men and various law enforcement officers, thus by modern publicity standards amply qualifying him for all those real-life roles. He has played a white supremacist.

And at least twice now, in two separate strokes of fortune, he has played an American president.

That had threatened to be a resume hole that couldn't be overlooked. Without him playing the role on the TV or in a movie theater or on a convenient freely distributed DVD, we would have no idea what kind of president he'd be. Would he be a stern but gruffly lovable Martin-Sheenesque-but-conservative presence, dispensing pearls of wisdom as he, when offstage for an idle moment, appoints the last necessary Supreme Court Justices to cement far right conservative positions into the law for the next several decades? Or more the Lloyd Bridges type, from Hot Shots! Part Deux? Would he be one of those shadowy, barely visible chief executives that haunt the presidential visions of those that create our darkest thrillers -- an incompetent boob or malicious, venomous half-criminal, world entwined around his fingers, the obstacle in chief, powerful would-be thwarter of some as-of-yet unknown but no doubt far more handsome action-oriented protagonist?

There was no way to know -- until 2005, when Thompson starred as a fictional president in a 45 minute docudrama produced for the Nuclear Threat Initiative about the possibility of terrorists using stolen "loose nukes" against America, and more recently a mere few weeks ago, when Fred Thompson quite remarkably and fortuitously appeared as President Ulysses S. Grant in an HBO made-for-cable adaptation of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. The potential resume hole in his fictional expertise has thus been doubly fictionally plugged, the last instance being a mere fortnight before his sorta-not-but-kinda-yes unofficial official entrance into the race and we can, with satisfaction, know what sort of chief executive Fred Thompson would be. Or rather, we can choose between two possibilities. He might be a theatrically stern president, heading a complacent and incompetent American government incapable of taking proactive action to prevent terrorist attacks on our soil -- perhaps a little too close to the current mark for comfort, for 2008 voters -- or alteratively, he would be theatrically stern president who dresses in old-timey clothes, drinks brandy freely, and who and we'd see for maybe about five stern minutes out of his term in grand total. But in either case, that'd be enough for the usual conservative suspects to bubble with admiration. Either would suffice, so long as he played the role sternly, and with conviction.

There is no difference, after all, between being truly erudite, and merely playing the part. That much we know; that much has been demonstrated. There is no difference between being a good leader, and pretending to be one: it is a distinction without value. There is no between doing something, and merely saying you will do it; both will be treated the same. There is no difference between being competent and being incompetent, so long as competence is asserted. There is no difference between having integrity, and being corrupt but genial; either will gain the same praise, and in the same proportions. We have learned all these things from the words and actions of the national pundit press, this last decade-plus. These things must be true, must all be synonymous -- for the only other possibility is that the entire fabric of our nation, collectively, from the top down, from page A1 onward, is too stupid or corrupted to really know the difference.

I propose, therefore, that since we seem utterly and hopelessly doomed towards blurring the worlds of the real and the fictional -- listening to a mere five minutes of the Republican presidential debate should have demonstrated the unholy merging of the two nicely, especially re: the recitations of fictional histories of the Iraq War -- we simply go whole hog, so to speak. We cut the middleman, we stop going for the merely half-empty glass, we give up and finally throw the baby out with the now disturbingly filthy bathwater. We treat the press as the entertainment supernova it so earnestly strives to be, we finally cut to ribbons that one remaining thin, translucent plastic sheet separating politics and reality television, between the socially responsible and the salaciously irresponsible, we abandon forever the notions of political accountability, we stop feigning interest in issues, in accuracy, in oversight, and in ideas entirely, and merely go for the haircut and boobs coverage.

There is a more direct path towards presidential mediocrity than a mere Fred Thompson, and one that will finally arrive at the goal we have been striving for since long before the days of Mencken. The perfect nexus of reality TV, of entirely fictionalized earnestness, of slavish, spittle-flecked reporting and vapidity practiced as deadly art. The simpleness is staggering in its simple simplicity.

We should, in deference to the enforced vapidity of the press, simply abandon all hope of anything better, and elect Paris Hilton as our president. We have already had a reality TV series revolving around the seemingly simple proposition of trying to somehow coax an honest day's work out of the delicate and endowed heiress: this could be the much-needed blockbuster sequel.

She may not strictly meet Constitutional requirements -- her age, for example, seems to constantly oscillate between twelve and pickled -- but she meets the wealth and connectedness requirements so admirably that I am sure we would be quite willing to waive whatever remaining laws might obstruct her upwards ascension, just as we already have taken to doing. I am not saying she would be a great president, or even a tolerable one, or even a less than catastrophic one. I am saying that, given the predictable interests of the nation and the press, she may be the best we can do. At the very least she comes with a dedicated press phalanx, a veritable (if uncalled for) media army steeped in the tawdry, savage and cannibalistic in their fights over even the slightest trinkets of personal misery -- oh, what we would not give for dedication towards exposure and probing, monomaniacal research, in the Washington press. The things those reporters would find, if redirected away from Paris Hilton's shoe rack, and towards the halls of power!

We've lived through six years of Bush. We've seen Paris' boobs, and we've seen Bush's boobs, and Bush's various and more free-ranging boobs have done more lasting damage and gotten far less slavish coverage. It is entirely possible, I admit, that under a Paris Hilton presidency things would take a dramatic turn towards the even worse, and that her administration would, between drinking binges, White House sex tapes, and pandering celebration of the wealthy and powerful that sails right past the lofty heights of the oligarchic and into circuslike and Neroesque, along with all the rest of the presumably predictable peccadillos -- none of these flaws on their face much worse, we must admit, than the abstract behavior of many previous presidents -- bring even more ruin upon the nation.

But at least it would be very well covered, in the press. Very, very well covered indeed. With cameras, and helicopters, and driving scenes, and earnest psychological analyses, and computer generated models of the various rooms she might or might not be in at any particular time, and smiles on anchors' faces like it was Christmas morning and Santa had just delivered anatomically correct Ken and Barbie dolls just like they had asked for, and pundits galore, by satellite and in studio and via telephone and remote feeds and perhaps the entire prolonged event could even gain its own musical theme: maybe a single riff, descending, a siren call towards national apocalypse.

The national interest, covered with such fervor and fanfare? The fate and future of the nation, the fate of the courts, of our sky and soil, our national security, the future dreams of our children, all covered as if it were a single extraordinarily wealthy and connected and spoiled white girl?

We should be so lucky.


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