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Kate Clinton

Kate Clinton

Posted: September 8, 2008 05:00 PM

Mourning Sickness*


A while back, I was talking with my sister on the phone and told her the news that our niece was moving back east, and she practically hissed, "Fierce!" Then, to my confused silence, she explained, "That's Christian Siriano from Project Runway."

Though my sister is a rabid anti-TV person, she is a passionate seamstress. Her guilty pleasure is Project Runway. She is now a Christian Sirianist. Of all the things I have done in my darling career, she was most impressed when I sent her a picture of the kind-hearted taskmaster of the show, Tim Gunn, and me at a fundraiser. Desmond Tutu could not have gotten a bigger reaction.

Until this summer, I had never seen Project Runway. At a lovely wedding dinner for two couples that had exchanged vows earlier that day, suddenly everyone was up and exiting before the cake was even rolled out to be cut. I asked the preternaturally hip fourteen year old son of one of the couples what the heck was going on. He gave me a look that made me feel even older than I did getting a texted VP announcement from Barack Obama and said, as he quickly left, "Tonight is the drag queen challenge on Project Runway."

Except for a few dazed straight people wandering the streets like some post-nuclear family survivors, the streets of Ptown were deserted as I rode my bike home. The town had a personal stake in this PR episode. Two of our very own drag performers, Hedda Lettuce and Varla Jean Merman were on the show.

Though I wasn't sure of PR's format or point system or what accent Heidi Klum was doing, I was immediately hooked.

Thus far, I have seen maybe four episodes, but from what I've seen, if the world doesn't end before the next presidential election, may I suggest we model our next national contest on Project Runway? Just as I am one of the last to know about PR, or to try online banking, I'm sure someone has already pitched this idea. It's so obvious.

Wouldn't you prefer a PR spin-off to the format we have now -- endless primary campaign season, billions spent, Republican and Democratic circuit party conventions? It would be an eight-week season. Both parties would have four weeks to pick their contender, then four weeks for them to go up against each other. They would compete in individual and team competitions. The challenges would vary week to week.

To be read with a Heidi Klum accent:

"This week you must work with a US military and Iraqi civilian team to plan the withdrawal from Iraq by 2010. You will not be allowed to leave an occupying force or to send the troops home by way of Afghanistan."

"This week you must design your own solution to our nation's health care crisis. You will work with insurance companies and four people with chronic illnesses. Each can afford only $3 in co-pay."

"This week you will work with the Army Corps of Engineers, the dreaded community organizers and what's left of the infrastructure of New Orleans to draw up a plan for the restoration of the delta. You cannot rely on casino funding. "

"This week your assignment is to design a plan to reduce the US dependency on foreign oil by 50% in the next five years. You will be penalized for wearing fake hard hats and shrieking 'Drill, Baby, Drill'."

"Your final challenge, for the win, is to outline your plan to bring Dick Cheney and George Bush to trial before an international War Crimes Tribunal. You have two years to accomplish this. It doesn't count if you go to jail instead of them."

You get the idea. Presidential candidates don't have to like the challenges; they just have to do them. We'd get to see them in action as problem solvers, deciderators, managers, leaders and not just speechifying campaigners. Then we'd all vote. I believe we have the technology to do it with our TV remotes. Press select.

I'm going to try to get this on the ballot in California as an election reform initiative.

*This is a Palin-free space. After the Republican White Party, I thought we could all use a break. And I am sure this nausea will pass soon.