When clowns become the single, most powerful influence on the election of the American president, you know that our country has finally come to realize what the rest of the world has always known - our political system is one big joke.
Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin's entry into the presidential race not only re-energized (if temporarily) a flagging John McCain campaign, it also re-energized an old, forgotten show on NBC-TV. Some of you may actually remember it, "Saturday Night Live." In the past month, a show that has been off the political radar screen for decades, was suddenly being cast as the most potent force on the American political scene. Comedy writer/actress Tina Fey's uncanny resemblance to the VP running mate has made Saturday Night Live THE show to watch on weekends.
It seems as if political commentators now wait anxiously for Fey's interpretation of Palin's performance before fully committing to their own opinions. After the Biden-Palin vice presidential debate, an overwhelming number of commentators cited Fey's SNL skit, talking about it more than the actual debate. Walter Cronkite never got that kind of respect. Ed Bradley is turning in his grave. Dan Rather must be fuming: Forty-four years of gritty, hard-hitting journalism - and no one's ever taken his political coverage that serious!
The biggest controversy of the presidential race, so far, has involved a recent SNL skit spoofing the economic bailout package. When NBC took it off their website temporarily, it instantly stirred up speculations that the network caved in to some kind of left-wing pressure. A flabbergasted NBC explained that it was just a technical glitch. The segment was back up later in the day.
Following Sarah Palin's interview with Katie Couric, Tina Fey's "Katie, I'd like to use a lifeline," was quoted more often than Palin's own erratic and rambling responses. Another of Fey's turn as Palin, "I believe marriage is meant to be a sacred institution between two unwilling teenagers," has been commented upon by analysts across the country more than Palin's actual position on the issue. (If she's expressed an opinion on it, that is.)
What was the press' biggest criticism regarding the recent Obama-McCain presidential debate? That it was too dull. The candidates said and did little more than debate, they complained. Obama and McCain refused to make any major gaffes or express opinions that could be skewered on SNL. That really ticked off many political analysts, who had apparently tuned into the debate expecting to be entertained.
Meanwhile, Stephen Cobert and Jon Stewart are probably gnashing their teeth, trying to figure out how they can reclaim their turf as the most relevant, politically irreverent shows on TV.