Referring to the Ronald Reagan presidency, Neal Gabler has written about "the triumph of entertainment over political ideology of any sort." And Kurt Andersen labeled Bill Clinton the "Entertainer-in-Chief." The voters are the audience, conditioned to fear and superficiality in commercials for erectile dysfunction and political campaigns alike, both having scary side effects. And now the injection of Sarah Palin and her family into the McCain vs. Obama campaign makes one wonder whether the winner of this race will ultimately depend on which candidate presents the better sitcom. It already is a reality show. Do you know what the difference is between a sitcom and a reality show? The laugh track. Otherwise, how would the masses be able to tell whether something is funny or not? Hmmmmm... In any case, we're pleased to present several scenes from the pilot episode of:
BRIDGES TO NOWHERE
[The theme song by Britney Spears, "Oops! I Did It Again," is accompanied by a montage of Sarah in different contexts, as the opening credits are superimposed on those images: In a helicopter, using a machine-gun to shoot a wolf running away in the snow. As a contestant in the Miss Alaska competition. A wedding photo. Burning a pile of books. Jumping high to block a shot in a basketball game. Seated at her desk in the governor's office. At a barbecue with her children. Giving a speech to a large crowd. At the bank, exchanging a wolf's left foreleg for a $150 bounty.]
[Sarah and Todd are slumped down on the living-room sofa.]
SARAH: I'm exhausted and exhilarated at the same time. I was at the Learning Annex all day, taking that course in "How to Be a Vice President."
TODD: And I was interviewing potential nannies all day. No one fits the bill yet. But I just keep calling the agency. Maybe I'll try Craigslist.
[The telephone rings. Todd picks it up.]
TODD: Hello...thanks, I will. [Hangs up the phone and clicks on the TV.] That was McCain. [Looks at TV Guide for the channel number and clicks the TV on.] Keith Olbermann is doing a Special Comment about you on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: When John McCain first selected Sarah Palin as his running mate, it seemed to me that it was the best "What were you thinking?" moment since Hugh Grant got caught getting oral sex from a transvestite in his car. I was sure that with Governor Palin as the ambush candidate, Senator McCain would be ridiculed into a severe case of buyer's remorse, his impulsive choice would backfire, and there would then be an epidemic of schaedenfreude among Democats. But I must admit, Ms. Palin, you have, dare I say, a certain Machiavllian charisma, and I was not quite prepared for that. You said that you deliberately tried to make yourself look frumpy, what with those Kawasaki eyeglasses and that beehive hair-do, sort of like the secretary in a porn movie who takes off her glasses and shakes her hair loose, then she goes ahead and seduces her uptight boss right there on his own black leather executive chair. Or so they tell me, I wouldn't know. But you might as well be the star of a porn movie, because your main qualification to be vice president is that you have a vagina and you are a cunt. Allow me to parse that for you, Sarah. When I say that you were appointed because you have a vagina, there is no way in semantic purgatory that McCain would have chosen a man who had exactly the same political positions and experience as you--except that your American flag pin is bigger--so his having a penis would simply not make one iota of difference. And, you're a cunt if for no other reason than, in your acceptance speech, using Barack Obama as a prototype, you demeaned countless dedicated and courageous community organizers across the nation by pretending that, as mayor, you exercised actual responsibilities which ostensibly they don't have. And I am not being sexist here, Sarah, because I am also calling John McCain a prick, if only because he is against funding higher education for our young men and women who are fighting and being maimed and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan, McCain's pathetic rationale being that if they had that funding to look forward to, then they just might prefer to come home and go to college rather than re-enlist. So, you-the-cunt and he-the-prick have a very complementary relationship. Support our troops, indeed! McCain's idea of supporting the troops is to send them more antidepressants--one out of every eight is already on them--so they can go kick down doors and kill people but still feel good about it. Oh, yes, and Sarah, we must not forget how Cindy McCain described the basis of your foreign policy experience. She said, "Alaska is the closest part of our country to Russia." With allies like that, you don't need opponents. Cindy reminds me of Jessica Simpson, when she asked if a can of "Chicken of the Sea" was fish or chicken. What's next, Cindy will sing her own rendition of Rosemary Clooney's classic song, "C'monna My Houses"? And speaking of rendition, Sarah, I wonder what you think of the CIA flying prisoners to other continents where they are tortured. Hey, what ever happened to Country First? They should be tortured in this country--yes, this country that is so incredibly endangered by the Unholy Trinity of corrupt government, welfare corporations and evangelical religion. Incidentally, Sarah, wouldn't you agree that Rush Limbaugh--infamous hater of the "feminazis"--was a sexist when he boasted, "We're the ones with a babe on the ticket"? Inquiring minds want to know. Likewise, wouldn't you agree that McCain was a sexist when he was asked a question about Hillary Clinton during the primaries--"How do we beat the bitch?"--and he replied, "Excellent question"? Just remember, Sarah, the only thing that John McCain wants more than to live in the White House is to have a threesome with you and Cindy. Good night and good luck.
[Todd clicks the TV off.]
SARAH: I'll tell you something, Todd. I feel like a human dartboard for the media, but I've developed a thick skin.
TODD: I know what you mean. I say, "Oh, yeah, media? [Clutching his crotch] Troopergate this!"
SARAH: And you know what, the campaign spinners who feed the media are just as bad. They're like the airport security people, who have to spend all day looking at a screen in order to focus on potential threats in the shape of a gun or a knife or a hand grenade. Both campaigns--they have to focus on each other's opponents in desperate search of anything that can be deliberately misinterpreted to distract all the dumbed-down voters from the real issues like national security. I thought that was the name of a bank. "Invest your money at the National Security Bank." [Sarah and Todd start laughing hysterically.] And what about earmarks? Why, they're just political hickies....
* * *
[Piper is sitting on a rocking chair in her bedroom, with Trig on her lap, holding a bottle to his mouth with one hand, and continually licking her other hand in order to leave a salvia deposit, then smoothing down Trig's hair.]
PIPER: Come on now, Trig, I want you to drink your moose'n'banana shake. It tastes so delicious. And It's good for you too, even if the plastic bottle has poison lead in it because it's from China or somewhere. Listen, I'm sorry that you were like a circus prop at the convention. People screaming all over the place. But it's lucky they gave you a watchamacallit, a sedative, so you could sleep through all that noise. And you didn't even know that you were being passed around like a marijuana joint, huh? It's legal here in Alaska. Did you know that? But it has to be only one ounce or less. And then you have to smoke it in your own house. I'm gonna wait till I'm thirteen before I try it. Bristol and Levi smoke it when Mommy's out making a speech. If she was here, she'd smell it right away, so then they have to go somewhere else. Mommy says, "Pot may be part of God's plan, but not in this house." She's always saying that something is part of God's plan, but I don't understand what she means about that. Are hurricanes and train crashes part of God's plan too? Anyhow, you're not supposed to smoke anything when you're pregnant, right? Hey, Trig, you wanna hear what I think would be a nice name for Bristol's baby? Diversion. I didn't think of that by myself. I heard my teacher tell another teacher that Mommy's baby is a diversion. I think It could be for either a boy or a girl. I don't have any spit left. I'll just have a little of your moose'n'banana shake. It's really yummy...
* * *
[Track is riding a stationery bike in his room while talking with Willow.]
TRACK: I'm telling you, those Iraq Veterans Against the War were real traitors at the Democratic convention. I learned that they had the nerve to be in full uniform, and they were chanting, "My buddy's in the foxhole with a bullet in his head--I called to get the medic but he's already dead." But at our convention, just like the war in Iraq was a justifiable pre-emptive strike, so was the raid on the protesters before the convention began.
WILLOW: What happened? I was busy taking care of Trig.
TRACK: The police and the sheriff's department seized material that could've been used to barricade roads and spikes that could disable the delegates' buses. They confiscated slingshots and buckets of gray water and urine. It's better to prevent using that stuff before it happens. They busted four people on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a riot, and detained dozens of others. They took boxes of pamphlets on free-speech laws in Minnesota and and booklets on how to protest legally.
WILLOW: That doesn't seem right. I was listening to the radio, and a pundint was talking--
TRACK: You mean pundit--
WILLOW: --a pundit, he was talking about keeping protesters out of sight, they could only speak on P.A. systems in fenced-off, like cages on side streets, and I thought they were talking about the Olympics in China, but then I realized that they were actually talking about the protesters at our conventions.
TRACK: It's not the same. China is a Commie dictatorship, and there were 77 applications to speak, but not one single protester was given permission, and all those who applied were arrested before the games began.
WILLOW: I heard that in St. Paul, even a mime got a permit to speak. And the people who did speak couldn't be heard. I mean, what about the 1st Amendment? We learned about that in school.
TRACK: Yeah, well, it doesn't apply to those anarchists on the opening day, with black cloth covering their faces, a few hundred of them, running around the streets, setting fires, throwing rocks, breaking windows, blocking traffic. It was the duty of the riot squad and the National Guard to stop those actions. Tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, concussion grenades, whatever it took.
WILLOW: But what about the peaceful demonstrators?
TRACK: There were 10,000 demonstrators who were peaceful, and they were allowed to march against the war. All they had to do was follow the rules. When their permit expired at 5 p.m., they still tried to march to the convention center, but the authorities had already blocked a couple of the bridges that led to the convention center. They blocked 'em with snowplows and gravel trucks, police barricades and plenty of manpower. I saw the protesters running toward one of those bridges, and they were being chased by police in riot gear and teargas masks, so then the protesters were stuck in the middle. Isnt that great?
WILLOW: Ha-ha, the bridges to nowhere. [Track and Willow giggle wildly.] Y'know, I'm really gonna miss you when you go to Iraq.
TRACK: I'm gonna miss you too. Anyway, the thing is, our guys had to be prepared, starting months before the convention, because there's all kinds of front organizations out there that the FBI had to get infiltrated, like the environmentalists and vegetarians who pretend to be just innocent special-interest groups. Same with farmers, attorneys, medics, reporters--a journalist, Amy Goodman and her producers, plus a guy from Associated Press on the sidewalk in front of a building where there was a huge party given by lobbyists for legislators with a band, Hookers and Blow, not to be confused with a terrorist band, Rage Against the Machine, and also a bunch of bloggers and a whole video collective called I-Witness--some people had to be roughed-up and handcuffed and arrested for trying to interfere with law enforcement. Their computers and laptops and cameras and journals and diaries were seized. In some locations, even children had assault rifles pointed at their faces. In the military, this is all known as "anticipatory self-defense."
WILLOW: That's wicked. So tell me, are you nervous about going to Iraq?
TRACK: [Stops pedaling and pulls up the left leg of his sweatpants, revealing a tattoo of Christ on his calf.] Not as long as He's with me, and He will be, every moment, day and night.
WILLOW: [Bends down and kisses the tattoo.} I really love Jesus. Whenever I close my eyes and pray, I don't know what God looks like, but I always think of Jesus, because I know what He looks like....
* * *
[Bristol and Levi are sitting on the living-room sofa, holding hands. He is wearing a T-shirt that says "Billabong."]
BRISTOL: Here it is Friday night, and we can't even go out anywhere, because everbody points at us and stares at us and talks about us. It makes me feel like a real freak.
LEVI: How do you think I feel? All I ever wanted to do is play hockey and hang out with the guys and party like mad and get stoned out of my gourd and just chill out. I don't give a shit about politics. If we didn't get drunk and screw in the tent outside that party, I never woulda had to go to that fuckin' Republican convention with your parents, who hate my ass off but they pretend we're one big happy family.
BRISTOL: Oh, c'mon, if my mother gets elected, I wasn't planning to live in Washington, D.C., but it'll be fun. Please, don't be such a grouch.
LEVI: You saw my MySpace page. I mean everybody's seen it. "I'm a fuckin' redneck who likes to snowboard and ride dirt bikes." I'm too young to get married. I'm trapped. I was just minding my own business, and suddenly my whole fuckin' life is destroyed.
BRISTOL: Look, I don't wanna argue with you any more.. Let's just see what's on TV.
[Levi reaches for the remote control and clicks on the TV.]
DAVID LETTERMAN: Here's good news, ladies and gentlemen. The Palin family crisis has been solved now, and today the baby is being adopted by Angelina Jolie.
LEVI: Boy, I sure wish that was true. I never wanted to have kids.
BRISTOL: Please, this is not exactly a picnic for me. Let's just see what else is on.
JAY LENO: Governor Palin announced that her 17-year-old unmarried daughter is five months pregnant. And you thought John Edwards was in trouble before. Now he's really done it.
CONAN O'BRIEN: Sarah Palin said, "We should never have introduced her to John Edwards."
CRAIG FERGUSON: I don't think that a young lady getting pregnant should even be news. Unless John Edwards is the father. Then that is kinda news.
BILL MAHER: Palin has five children including an infant that has Down syndrome. She had it when she was 43 years old. And it looks a lot like John Edwards.
LEVI: That's really great. John Edwards fucked you and your mother...
* * *
[Sarah is sitting at her computer when there is a knock on her office door.]
SARAH: Come in. [Willow opens the door, walks in and sits down.] I'm just looking over my stump speech here. It keeps changing.
WILLOW: Mom, I have to talk to you.
SARAH: Yes, dear, what's on your mind?
WILLOW: [Pausing] I'm...pregnant.
SARAH: Very funny.
WILLOW: Mom, I'm not kidding.
SARAH: Willow, you're only fourteen years old! How could you be pregnant? Are you sure?
WILLOW: I did the test three different times. They all said "Positive." I can feel changes in my body.
SARAH: This is horrible. I mean wonderful, of course. God always has a plan. Who's the father?
WILLOW: [Pausing] It's...Track.
SARAH: What! How can that be? He's your brother! You had sex with your brother?
WILLOW: I still don't understand how I got pregnant. He borrowed a condom from Dad's sock drawer.
SARAH: I'm shocked beyond belief! When did this happen?
WILLOW: Let's see, the first time was--
SARAH: The first time! Did he force himself on you?
WILLOW: Well, not really. It was voluntary.
SARAH: Oh my God! What are we gonna do? Oh my God! I'm hysterical! Oh my God!
* * *
[Todd is finishing up an interview with a beautiful young woman in his office. He tries unsuccessfully to avert his eyes from her cleavage.]
TODD: Well, your resume is solid--I'm totally impressed with your experience as a nanny--you have excellent references, you have a very enthusiastic personality, and I must admit, of all the women I've been interviewing, you're not only the most qualified, you're also the most attractive, if you don't mind my saying so.
NANNY: I don't mind at all, Mr. Palin. As a matter of fact, the feeling is mutual.
TODD: Please, call me Todd.
NANNY: Todd. Such a nice masculine name. [Standing] When would you like me to start?
TODD: I'll have to figure that out with Sarah when she returns. [Standing] She's meeting with Senator McCain today.
NANNY: [Slowly moving toward him] Then just be sure to call me whenever you know.
TODD: [Slowly moving toward her] All right, I will.
NANNY: You have my number.
TODD: And you have my number.
NANNY: I certainly do.
TODD: [They are standing just a few inches from each other.] The kids are gonna love you. [Gradually they embrace, He moves to kiss her on the cheek. She turns her head so their lips touch, leading to a passionate kiss.]
NANNY: [Mumbling between kisses] I feel like Jude Law's babysitter.
TODD: [Mumbling between kisses] Who's Jude Law?
NANNY: [Unbuttoning his shirt] He's a British actor who made love with his girlfriend Sienna Miller's babysitter on the billiards table.
TODD: [Unbuttoning her blouse] I don't have a billiards table, but I do have a cue-stick.
NANNY: [Opening his belt] Oh, I know you do, I can feel it. Do you have a condom.
TODD: Yeah. [Removing her blouse] Sarah puts pinholes in the reservoir tips to give the sperms a fighting chance, but I have a pack that hasn't been opened yet.
NANNY: [Unzipping his fly] Why don't you just get a vasectomy?
TODD: [Unzipping her fly] Sarah says that would be cheating....
* * *
[Sarah is pacing back and forth at her meeting with John McCain.]
McCAIN: Calm down, Sarah, have a seat, take it easy.
SARAH: [Sitting down] I'm still in a state of shock. My heart is beating so fast. I have terminal dry mouth. This is awful.
McCAIN: Let's review the situation. Your 17-year-old daughter is pregnant. And your 19-year-old son is the father. It was consensual sex. Nevertheless, that's statutory rape. I think we have only two options. One, she gets an abortion.
SARAH: I'm sorry, that's off the table. I mean it's out of the question.
McCAIN: Look, I realize that you're against abortion based on your religious principles, even in the case of rape or incest. And in this case it's both. But you're not against abortion if the life of the mother is endangered. That could be our exit strategy. There's a blind doctor in Washington who performs the safest possible abortion, and he wouldn't even know who the patient is.
SARAH: Absolutely not. Here's what I thought about on the plane. Of course, we will never identify Track as the father--I'm so angry I found myself hoping that he would get killed in Iraq, and that would be perceived as such a heartbreaking patriotic sacrifice--yet I don't want him to be indicted and sent to prison for who knows how many years. What we can do is to place the full blame on a stranger who was wearing a stocking over his face so that there will be no description except for that detail. Willow didn't report it because she didn't have enough cash to pay for a rape kit, and she felt afraid to tell me until she was sure that she was pregnant. But she will be giving birth to that baby. And when Track returns home from Iraq, he will help raise that child, pretending he's only the uncle, which he actually will be. We could even announce Willow's pregnancy as an October surprise. That would endear our Christian conservative base to us even more than now, and it could provide a surge--excuse the expression--to our popularity.
McCAIN: Just because it worked in Bristol's case, that doesn't mean it'll also work in Willow's case. I hadn't quite considered an annoucement like this as a possible October surprise. I thought we might capture Osama bin Laden. Or that there could be impeachment and conviction of Bush and Cheney, but it would leave Nancy Pelosi as the new president, and we surely don't want that. Maybe Obama would be assassinated, then there would be rioting all over the country, there would be martial law, the election would be canceled, and the Bush administration would remain in power. Or the October surprise could be dropping bombs on Pakistan. Or an air strike on Iran. Even if Israel did that, it would be with U.S. aid and approval. Also, there's a scenario floating around that Joe Biden will drop out of the race in deference to Hillary as Obama's vice-presidential running mate replacing Biden. That would really ruin our chances of winning.
PALIN: So tell me what the second option is.
McCAIN: That you drop out of the race. It's the honorable thing to do.
PALIN: What are you gonna do, kick me off the island? Let's face it, John, if I dropped out, you'd lose the election for sure, and you know it. You need to show me off during this campaign. I'm your biggest asset. I wanted to go on my own Palin Talk Express tour, but no, your neocon friends are so afraid I can't function without their guidance. Well, I will never drop out out of this race. I would sooner give to the media my tape of our one-night stand in my hotel room at the governors' conference last February.
McCAIN: If you were to do that, I would release my tape of this whole conversation. So we're just canceling each other out with such tactics. But that's what I like about you. You're such a feisty lady. Y'know, Sarah, if we get elected, I was hoping that our little tryst in Washington could happen again, perhaps this time in the Oval Office.
PALIN: Thanks but no thanks.
McCAIN: I remember you were so pregnant then.
PALIN: And I remember exactly what you said. "Let me baptize this fetus with some maverick juice." How romantic. But you were lucky I was already pregnant, because it would not have happened otherwise, sinc, as you know, I'm against birth control. Raising children is performing a task that is from God. And I believe that life begins before conception.
McCAIN: You and the Bush administration. They also consider birth control to be a form of abortion. The Health and Human Services Department is secretly trying to redefine contraception--the Pill, IUDs, you name it--as abortion. So this federal agency could eliminate many state laws. Pharmacists could refuse to supply women with birth control devices. Insurance companies wouldn't cover contraception. Rape victims wouldn't have access to the morning-after pill. You have your beliefs and I respect them, but I'm trying to distance myself from George Bush.
PALIN: Except for his speechwriters.
McCAIN: Oh, you're referring to Matthew Scully and your acceptance speech at the convention. He's great. By the way, he asked me to pass on a line to you for the stump speech when you're talking about Obama. "Charlie Manson was a community organizer!"
PALIN: That'll definitely get a good response. We need as many applause lines as we can muster up. Maybe every sentence should get a reaction. Clapping, laughter, cheers. The audiences always get off on that. They feel high and they associate it with us.
McCAIN: Fine, at least we're back on the same page again. Now promise that if you do become vice president you won't arrange for me to be killed by the grace of your powerful buddies in Alaska so that you can then become president.
PALIN: Okay, I promise not to have you killed--unless you decide to run for a second term. [They both chortle nervously.]
* * *
[The TV set is on, but nobody is watching. A commercial is playing.]
VOICEOVER BY ALEC BALDWIN: [Images of Sarah Palin waving to huge, screaming crowds, and being surrounded by paparazzi.] She's the biggest celebrity in the world. [Video footage of Michael Jackson and Michael Richards are superimposed as if they are in the company of Sarah.] But is she ready to lead? John McCain knows full well she isn't. With the energy shortage looming, McCain says no to windmills and solar power. And with the economic crisis already upon us, McCain says he'll cut taxes by lowering payments for Social Security and Medicare. More suffering, increased drilling. That's the real McCain.
[The face of Joe Biden fills the screen.}
VOICEOVER BY JOE BIDEN: I'm Joe Biden and I approve this message. Let me just add that one of John McCain's top economic advisers, former Senator Phil Gramm, was quoted that the United States was only in a "mental recession" and had become "a nation of whiners," he unintentionally revealed the massive disconnect between the citizens of this country and theire representatives....
[A few minutes later, Biden is still talking, when Nanny walks into the room, cellphone to her ear, and shuts off the TV.]
NANNY: Yes, hello. Is this the National Enquirer?...Oh, good. I'd like to speak to a reporter, please....Thank you, I'll hold....Yes, hello, I have a story you might be interested in....Well, I seem to be having an affair with the First Dude....
Paul Krassner is the author of Who's to Say What's Obscene: Politics, Culture and Comedy in America Today, to be published by City Lights Books in Spring 2009.