12/30/07 — Cliffhangers: Intrigue on campaign trail satisfies thirst for drama

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Cliffhangers: Intrigue on campaign trail satisfies thirst for drama

Writers’ strike got you down?

Not sure you can make it another week without a fresh dose of “Grey’s Anatomy” or “Desperate Housewives”?

Well, take heart. Just when you thought there was nothing new in the comedy and drama department, along come the early stirrings of the 2008 presidential campaign.

As the first round of primaries gets closer and closer, the plot lines rival those of the best of the intrigue, angst and scandal of some of primetime’s hit shows.

There’s the “Peyton Place” that seems to surround Rudy Giuliani. Has one man ever generated more talk about his personal life — other than Bill Clinton, of course? You need a scorecard just to keep up. Could almost make an episode of “Dallas,” couldn’t it?

And then there’s Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has her own version of the hit movie “Ghost.” Her other half is the specter that looms around her nomination possibilities — a help at times and a hindrance at others. Will she be able to move into the Oval Office without him whispering in her ear?

Barack Obama is testing the Oprah factor — can image and the Winfrey blessing actually make a presidential contender? It is as if he is trying to see if it is actually possible to win a chance to run for president without ever actually articulating a single position on any substantive issue. Will skill win over packaging? Tune in — it’s the presidential version of “American Idol.”

And if action is your game, there’s John McCain, the hero — bruised and battered — who continues to struggle against the forces of evil. Will he win in the end? You don’t know, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t silently cheering him on a little. “Die Hard” is his movie.

For more action, there are also the gladiators on the faith battleground. Mitt Romney is running his “I am not a heathen” campaign, while Mike Huckabee tries to see if his version of a good, old-fashioned revival can garner him the votes he needs to become a player in the presidential nomination game. Whose charisma and message will reign supreme? “Iron Chef America,” eat your heart out.

And then on the family channel, there is John Edwards. He plays the everyday guy who just happens to get $400 haircuts and builds offices to combat poverty — in Chapel Hill. Will his “good old boy” role be enough to distract voters from his multi-million dollar rich lawyer alter ego? You can only find out by tuning in.

And will Fred Thompson be able to ride his enigma campaign through to the nomination, keeping out of trouble and out of real issue debates until all the other contenders have knocked each other out? Finding out what kind of president he might make will be worthy of an episode of “CSI.”

And as if those episodes weren’t enough to capture your attention, there are the character actors — Joe Biden, Dennis Kucinich and others. They pop in momentarily, draw a few laughs and then beat a hasty retreat. They are fun to watch, but not really integral to the plot.

So what’s a voter to do? How do you wade through the devices and manipulations to gather enough information to decide who really deserves your vote?

For now, the trick is to wait until the special effects and pretty scenery are pulled aside to reveal the guts and the glory, the climax, the real story.

Then and only then will it be time to talk about who really could be the best pick for the job.

In the meantime, enjoy the show.

No script could ever rival this reality.

Published in Editorials on December 30, 2007 12:02 AM