Let's take a well-deserved break from presidential politics and instead look at the early public reaction to Sunday's Super Bowl halftime antics. The show culminated in the supposedly unintentional exposure of singer Janet Jackson's breast, which in turn initiated a national uproar against just about anyone remotely connected to the halftime production or the Super Bowl's broadcast.
To me, Jackson's inappropriate gimmick was only a symptom of the disease -- the whole production's misplaced approach to entertaining the American people during their yearly rite of televised winter fun.
Personally, I knew I would have to view the Super Bowl in between crunching political polling numbers and giving satellite interviews as the game progressed. But I looked forward to it, and my curiosity was piqued by the advertised promise that the halftime show would feature a special, "surprise" guest. This was teased as someone or something so big that it couldn't be revealed ahead of time.
Several of us working the coverage of the Democratic presidential primaries found ourselves playfully guessing who the mystery superstar might be. Since the game was in Houston, my guess was President George W. Bush. That would certainly justify all the secrecy, given the threat of terrorism that a Bush cameo visit might invite. I pictured a grandiose salute to the hundreds of Americans who have given their lives in the Iraq war. A succession of promotional teases by CBS only heightened my curiosity and anticipation.
But the only thing about the halftime show that could be described as sensational was the letdown. It wasn't just that Janet Jackson -- looking and sounding too much like her brother Michael for my comfort -- gave the world a bawdy now-you-see it, now-you-don't peek at her breast. I was even more disappointed that the whole show demonstrated a haughty and self-indulgent lack of respect for the many families and children watching it.
I'm no prude. Nor do I enjoy cantering atop the moral high horse. But did anyone listen to the lyrics of some of these songs? I thought the Super Bowl was supposed to appeal to the best in us -- to American talent, skill, hard work and competitiveness. Instead, on Sunday we got an in-your-face salute to everything you know your kids hear on the radio but hope they don't understand. The customary innuendo of popular music became a defiant collage of risque visuals.