The Presidential Candidates on "American Idol"

Carol Platt Liebau
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Posted: Apr 11, 2008 11:52 AM
Here is the video from the three presidential candidates' appeals for "Idol Gives Back," aired on last night's edition of "American Idol."  Yes, it may seem a bit frivolous -- but this may well have been the candidates' best opportunity in the entire campaign to impress young voters.

Remarkably, even these little brief appeals struck me as incredibly revealing of each candidate -- or at least one facet of them. 

Hillary Clinton, in my view, came across as just a bit school-marmish.  After making sure to drop in the requisite marker of her "experience" by letting us know she had worked with many of the groups for whom money was being raised, she wound it up by chiding us a bit:  "For all the hours of enjoyment 'American Idol' has given us, I hope you can give back . . ."  Eeek.  Guilt.  If I don't, does that just make me a selfish taker?!

As for John McCain (as even a self-professed Democrat entertainment "reporter" here in L.A. conceded), he was  by far the best.  He managed to showcase one of his most appealing qualities -- his sense of humor.  He sandwiched his appeal between two pretty funny jokes; one about how, in contrast to the primaries, those in Michigan and Florida have a vote on  "Idol", and then about how Simon Cowell had better "watch [his] back" as McCain goes to work on his new immigration plan.  Well done.

Barack Obama strove for a tone of earnest uplift (with an American flag in full display in the background), but seemed to fall somewhat short, coming off just a little pompous with his  "commend[ing] 'American Idol.'"  Of course, given what I believe about his views, he even struck me as a bit radical -- winding up his statement by asking viewers to give money in order to "help make this world a more just, more equal, and more hopeful place to live." 

Hope is all good, of course.  But when people utter the words "justice" and "equality" in the same breath (in an economic context, rather than a legal or opportunity context), I start to get nervous -- that sounds like redistribution talk to me.  Will the world only be "just" when economic conditions in the U.S. and Africa are "equal"?  If that means being able to elevate Africa to the conditions we enjoy in the U.S. now, that's all good, too.  But if it means lowering standards here to make them "equal" to other places in the world, not so much . . .