Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 1, 2000

Lee Dresselhaus / L’Observateur / November 1, 2000

So…..here we go again. In just a couple of short weeks the United States will treat the world to one of the truly great spectacles presented anywhere, ever. And one of thegreatest stage managed con games ever put over on anyone. And it happensevery four years.

I’m talking about, of course, the coming election of a new American president.

It’s interesting, the choices we have to make this time. On the one handAmericans are hesitant to vote for George Dubya Bush for several reasons.

One is that he comes from political aristocracy and there seems to be a natural reluctance on the part of citizens in this country to perpetuate such dynasties, although we do it from time to time, like with the Kennedys.

Except that in that case it may be nostalgia for JFK that keeps them in the political limelight as opposed to a genuine interest in what they can do for the voters.

Anyway, another reason is the fact that George Dubya is just not as pretty and camera-friendly as his opponent. Outside of Hollywood, nobody is. And athird reason is that, admit it or not, a lot of folks have a sneaking fear that he’s a well-coached gibbering idiot instead of the astute politician he or his handlers present him as. The fact that the media pounced on him because hedidn’t know something like who the Defense Minister of Sri Lanka or somebody like that is and what the shoe size of his secretary does little to change that perception. They pounded that almost as much as they did theGreat Potato Disaster of Dan Quayle’s. Of course, considering that we’vebasically been on auto-pilot for the past eight years, I don’t see how Dubya could do any worse despite that perceived lack of worldliness, but the media seems to miss that point. Maybe not better, but certainly no worse. On the other hand, Gore raises many of the classic doubts and suspicions that Americans harbor about politicians. First, folks just don’t trust anyonewho looks that much like a grown-up Ken doll. Second, if Dubya is possibly awell coached stammering fool then, in answer to that, Gore is an intelligently stage-managed con man. Check out all the little kissy-face stuff with Tipper.Very convenient that they have all that affection for one another, especially in front of large crowds with cameras present. The picture on the front pageof one of last week’s newspapers of the two lovebirds sharing a smooch – in front of a large crowd, naturally – made me want to hack up a hair ball.

Please. Realistically, just who in real life is all over each other like that after20-odd years of marriage? That’s about as transparent as a Waterford glass, but our media sucks that stuff up like it’s the real thing. Awww. Howsweet. Yeesh. His manipulation of facts is just as obvious as his manipulation of family values, yet he gets away with most of that as well. According to him, he’shad a hand in everything from the invention and marketing of the internet to helping Marconi figure out the first radio.

The whole thing – on both sides – is a perpetual con game with a little political slight-of-hand thrown in. Both candidates have advisers and staff who watchthe public opinion polls and the public’s moods carefully and, like master puppeteers, jerk whatever strings need jerking when the need arises.

Remember when Gore hired a female adviser to let him know what clothes to wear and how to wear them to appeal to women? Well, the Ken doll didn’t decide to run out and get himself some advice on how to relate to the Average American Woman. He’s probably not perceptive enough to realize heneeded to do that in order to survive. Being insulated by the bubble thatsurrounds the elite tends to keep them out of touch with the common citizen. Some well-paid ambitious young staffer came up with the idea toreach out and touch people through the clothes he wears. And it worked, atleast to some degree.

Stage-managing American politics has become an art form, and we’re partly to blame. Why? Having two candidates who weren’t coached or managed inany way engage in a debate would be impossible because we’ve learned to expect our political products to be well-groomed and well-coached. If twoordinary un-coached candidates without the appropriate behind-the-scenes puppeteers were to get up there and debate, we’d laugh them off the stage.

At least, when they’re handled properly we can only suspect that we’re electing an idiot as our president. Without their groomers, we’d know it forsure.

So, pay no attention to the man behind the screen, Dorothy. He makes thingshappen, but he’s not really there. The one you need to pay attention to is theGreat and Powerful Oz.

He’s the front man for one of the greatest con games of all time, after all.

LEE DRESSELHAUS writes this column every Wednesday for L’Observateur.

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