Jewish World Review Sept. 1, 2000 /1 Elul, 5760
The two TV shows that dominated our imagination this summer offer starkly contrasting strategies for success - a contrast that parallels the battle between two presidential campaigns competing (often unsuccessfully) with such entertainment for public attention.
Millionaire and Survivor each offer a $1 million grand prize, but they bestow it for different virtues. By the same token, Al Gore and George W. Bush advance opposing claims in their pursuit of the grand prize of the presidency - so much so that, at times, they don't even seem to be playing the same game.
Millionaire honors smarts, rapid recall and the possession of arcane knowledge. Charm and charisma hardly matter if you can come up with quick answers. It's easy to imagine Gore as a formidable competitor in this arena; after all, when Bush embarrassed himself with his insecure performance on a pop quiz about world leaders, the Gore campaign helpfully announced that its guy could have answered all the questions. The vice president's staff also proudly "leaked" the results of his youthful IQ test (134). In fact, part of Gore's challenge in connecting with voters has been his obvious resemblance to the teacher's pet who repeatedly raises his hand, blurting out "I know! I know!"
MASTER OF CONVENIENT COALITIONS
Just as Bush might fare poorly in providing rapid-fire responses to Millionaire's general knowledge questions, Gore probably would prove a bust at Survivor. After telling his fellow castaways that he'd invented sleeping bags and fire, or announcing that he and Tipper inspired The Swiss Family Robinson, he'd seem to be a sure bet for early exit from the island.
Given the opposite sets of strengths and weaknesses of the two major candidates, the core question remains: Which of the two TV competitions provides a better model for political success and presidential leadership?
AH, THAT HISTORICAL CONTEXT
Americans often have chosen the less intellectual, less manifestly clever
candidate, as with Ike, or with Ronald Reagan over Jimmy Carter in 1980.
The instinct to prefer skillful politicians over deep thinkers makes
sense in terms of the baleful examples of brilliant presidents like
Wilson, Hoover, Nixon and Carter, whose inflexibility and unbending pride
in their own intelligence helped doom their administrations.
The cunning, adaptability and strategic planning necessary to keep
yourself on the Survivor island would seem to offer far better
indications of presidential success than raw brain power or an impressive
knowledge base. After all, wouldn't FDR or Reagan - or Bill Clinton, for
that matter - have fared spectacularly well on any Survivor competition?
In the campaign ahead, candidates won't need "immunity idols," but the
one who displays the most formidable and flexible survival skills will
enjoy an obvious
JWR contributor, author and film critic
Michael Medved, a "survivor" of his own family with three
hosts a daily three-hour radio talk show
broadcast in more than 120 cities throughout the United States. His latest book, written together with his wife, is Saving Childhood : Protecting Our Children from the National Assault on Innocence . He also participated as a conspicuously successful competitor on The GE College Bowl in 1968 on NBC.
You may contact him by clicking here.
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