'Idol' has nothing on 2008 campaign

Never mind that many of the contestants bleat like sheep, sound like they swallowed a box of tacks or dance like Ross Perot on speed -- it's too mean to tell "American Idol" wannabes that their day job is a precious commodity, according to the la...

Never mind that many of the contestants bleat like sheep, sound like they swallowed a box of tacks or dance like Ross Perot on speed -- it's too mean to tell "American Idol" wannabes that their day job is a precious commodity, according to the latest round of criticism against the blockbuster Fox reality show.

The new rules of niceties (advanced by a certain "The View" hostess) say that it's OK to rip on billionaires' comb-overs and some pageant owner who gave a beauty queen a ticket to rehab, but absolutely heartless to laugh at those who voluntarily wait in line for hours for a chance at public embarrassment, chomping at the bit to fling themselves at the feet of the most acerbic Brit ever to show off their corroding pipes.

(Can you tell I'm from the party of personal responsibility?)

And if America can't take the constructive and occasionally destructive criticism offered talent-show dropouts, how on Earth can America be ready for Campaign 2008?

Because as sure as Hillary Clinton picked a slow news day to make her "big announcement," the ultimate mudslinging event is here. It will still be here after the latest "American Idol" is crowned. And by that point, brutal "American Idol" auditions will look like a day with Mary Poppins compared to a day on the campaign trail.


The '08 lineup is shaping up, and many of the candidates or exploratory-committee formers may end up wishing they'd chosen squawking "Unchained Melody" for the Fox audience instead of giving stump speeches and dodging the brickbats from their intrepid opponents.

Among the Democrats' front-runners is, of course, Clinton. The grand dame of the left is "in to win," which means her campaign should leave no sleazy dirt unturned as she looks to flush out her hapless opponents and tackle the fact that much of the electorate finds her downright scary.

Young Illinois senator Barack Obama had the audacity to call his book "The Audacity of Hope," and furthermore has the audacity to challenge Hillary. He already got pelted with some campaign dirt last week alleging he attended a madrassa, which apparently is an exciting campaign revelation if you think that means he'll up and decide one day to suicide bomb his own White House.

But watch out: John "Two Americas" Edwards has got a shovel and a publicity contingent, and he's not afraid to use 'em. If you've ever experienced a natural disaster in your neighborhood and hear a scratching at your back door in the coming months, it could be Edwards eager to engage in literal mudslinging -- a trial lawyer turning dirt for the cameras while berating the rich.

There's also Chris Dodd -- didn't he get booted off the "American Idol" finals too early last year and start a rock band?

There is potential for some juicy mudslinging shaping up on the right, as well. Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, who is campaigning on ending cancer in 10 years, threw his hat into the ring against socially liberal (but nice 'n' popular) former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who comes in with enough personal dirt to plant a hedge row.

John McCain has already been dealing with evangelical warfare, as Focus on the Family leader James Dobson has spoken out against McCain's candidacy and branded him anti-marriage. (The hawk, like Giuliani, gets blasted on social issues, though he's further to the right than Rudy.)

Don't forget Mitt Romney. As you may have heard, the former Massachusetts governor is Mormon, which may result in scandalous accusations that he hogged all the caffeine-free sodas from the statehouse vending machine.


And border-security pick Tom Tancredo: How many candidates have a citizen militia in their corner? Opponents are probably eagerly searching for proof of his gardeners' citizenship status. Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson will never get past the name-mocking: Vote for Tom-Thom.

But even though we're in store for a dirty campaign, don't despair. Dirty campaigning is a good thing. If all of the candidates were joining hands around the campfire and singing "Kumbaya," we'd never get to see the real politician stripped of the sound-bite gloss.

And if we didn't get to see the horrendous "Idol" contestants, we wouldn't appreciate the talented songbirds nearly as much.

Bridget Johnson is a columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News.

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