So to help honor Presidents' Day on Monday, with a bit of luck (and a few well-connected Facebook friends' help), I had the opportunity to sit down with our country's third President to talk about television, Snooki, and why America's not so bad as we roll on towards our third century.
TV Board: Thanks for inviting me to your Grammy party. I appreciate you taking the time for this.
Thomas Jefferson: Happy to do it. The last time I talked to a reporter, they said it would be about federalism and states' rights. Then they totally blindsided me with Sally Hemings. But my agent said you were OK, so I figured it was time to let go of it.
TVB: Wow. I had no idea that gossip was a threat then, too. I promise -- no gotchas here.
TJ: Thanks. Yeah, there was this rag called "Colonial Dishes" that made TMZ look like C-Span. It nearly got us to repeal that freedom of the press idea. I'm still not so sure we made the right call on that one - just ask Miley Cyrus and Charlie Sheen about that! (laughs)
TVB: Do you think that Americans today are too obsessed with celebrity?
TJ: Well, I'm as guilty of that as anybody. Crazy, right? I spent centuries holding a grudge about it, yet I never miss an episode of "Jersey Shore." Snooki totally reminds me of Dolly "Cupcake" Madison. That girl really had a serious mead problem.
Hey Ham - get in here! Your girl J-Woww is about to get in the hot tub again!
Alexander Hamilton: (yelling in from the kitchen as he prepares more guacamole) Not cool, man! Not cool!
TJ: That dude still hates Jersey. He says that having a rest stop on the Turnpike named after you doesn't really cut it somehow. Oh, geez. I hope Aaron doesn't show up here tonight. Awk-ward!
TVB: It's been said that our celebrity addiction extends too far, that the press have become the very celebrity they are supposed to cover. What would you say to that?
TJ: I think that's overblown. Look, these people are opinionated gasbags, sure, but what's so bad about that? At least they keep America talking about important issues. I watch all of them -- Beck, O'Reilly, Maddow, Stewart, left, right, and if you can find them, center. I just got a new DVR with like 300 hours of recording time, so I never miss any of them anymore.
Look, the reality is that TV news is part of the entertainment business. I have no problem with that. Like Mark Twain once said, "All you need is ignorance and confidence and the success is sure." Most people would say that describes those news celebrities pretty well. But I say, good for them. They're just filling a demand. They provide a mirror for society. The only problem is that mirrors only have one side, and it reflects ourselves. But that's what we're looking for from them, anyway.
But now social media lets us get back to a two-way system of discourse. Twitter, Facebook, all those other social media things -- they've all brought some power back to the people. Sure, we "knew" Cronkite was impartial, but we could never question him. He was just a one-way valve. How do we know for sure that he was always so "fair and balanced" if there was no real system of feedback? I think that Twitter, blogs, etc., are vital to keeping things real. When I said something in my day that people didn't agree with, I knew it, loud and clear.
TVB: I understand you have a blog yourself, right? Do you tweet?
TJ: I do, but I have a hard time with those darn hashtags and that sort of techie nonsense. Thank God I didn't have to worry about them in the Declaration. What emoticon would best represent distain for the Crown? Some things are best left in their own time.
TVB: So how do you think the Declaration of Independence would come out if it were written today instead of in 1776?
TJ: It probably would've been posted on YouTube. We didn't have much of a budget, so it probably would've been shot on somebody's Flipcam. I think Hancock has one. We probably would've seen if we could get Springsteen to provide some background music for it, or maybe Tom Petty. Our best hope would be that it would hit Yahoo once it went viral. I seriously doubt that we would've seen it read at the Super Bowl like that, though.
TVB: You watched the Super Bowl?
TJ: Of course I did. I just got my 50-inch HDTV hooked up about a week before -- I know, not much of an early adopter there. And no, I wasn't about to spring for 3D, either. I have too many old home movies to watch, and nobody wants to see Ben Franklin in HD, let alone 3D. Let's just say there's a reason we called him "Franklinstein." That guy could've seriously used botox.
Anyway, yeah, I watched the game. I thought Green Bay was seriously in trouble when Woodson went down before halftime. Shows you what I know. I still won ten bucks for the first quarter, so at least I had that to show for it. And I loved that Pepsi ad with the girl hitting that other girl in the head with a can -- Cupcake used to do that same thing to Jimmy. That's why the Madison house always had the best parties.
TVB: So what would you be doing today, if you could come out of retirement?
TJ: Probably nothing in Washington. I mean, there's already a monument to me there, so what's left to be done there? I'd probably be approached by one of the cable news networks, probably for something like "Huckabee and Jeff." I'm not sure if I'd go there, though.
I really love reality TV. I'll bet I'd dominate on "The Amazing Race" -- Lewis and Clark tried to sell me on the idea centuries ago. And I can do a mean Virginia reel, so if Tom DeLay thinks he can dance, why not me? Or what about "The Bachelor"? C'mon, ABC! My wife died in 1782. Can't you help a single guy out?