Reading The TV Leaves

ABC would have us believe a Geena Davis feminist would be our modern-day president. Fox's "24" had us imagining Dennis Haysbert epitomized the first African-American president.

By reading the TV leaves, I think they both got it wrong.

Working out this morning in a room that could only be deemed a Nielsen Nightmare (2 TVs on at once, intermittent muting between them, each set to switch between 2 stations with no set top boxes... if only I had a diary!), I had the somewhat unusual experience of watching the McCain VP announcement unfold over four networks.

In fact, what I realized is that scripted TV, formatted network themes, and Hollywood Democratic Conventions can't possibly capture the imagination and vision of a 72 year-old maverick. Happy birthday, John McCain.

Fox News broke early with announcements of the non-candidates (Romney, Pawlenty, Huckabee). Democratic and Republican pundits weighed in on the wisdom of these choices. Meanwhile on CNBC, personal income figures and Hurricane Gustav ebbed and flowed with occasional sound bites from Obama's Parthenon Party, oil price spikes, a day in the life of Michael Phelps, and passing reference to McCain's ruling out of the former frontrunners.



Waiting in the "Last/Recall" remote control wings, CNN and Bay News 9 featured... well, it's hard to recall, less than an hour later.

What became clear is that each network has a core audience, and a fidelity to format, even in historic times. In what I feel will be a defining moment in American history, only one -- Fox News -- had the foresight to see the impact and gravitas of the situation.

Now before you haul off with some tirade about how TV Board articles shouldn't be political in nature, ask yourself first - isn't TV political by nature? Do you really believe that the mainstream networks are NOT biased towards liberal, left, now deemed traditional Democratic policy? Do you REALLY believe that Matt Lauer, "60 Minutes," or Keith Olbermann provide you a fair and balanced view of the world?

Here's my take. Fox News gets a bad rap because they tend to position the Republicans in a more favorable light than any other network. Some would say that this is a sign of being unbalanced. Au contraire, as Barack "Who's Sane?" Obama would say in one of his Rosetta Stone moments.

Let's do the math: 50ish/50ish split in the popular vote, 75/25 split among the top four (assuming you place Fox in the Republican camp, and not "fair and balanced.") Do we need an abacus? Or are you surprised that an industry that would hand the coin of the realm to a 100% monopolist has any appreciation of fairness?

The reality is that Fox News -- and John McCain in mere minutes -- are part of the future of this country. The selection by McCain of a conservative female vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, will go down in history as the culmination of the biggest lost opportunity in the history of the Democratic Party. In fact, it could mean the death knell of that party as we know it.

It will occur to many, soon, that this move goes well beyond the immediate election. This announcement's impact will resonate for at least another decade. Hillary Clinton's decision to make plans for her 2012 coronation, and to not fight harder to insure her rightful role as Democratic Presidential nominee - has badly backfired. She will stand no chance against an incumbent female vice presidential candidate running for president.

Press "fast forward" on the TiVo of history -- the economy WILL be better in 2012 -- it's all cyclical. And despite the reality that the House and Senate have far more impact on the economy than the President, the Republican Party will get the credit for the state of things in 2012. A more peaceful Middle East. A neutralized Iran. A stable Iraq. A dethroned Putin. Combine that with the first ever female vice president seeking the nations' highest office, and this made-for-TV drama is already in post-production.

John McCain's deft political maneuvering could forever position him as the first political genius of this millennium. Whatever your political leanings, you'd have to agree that his comeback in the primaries, his rapid pursuit and overtaking of Obama in the months leading to the DNC, and his perfectly timed (and positioned) VP announcement, is pure, unscripted TV magic. It's also an incredible testimony to his apparent dedication to the future of his party.

And to think the Vietnamese had this maverick future president in their cages, and let him slip away.

Karl Rove stated that it's like "something out of a novel." I beg to differ. You can hear it on the radio, read it in the papers or a book, or You-Tube it on the net, but either way, only TV -- and LIVE TV at that --- can deliver this type of unforgettable drama, in this way.

For once I'm glad I don't have TiVos in the fitness room...

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