Jewish World Review March 4, 2003 / 30 Adar I, 5763

Media Person

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Two master debaters | When Saddam Hussein told Dan Rather he'd like to debate George Bush, a crisis was set in motion for two people: George Bush and Media Person. The President's was more easily resolved.

At a meeting with his Emergency Advisory Council of Crisis Advisers, the feisty chief executive proclaimed, "I can take that big doofus. I'm nine years younger than him, and I jog two miles every morning." But he was bluntly reminded by an alarmed Karl Rove, "Talking isn't exactly your forte, Mr. President." Dick Cheney agreed, and Rush Limbaugh added tactfully, "Sure, you could probably clean Saddam's clock, but why take the chance of him getting in a lucky concept?"

Only Attorney General Ashcroft dissented, pointing out that FBI undercover agents could slip some LSD into Saddam's water pitcher, causing him to babble foolishly in front of the whole world, but Laura Bush scotched that idea with a curt, "Oh, John, for heaven's sake, pipe down."

After a half hour of back-and-forth, the question was disposed of and Ari Fleischer issued a statement that "it would be inappropriate protocol-wise for a President to shake hands and exchange hiya-buddys with someone he is likely to bomb within the next few weeks."

But Media Person's crisis was just beginning. Only two days from deadline, he had to quickly decide whether to abort his half-completed column on "Reality TV: Amusing Passing Fancy or Unmistakable Portent of the End of Civilization?" and switch to the satirically delectable subject, "What Would a Saddam-Dubya Debate Be Like?"

The problem with the latter was that MP knew from bitter experience that 86,000 other columnists, cartoonists, late-night comics and assorted wits and half-wits would glom on to Bush vs. Saddam like laugh-seeking missiles. Naturally, none of their efforts, not Maureen Dowd's, Garry Trudeau's, Dave Barry's or even George F. Will's, would be as hilarious as Media Person's -- OK, maybe George F. Will's -- but many of the competitors would beat MP to the punch, exhausting readers' patience with the conceit.

The trouble is there are just too many smart-aleck jokers around today, and frankly, Media Person is sick of it.

But even as prudence and logic urged Media Person to stay away, the rich and fecund material proved so irresistible it simply overwhelmed his defenses. As soon as MP had heard about Saddam's challenge, the piece had begun to write itself, ideas nearly flooding the MP brainpan. As spectacle, such a debate would attract a worldwide TV audience and gain ratings so high, the show might even win its time slot, unless it was up against CSI.

Just imagine. The program would begin with what boxing aficionados call the undercard, a series of preliminary debates. First you'd have Bill O'Reilly vs. Noam Chomsky, then you'd have a tag-team debate, Chirac and Schroeder vs. Blair and Sharon. The final prelim would be Christopher Hitchens vs. Barbra Streisand, George Clooney and Fred Durst. In between the matches would be entertainment reflecting the best of both cultures: some belly dancers for them and Eminem for our side. The commercials -- gotta have commercials -- would not be the everyday variety, of course, but edgy, creative Super Bowl-type commercials with high entertainment value. Maybe something like a girl in a white cap dancing in the front seat of a car.

Finally ... the big event. Johnny Carson would come out of retirement to introduce Hans Blix, who would introduce the two presidents. Saddam would saunter out of the green room (which had been stocked, according to his specifications, with figs, dates, hummus on melba toast, a case of Crystal and a roast sheep stuffed with poached quail stuffed with deviled peacock eggs), he'd stroll to the lectern and launch into an impassioned defense of his regime, denying that he has weapons of mass destruction, an army, a police force or a personal torture chamber, and swearing on a Koran that he only gassed the Kurds because they gassed him first and besides, they are really annoying.

Then President Bush would come out and talk about the shining democracy that Iraq will become once Saddam is assassinated by the Delta Force. "Postwar Iraq will be the first Middle Eastern nation to have an electoral college," he declares, and the studio audience, even though admonished to hold its applause, rises to its feet as one and goes "whooo!"

Having completed their presentations, the antagonists now face the panel of judges. Paula says she really enjoyed both but thought Saddam had just a little more soul. Randy gives the nod to Bush, because "even though you gotta have more polish, I thought you got into a nice rhythm there." Simon tells Saddam he is the worst debater in the history of the world. "Seriously, you are just absolutely terrible."

Saddam scowls. He pulls out an automatic pistol and points it at Simon but then changes his mind and puts it away. "I worked really hard on my speech, and I think you are very mean," he says and stalks off the stage.

Maybe, on second thought, Media Person will go back to the column on reality shows.

JWR contributor Media Person -- a.k.a Lewis Grossberger -- is a columnist for Media Week. Comment by clicking here.


02/26/03: The Miracle Continues: Ask me no questions, I'll tell you no lies 02/19/03: Yanking the Franks
02/05/03: LET MY LETTERS GO!
01/28/03: Into the Pity Pit
01/15/03: Not My Cup of Joe
01/09/03: It was back in '03
12/17/02: Did you get taken?
12/05/02: Mathers of importance

© 2002, Lewis Grossberger