The most powerful people in the capital of the world's last remaining superpower are squabbling over who gets my old colleague Helen Thomas' coveted front row center seat at the White House briefing room.
The seat-holder debate took up an entire feature segment on "The Daily Show," so you know it's what everyone's talking about.
Since President Obama has shown great cultural agnosticism and outreach by occasionally calling first on bloggers and web-only journalists at his press conferences, let's stretch out the tent a little further. I suggest the following people be considered for the Helen Thomas' chair:
1. New U.S. Senate Democratic primary winner Alvin Greene: unemployed army vet, possible sex offender, and target of multiple "could he be mentally retarded?" jokes. I'm on the Alvin bandwagon. Anyone who games the same system that usually games us is doing a service to our democracy that all the press corps probing about what Obama has on his iPad can never accomplish. Is he a Republican plant or just a hapless self-promoter? Who cares! He's illustrating something important.
"The whole thing is odd," senior Obama advisor David Axelrod told NBC Sunday. "I don't really know how to explain it, and I don't think anybody else does either." Which pretty much describes most things in Washington. Tucker Carlson said the other day that after all his years hosting a DC talk show, he realizes "No one understands how America works." That's the Greene electoral race in a nutshell.
I found it weird when CNN's Don Lemon said to a slightly sluggish Greene during a weekend CNN phone interview: "Are you all right? You don't seem all right to me." Does Don know Mr. Greene? Maybe he's a man of few words, or had had a couple of cocktails. I've seen legislators walking into the "Members Only" elevators in Congress on their way to a floor vote who were probably blowing a good .2 on the breathalyzer. Green's "elephant dung" - that's how South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn referred to the election - would fit right in with the staged and pompous horsepoop of presidential press conferences. And if Alvin flashes porn, as he's charged with doing, well, better for the ratings.
2. Sailor girl/teen adventurer Abby Sunderland, whose dad may be trying to turn her into the next balloon boy. It was okay when he allowed her out on the dangerous open seas to break some world record, but if the New York Post report that Laurence Sunderland also signed up his family for a reality TV show is true, lines of propriety need to be drawn. You can't risk your kid's life AND humiliate her at the same time. Hello, Child Protective Services.
If she gets the seat, Abby will be a lot safer in the press room than she might be with her family. She'll also get to set a record after all - as the youngest member of the White House journalism corps. Obama folks will love it because it plays to their pretense of hipness and youthful chill which is sometimes hard to see through the screen of Clinton administration holdovers.
3. The BPGlobalPR guy, whoever he is. There hasn't been anything this funny out there in the digital space since the YouTube videos of babies falling off of roofs. Things are a little tenuous out there. The Euro is wobbly, thanks to being drunk with debt. Freak storms are stranding motorists and washing away campers. And, of course, there's endless outrage from celebrity and shrimpers alike over BP, the Richard Nixon of our era. We need some biting wit and brilliant satire to make any sense of current events. The mysterious tweeter could wear a bag on his head to maintain his anonymity, then he wouldn't have to worry about make-up or combovers when the Washington HD cameras go on.
4. Jon Stewart himself. Why not cut out the Comedy Central host's "middleman" status and send him to the front lines? Stewart is consistently great at deflating the pretension and pretend self-deprecation that so often surrounds the White House. Let's make it a daily Daily Show and watch Robert Gibbs (and the President) really sweat.
That idea might be the most fitting tribute to the better aspects of Helen Thomas' professional nature: holding the powerful accountable with rude and pointed questions. And, as an added bonus, since so many people already get their news from Stewart, the networks and cables might actually start seeing some bump in audience share.
Who do you think should take Thomas' seat? Let me know in the comments.
Causes Phil Bronstein Supports
Good Ones; anything involving the possibility of redemption.