Back in the day, it was anything but routine when presidential aspirant John F. Kennedy appeared on the “Tonight Show” with Jack Paar. It was a creative use of a candidate’s time to position himself in front of a non-traditional, late-night talk show audience.
Paar was appropriately deferential; it certainly wasn’t “Meet The Press” or “Face The Nation.” And JFK, of course, was hardly TV-challenged. It was a smart move.
Over the years, we’ve seen such “non-traditional” forums expand. From Bill Clinton’s safe sax act with Arsenio Hall to Barack Obama’s Kumbaya session with Oprah to Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and others chatting up Jay Leno and David Letterman.
There’s also the, by now, de rigueur appearance on the “Daily Show” with comedian Jon Stewart. Especially if you have a book to hawk. I recently saw Delaware Sen. Joe Biden, the Democrats’ most experienced presidential candidate, on the Stewart faux-news show. I wish I hadn’t. Nobody was better off for Stewart’s smug fest and Biden’s quips, including the prepared ones.
The various debates, forums, television and radio talk-show outlets, plus the Oprahs, Lenos and Lettermans should be enough, thank you. If voters still don’t have a handle on who a candidate is and what a candidate thinks about issues that matter, then they may want to read something, however old school and uncool that may seem.
The point is that in these especially troubling times it’s, well, troubling to see bona fide presidential office-seekers queuing up to participate in a candidate dunk tank billed as a show-’em-your-nimble-wit-side crucible. The process doesn’t need further demeaning.
Which brings us to this fall’s YouTube debate in St. Petersburg. Looks like most, if not all, of the Republican candidates will be there for the Nov. 28 forum, which will be broadcast by CNN.
The only other question is what sort of animated character will lob up a presidential-candidate query this time?