Senate snooze fest: How to pump up the volume
By Arianna Huffington
July 28, 1997
My friends are urging me to seek help. They are concerned that I have become hooked on the campaign-finance hearings. I can't get enough of Sen. Bob Smith or Sen. Arlen Specter or even -- forgive me, God -- Sen. Bob Torricelli, asking the same questions over and over again while poring over reams of legal documents.
Various forms of rehab have been proposed -- from two weeks in Bora Bora to disconnecting C-SPAN. But I remain convinced that it would be much better if the rest of the world joined me in my addiction. First, because the fate of our democracy depends on the hearings breaking through the public apathy. Second, because addicts like company.
So, in the hopes of "amping up" interest in the hearings, I have solicited advice from a variety of professionals, including a programming legend at MTV, who shall remain nameless but who hereby renders patriotic service:
Dear Sen. Thompson: I've been watching your snooze fest, and I got to tell you, I can't keep my peepers from heading south. Commercials are a relief from the pain, and you don't even get those on C-SPAN. I heard you say that "these things are designed for the most part to be boring," but in their present form, a car chase couldn't help your train wreck (a train wreck couldn't, either).
Start with your witnesses. Who are these people? Haley helped a little, but even my Republican friends -- yes, I have two -- didn't buy his spiel. Let's face it. He's basically Boss Hogg in a better suit.
Anyway, unless you have a Fawn Hall with Chinese money tucked in her g-string waiting in the wings, here are a couple of ratings grabbers from me to you.
First, pump up the volume. Bands, baby, bands! Good kick-butt bands should open each and every hearing. A different band could do a tight half-hour set, attract a monster audience, and then bing, bam, boom, you senators can do your legislative-branch-investigation thing, segueing ever-so-gently into the soft meat of the matter. You could even have Pat Boone -- some of your conservative buddies still like him -- singing the "Countdown to Extinction" from his heavy-metal album. It has a phat Old Testament feeling to it, warning the people of disaster ahead if their leaders don't mend their ways.
Now, I've done some nosing around to see which bands are available, and it looks like maybe the chicks from the Lilith Tour could do a round-robin thing, each taking a turn to open for your committee. Rename the hearings "Lippo-Palooza," and watch the ratings take off.
Of course, there would be various contract riders involved with the different bands. For instance, I happen to know that "The Presidents of the United States" would love to get a photo-op with the real president of the United States.
The next thing you should do is punch up your sound bites. Did you catch what Johnny Chung said to the L.A. Times? "I see the White House is like a subway -- you have to put in coins to open the gates." Well, it was the biggest grabber on the Sunday shows since the hearings began. Too bad it didn't come out of your sessions. Ever thought about interrogating your witnesses in the voices of Beavis and Butt-head? If you called Janet Reno an "obstructionist dillweed," you might get some Gen-Xers to tune in.
For a change of pace, how about one day doing the hearings "unplugged"? No suits, no ties, just jeans and cowboy boots, and all the senators sitting around drinking chai and chilling with the Buddhist nuns. I bet if you made it a benefit for Tibet, you could get the Beastie Boys.
And you need some props. Remember O.J.'s glove? How about some exhibits, like pages from the Lincoln Bedroom guest book, including entries in Chinese? Guest soaps with the presidential seal or those fluffy bathrobes you can take with you for an additional contribution to the Democratic National Committee?
Which reminds me -- we have a bet going on in the office here. Could you help straighten out something? Is John Glenn, the senator, the same guy who was in that movie "The Right Stuff" (or was it "Apollo 13")? Was he an astronaut? If so, that should be way used. Maybe you can let a crew from "The Real World" move in with the committee members. I'd like to see an astronaut eat his Grape Nuts in the morning.
Oh, which doubly reminds me (sorry to be all over the place here), weren't you in "Die Hard"? And "The Hunt for Red October"? If so, then you should use your mojo -- make some calls -- maybe get Bruce Willis or Sean Connery to guest-host a couple of your hearings. That's what will get the hugical numbers! Right now, and don't take this the wrong way, but you don't even have a cult following. I mean, where's the Fred Thompson homepage? With a little forethought, you could rule!
The thing that you guys aren't able to wrap your brains around is the fact that we, the movers and shakers here at MTV, have shrunk the country's attention span so small you'd have to grease down a beam of light to squeeze it through. With videos edited jackhammer-style, we set the pace for commercials, TV and film. They'll never be the same. So, from an entertainment standpoint (and let's face it, it's all entertainment), you guys and your little hearings have got to jump on board our bus or eat its dust. Know what I'm saying? If we snooze, you lose.
But not to be Mister Heavy Negativity-Meister Guy, I'd like to leave you with a great positive catch phrase that I just heard: "Today is the first day of the rest of your life." And the rest of your hearings. Isn't that great? 'Cause it really, really is -- when you stop and think about it.
P.S. I'm always available for like a consulting thing, if the price is right.My advice to Sen. Thompson would be to take the MTV exec up on it, because otherwise, those of us who think the hearings really, really matter will remain too few to make a difference -- nursing our hearings habits all alone.
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