Celebs work the campaign trail

By Patrick Burke

As the 2004 presidential election winds down, both President Bush and Senator Kerry have increasingly turned to pop culture to enhance their images. President Bush has recruited California “governator” Arnold Schwarzenegger to campaign with him in Ohio. John Kerry has requisitioned Bruce Springsteen to energize his campaign. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Springsteen are no ordinary, run-of-the-mill celebrities either. As of late, both men have become more and more involved in the political industry and less and less concerned with their roles in the entertainment industry. Schwarzenegger is now governor of the state where Paris Hilton parties, which essentially makes California the most important state in the Union. To testify to Bruce Springsteen’s political clout, the success of his recent hits have undermined the dominance of “bling” on the record charts, indirectly averting the long-awaited P. Diddy-Dr. Dre coup d’etat. Considering their undeniable sway in the sphere of American politics, one is compelled to question the degree of influence the governator and the Boss are truly having on the campaigns of Bush and Kerry, respectively.

Thus far, the Bush campaign has been characterized by a high level of righteous, dynamic realpolitik, as epitomized in the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic Conan the Barbarian. A disturbing comparison can be made between the horned monster that Conan slays at the film’s stunning conclusion and Iraq, in the context of President Bush’s foreign policy. Although the horned monster in the Conan film was decidedly menacing, as in the case of Iraq, its capability to annihilate the world was questionable at best. Bush has continued to justify the war in Iraq by asserting the imminence of the threat its former head of state posed at the time. The president notoriously qualified this contention at the time by reminding the American public how Hussein had tried to assassinate “his dad.” Is it so ridiculous a notion that the governator could be protecting the president from an assassin sent from the future to topple the House of Bush, as Schwarzenegger protected John Connor in Terminator II: Judgment Day? Perhaps the weapons of mass destruction truly were unearthed in Iraq, in the form of sophisticated, futuristic killing-machine Saddam Hussein.

Although the Boss may not be a guardian sent from the future to protect John Kerry, he surely has had some impact on the rabble-rousing methods of the senator’s campaign. The Boss’s music, particularly the epic ballad “No Surrender,” has been known to provide a sonic element to the public effervescing of John Edwards. The dogged perseverance of the soldier lauded in this song seems to have been adopted by Kerry. Although Kerry was ambivalent about the war effort prior to entering the campaign race, through shadow campaign advisor Springsteen, candidate Kerry was shown the light—in fact he was “blinded by it.” By supporting the soldiers in the Iraq conflict and criticizing the ideology, Kerry realized that he could assert his patriotism without giving any credit to Bush.

Whether the governator and the boss are truly shadow campaign advisors of President Bush and Senator Kerry, respectively, only Michael Moore can tell us with his next exposé. Regardless, it would seem that the integration of celebrities into a political campaign could not simply be an attempt by politicians to invest themselves with a false sense of validity. Surely, American politicians have more respect for the American public than that. The act of selling themselves to said public through assuming the identities of beloved social icons such as Schwarzenegger and Springsteen would be the height of disrespect.