Lindsay Lohan hasn’t carjacked an SUV in months. Nicole Richie’s formerly extroverted clavicles have taken refuge behind a discreet veil of subcutaneous tissue. Britney Spears is behaving so normally the gossip site TMZ.com has been reduced to covering her gym workouts. “For the first time in a while, Britney Spears lost that glazed-over look and actually looked happy,” it sadly reported. “Showing signs of progress at Bally’s, Brit had paps cheering her on as she did crunches.”
While Miley Cyrus is doing her best to pick up the slack, her tiny naked shoulders can’t bear the weight of the entire celebrity-scandal industry all by themselves. Consequently, the National Enquirer, Globe and the National Examiner are running almost as many stories about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as The National Review and The Nation are. Even John McCain, who exudes even less star power than the average Wal-Mart greeter, has graced a couple of covers.
Naturally, the tabs are less interested in the candidates’ political positions than their sexual ones. Hillary, Globe recently asserted, is entwined in a “gay love scandal” with Huma Abedim, a single, 32-year-old beauty who started working for Mrs. Clinton as an intern in 1996 and now serves as her primary handler. In an earlier piece, the tabloid broke the news that Hillary and Bill have a secret divorce deal—if she doesn’t want to win the election, he’s taking his presidential staff elsewhere. Barack Obama is also experiencing marital woes when he can find time in between hanging out with al Qaeda sympathizers, having an affair with Oprah and covering up a past gay affair with murder. And John McCain? Well, he gets mad a lot.
Arguably, Obama has gotten the worst of it—the possibility that Hillary may be sharing sack-time with a woman who is orders of magnitude more gorgeous than any of her hubby’s extramarital cigar buddies may actually enhance her reputation! And as it turns out, Roger Altman, an investment banker from New York who served for two years as deputy treasury secretary in Bill Clinton’s administration, is the principal owner and co-CEO of Evercore Partners, which owns a controlling interest in American Media, the company that owns Globe, the Enquirer and the Examiner.
Naturally, Obama supporters see a vast tabloid conspiracy at work on behalf of the Clintons—but one suspects the real reason Obama is getting the most attention is simply because he radiates the most charisma. Unlike the more democratic online gossip sites, which have infinite space to fill and thus are happy to give ample coverage to barely identifiable C-listers as long as a candid photo of them picking their noses is involved, a virtual door policy still exists amongst the supermarket tabloids.
To get on the cover of the National Enquirer or Globe, you still have to be showbiz royalty, a Clooney, a Brangelina, an Aniston. Even when things get so slow in Hollywood that tabloid editors turn in desperation to Washington, D.C., the space on their covers remains finite, a rare commodity. And because these publications depend almost entirely on news-rack sales, if your face over a lurid headline isn’t moving copies, you won’t keep showing up. And right now, in those informal polling places otherwise known as supermarket checkout lines, the people of America are voting for Obama.
That the public appears to be more interested in presidential candidates than they do in, say, Ashlee Simpson’s relationship status with Pete Wentz is perhaps the biggest story of the year. And that they’re hungry for juicy details about these candidates’ allegedly tawdry personal lives is telling, too. While the Bush administration has provided us with a steady stream of political scandals, the president, on a personal level, has been about as scandalous as an unusually obedient Girl Scout. After his strange battle with a homicidal pretzel, there’s been what exactly? Some warm but chaste hand-holding with Crown Prince Abdullah amongst the blooming bluebonnets at his ranch in Crawford? A few half-hearted whispers about his extremely close relationships with his work wives Harriet Miers and Condoleezza Rice? It’s even been over two years since his second-in-command, Dick Cheney, has shot anyone in the face!
Clearly, we’re yearning for a return to those peaceful, prosperous, bygone days when the worst thing we could accuse our leader of was using the Oval Office as his swinging bachelor pad. Or, as a consolation prize, at least, when some hot young movie stars would outscandalize a couple of middle-aged politicians.