Pols: Forget the caucus, come solve our ruckus
EmptyAnd things were going so well: Domestic boxoffice in 2007 was up to a record $9.6 billion, American TV shows were pulling in audiences around the world and the overall variety of content -- from "Hairspray" to "American Gangster," from "Pushing Daisies" to "Damages" -- was unparalleled.
And then came the writers strike.
When the stoppage is over, we might find that this event was not only an inflection point in the financial importance of the Internet (a big bone of contention being payments for re-usage of content on the Web) but also symbolized the growing divide in newly Gilded Age America. (OK, I know in this particular labor tussle there are haves and haves-a-little-less as well as have-nots, but still a gap in their fortunes there is.)
For the moment, the two sides are philosophically miles apart, with neither the conglomerates nor the Writers Guild disposed to budge.
Leno and Letterman are back on the air, with the former (sans writers) coming out (tellingly or just amusingly?) ahead in the ratings; now the town is abuzz, not about who might land a Globe or an Oscar, but who will -- or will not -- cross picket lines.
It could get ugly: Katherine Heigl carrying a cardboard placard could be a viewer turnoff; bad jokes or pious pledges from the stage could be even less funny than usual.
Before we get to such a pass, someone please send us a white knight.
Can't we, for example, draft a White House hopeful or two to intervene?
After all, one of these guys (or gal) will be stuck with having to extricate us from Iraq; surely they can get their arms around residuals enough to come up with a workable road map to labor peace.
Such a test of their diplomatic skills might be more useful to the country than endless hours of sipping tea in Iowa living rooms or hanging with locals in New Hampshire bars.
My vote right now would be, in the spirit of bipartisanship, to get John Edwards and Mitt Romney on a plane to Los Angeles. (Mike Huckabee already has gamely flown in to do Leno and managed to be both disarming and funny.)
Surely these others could bring something to the party.
Edwards is running the most populist campaign of any mainstream Democratic candidate, taking to task "the corporations and their overpaid CEOs," which are, he contends, at the heart of what's wrong with America. (His detractors are trying to brand him as "a frustrated, angry man," just as some out here are trying to pigeonhole the picketing writers.)
Romney is vaunting his private-sector experience, having masterminded the Olympics and introduced a balanced budget to Massachusetts. (His detractors are trying to brand him as beholden to big business, just as some out here are decrying the studios as greedy behemoths.)
Edwards presumably would empathize with the writers; Romney would zero in on what's at stake for the conglomerates and what they could afford to surrender.
I'm not saying these candidates are flawless, just that their messages represent distinct visions of America that -- no matter who is elected president -- will have to be pulled closer together if the country is to move forward.
So, too, the two sides in the standoff in Hollywood: The conglomerates that fund, greenlight, market and distribute content can't be faulted for wanting to be profitable. (Besides, I'm betting a lot of talent, including a sizable number of writers, have stock in these companies.)
On the other hand, without the creative contributions of writers, directors, actors and other creatives, the conglomerates would be empty shells.
So Edwards and Romney are otherwise occupied? If it's not a presidential candidate, then at least a presidential gesture of goodwill from somebody: Back channels are fine, but at some point soon, the parties need to be pushed back into that room.