Rarely is cynicism an appropriate moral stance. But, now is one of those rarities. Yesterday afternoon, the important news about developments in Iran, where some analysts believe elements of the Republican Guard have effectively taken over control of the country from the mullahs (one analyst used the word "coup"), news that will affect the future of that country and the region, and of course the United States for a long time to come and in potentially horrific ways, that news vanished in the twinkling of an eye. Michael Jackson had been taken to the hospital. A short while later we learned that he had died.
Jackson is only a few years older than me. Indeed, I remember him when he still looked human. His was certainly a rare and engaging talent and his personal oddities made him perfect fodder for our tabloid culture. That culture has been omnipresent for some time and it is thoroughly pernicious. Over the next few days, people who only knew Mr. Jackson through the pages of "People" magazine or through television appearances and the such will wail and cry and stand in long lines to pay their respects. And you have to ask: Would they be so moved by the death of a neighbor? Of a loved one?
This phenomenon of public mourning for someone known only through the media was last on full display when Diana, the Princess of Wales, met her untimely end. Even today, so many years later, people in conversation will say they recall where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news, the way my parents’ generation remembers where they were when they learned President Kennedy had been shot or when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The Princess did many good works and she was certainly beautiful, but she was no Jack Kennedy. If you doubt the existence of God or his sense of humor, he called Mother Teresa to Himself shortly after the Princess. The contrast between their life work was not in the royal’s favor. Consequently, having spent millions of dollars covering the funeral of the "People’s Princess" at Westminster Abbey, the networks were virtually forced by the last shred of conscience to send the crews on to Calcutta for the very different funeral of Mother Teresa.
One man will not be mourning Mr. Jackson and that would be Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina, whose "hiking? Did I say I was hiking? I was actually off with in Argentina with my mistress" press conference was the most surreal political moment of the year. Like watching a bad accident, you couldn’t tear your eyes or ears away from it. Coming on the heels of the news that another conservative Republican who has long championed the Defense of Marriage Act, Sen. John Ensign, was also having an affair, one is beginning to think the GOP has lost its moorings. As Kathleen Parker mischievously asks this morning, the next thing you know there will be prominent Democrats who didn’t pay their taxes!
The implosion of Sanford and Ensign leaves the 2012 field even slimmer. It is dominated utterly by the Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, who remains the most – hell, the only – compelling figure atop the GOP. A recent poll shows her comfortably ahead of her GOP rivals for the nomination. Why? Check out "People" magazine. When was the last time you saw Newt Gingrich’s picture on the cover? So, this week, have a cup of cynicism with your morning coffee. It is not normally recommended but now it is downright necessary.