Doubletake, the summer sensation, is back for the new fall season. Every day, Tribune correspondents Jim Oliphant and Jim Tankersley take you around the Moon and back, metaphorically-speaking. Doubletake is also a floor wax and a dessert topping.
Jim Oliphant: So this is a little strange. For the benefit of those reading (that’s you, Dad), Tankersley and I never do this when we are actually face to face. But today both of us are here at the Tribune’s Washington bureau.
Oliphant: Hmm. I’ve heard she’s difficult to work with.
Tankersley: Tori Spelling was unavailable.
Oliphant: If there is one thing Tori Spelling is, it’s available. But I don’t know what is freaking me out more. Sitting here next to you or the fact that you are wearing a tie.
Tankersley: Huh. And here I thought that second sentence was going to be “the potentially imminent collapse of global financial markets or the possibility that Tina Fey won’t cameo on every SNL episode through Election Day.”
Oliphant: All in good time, my friend. It takes time to weave a tapestry. I would rather note that you are wearing a tie, with jeans. Which seems to me very Dustin Hoffman in All the President’s Men, even though I’m not sure whether he actually dressed like that. But we can talk about the, you know, collapse of the American economy too, I guess. Not that I can tell you what credit swap derivatives are–except that they are derivative of something.
Tankersley: Let’s be clear: In the Doubletake movie, Hoffman plays you. James Van Der Beek plays me. This is not negotiable.
Tankersley: We blew the budget on Hoffman. It’s not like we could then afford Toby Maguire or even the guy who plays “E” on Entourage. Besides, Varsity Blues? Masterpiece.
Oliphant: I always get Varsity Blues confused with that movie where the football players lie down on the pavement as trucks go over them (that scene, I believe, was actually removed from the DVD after some stupid kids actually did that.)
Was Van Der Beek the “Dawson’s Creek” kid?
Tankersley: In the same way Hoffman was the “Graduate” kid, yes.
Oliphant: Ah, sweet Katie Holmes, before she went over to the dark side. She was Joey? Or Pacey? Why didn’t any of those kids have normal names?
I think you go to the Critic’s Inferno for comparing Van Der Beek to Hoffman, but I do like the idea of Doubletake as a drama filled with teen angst. I’m going to be keeping my illicit meth use a secret while you deal with your eating disorder.
Tankersley: On second thought, maybe you should be played by the guy who played Jim Walsh on the original “90210.” James Eckhouse.
Oliphant: Great. Am I really that boring? I would disagree with you, but wasted the entire weekend watching football and trying to avoid the news and it didn’t work. My two teams didnt score a touchdown between them. This morning, I feel like the most uninteresting person alive.
Meanwhile, it’s still like Old Testament out here. Floods, hurricanes, collapsing markets–and of course, Sarah Palin, She Who Cannot Help But Dominate Every News Cycle From Now Until the End Times, which are apparently pretty damn close.
Tankersley: Nice pivot. Yeah, crazy, crazy times in the country and on the campaign trail. So make sense of it for me. Less than two months to go, what do you see emerging – from the storms and the crashes and attack ads and the Palin-Mania — as the driving issue of the final stages of the election?
Oliphant: I would love to say issues, but at the moment it appears that the McCain campaign was right. This is going to be about personality and image. It is a jarring juxtaposition — all this bad news and yet no sign that the public is following the issues at all. Or are we in the press not giving it enough credit? Who is to blame for the “lipstick” hoo-hah?
Tankersley: Take your pick: the blogosphere. Cable news cycles. Late-night comedy shows. But the real answer has to be, the campaigns themselves, right? They choose what to highlight for reporters every day. They script the TV ads. They write the stump speeches. To that extent, I think McCain’s camp has kept things focused exactly where they want them the last few weeks.
Oliphant: I don’t doubt that is correct. But does the press have any say in the matter? We are being manipulated. If you have polled 100 reporters last week, not one of them would have believed Obama was referring to Palin when he made his pig remark. Yet there it went all over the place. Nobody could stop it. The campaign has become its own “Dawson’s Creek,” a high-school drama.
Tankersley: I think what you saw at the end of the week was a flurry of stories about McCain’s tactics, and aggressive “fact-checks” on what his campaign has been doing. Capped by everyone’s note of how McCain got Palin’s earmark record wrong on “The View.” This is where we are: “The View” is driving the news.
Oliphant: Well, McCain gave the women of “The View” more unfettered access than he’s given almost anyone else recently and now he might never do it again. It’s interesting, though. You can understand why the McCain campaign is playing it this way. Despite the rash of stories over the weekend about the camp’s fabrications, his poll numbers appear unchanged. So what does that mean?
Tankersley: It means the narrative of this race is fluid. McCain’s trying to make it “Sarah Palin’s a reformer, and Barack Obama’s picking on her.” Obama’s trying to make it “John McCain is a liar.” And not surprisingly, voters seem split on who’s right.
Oliphant: But there is no sign that Obama’s message is gaining traction. At least not yet. But it appears the days of saying “We honor his service” are over. He is going to have to go after McCain and hard. Whether he can do this effectively, I suppose, is the pregnant question. (And I am not talking about Sarah Palin with that reference!)
Tankersley: Isn’t that what your man Joe Biden is for? Aren’t veep candidates supposed to play attack dog? Say — whatever happened to Joe, anyway?
Oliphant: Joe is out there wandering around, giving interviews and press availabilities to all who want them–and is being pretty much ignored as he does so. Again, this is what I mean by successful media manipulation. Talking about Palin’s lack of access is more interesting than talking to Biden.
Tankersley: Oddly enough, isn’t this the same dynamic Republicans were complaining about, like, a month ago? That their candidate couldn’t get any attention? And wasn’t the media response, basically, Obama sells more papers? Why interview Biden when everyone wants Palin?
Oliphant: It’s true. That’s the marketplace of ideas in action. It’s a free market. But please no pissing and moaning about the issues. We appear to have no interest in issues either. They are nuanced.
Tankersley: Or maybe you’re confusing political theater – the kind that sells papers and wins viewers — with actual strategy. Maybe voters really are worried about all the things they tell pollsters they’re worried about — their economy and security and their very way of life. Maybe they’ll actual vote on those issues in November, which is still a ways away. Maybe the conventional wisdom — the “CW,” if you will — about issues misses how we treat politics both seriously and as sport. (And maybe the CW network is planning a mid-season replacement show about two wisecracking reporters, starring James Van Der Beek.)
Oliphant: That’s why I like you, Dawson. Always the optimist. Cue the Paula Cole theme song as we fade out.
Tankersley: “I don’t wanna wait/ for our lives to be over…”
BONUS VIDEO FOOTAGE: Filled with angsty goodness…..