Running ‘Idol’ style

Hollywood and Washington executives are pursuing an “American Idol”-like television show in which contestants would seek to persuade a celebrity panel that they should be the next president of the United States.

The winner of the nationwide contest would be announced after the Democratic and Republican conventions, and the show would encourage viewers to vote for its nominee as a write-in candidate next November.

The “Voice Your Choice America” show is the brainchild of M. Allen Wilson, who is the president and co-founder of California-based Two Harbors Productions. Wilson said he came up with the idea amid the public’s growing dissatisfaction with President Bush and other elected officials.

Two Harbor Productions is pitching its program concept to various networks and hopes to start filming in January. Wilson and fellow Two Harbor Production official Akili West suggested that the Fox network would be a perfect fit, adding that they are attempting to set up a meeting with Fox President Roger Ailes.

West, a Washington, D.C. native, said the show would likely be filmed at college campuses around the country, but stressed that all contestants would need to be eligible to become the commander in chief. The Constitution states that every candidate must be at least 35 years of age and a natural-born citizen of the U.S.

The show’s winner could be a well-known figure such as Al Gore, or a farmer from Idaho or a blue-collar worker from Detroit, according to Wilson and West.

One of the biggest problems with the race for the White House, Wilson said, is that the younger generation is not excited about it.

“The candidates don’t connect with the youth of America,” Wilson said.

“Voice Your Choice America” is looking to entertain and engage young voters in the hopes they will be the political candidates of tomorrow.

Wilson says he doesn’t want to stop with the presidential race, claiming that he would expand the show’s format to include gubernatorial and Senate races in subsequent years.

It’s not clear who will host the show if a network picks it up. Some names that have been floated include Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Cosby, Will Smith and conservative pundit Armstrong Williams, who is vice president of Two Harbors Productions.

The recent writers’ strike has boosted the chances that a reality show like this one will be green-lighted as Hollywood decision-makers struggle to come up with new content.

A rotating panel of three to five celebrities will review the contestants on a weekly basis. Panelists would be activists, movie stars and journalists. As on “American Idol,” the winner would be chosen by voting viewers.

Executives of the show would not bankroll the victor’s run for the presidency because that would violate election laws, Wilson said. Instead, Wilson anticipates “a grassroots effort” would be launched to promote the candidate.

The show’s producers come from all races and political persuasions, West said, noting that the winner would not run as a Republican or Democrat.

“Voter apathy has created this show,” Wilson said. “We’re going to be a major monkey wrench [in the race for the White House].

“When is the last time you got to pick who you wanted to be your president?” West asked.

A Federal Elections Commission spokesman could not be reached for comment at press time.

 


Hatch is in Milbank’s fan club

 

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is apparently a Dana Milbank fan, but couldn’t pick The Washington Post columnist out of a lineup.

After emerging from a room in the Capitol’s basement where he had been negotiating the chronically pending children’s healthcare bill, Hatch took some questions from former Post reporter Charles Babington.

While fielding questions about the healthcare bill’s prospects from Babington, who now works for The Associated Press, Hatch ribbed him about his “satirical” articles.

While funny and good-natured, Babington is not known for being as snarky as Milbank, who pens the Washington Sketch column that appears regularly on Page 2 of the Post. He also stands about a foot taller than Milbank.

Babington, a Southern gentleman, did not correct Hatch, though he handed his business card to Hatch’s staffer when the senator was done answering questions.

 


WereWolfe

 

 Author Tom Wolfe was in fine form on Tuesday night at The American Spectator magazine’s 40th birthday bash at the Mandarin Oriental hotel.

The evening’s keynote speaker, wearing his trademark white suit (adapted for the evening with a black bow tie), lightly mocked modern American intellectuals.

“To be an intellectual,” he said, “you have to be indignant about something.”

Wolfe has caused indignation (in what might be called the semi-intellectual world of journalism) for  his decision post-Sept. 11, 2001, occasionally to wear an American flag pin in his white lapel, in solidarity with his country and against Islamist terrorism.

Wolfe was not wearing the flag pin on Tuesday, perhaps because the dinner took place after dark and close to Halloween. The connection? The author said that “a writer wearing a flag in his lapel is like holding up a cross before a werewolf.”

This produced a howl from the journalistic throng filling the room. But there was no vulpine menace in it; it was full-throated laughter.

 


DSCC researches own chairman

 

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) is seeking information on Republicans running for the upper chamber this cycle. That’s quite normal.

But what is unusual is that DSCC is seeking government documents that came from Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), chairman of the DSCC.

In letters to a couple of government agencies, DSCC researcher Anthony Abate requests correspondence from more than a dozen senators and Senate hopefuls from both sides of the aisle. He also asks for all Schumer correspondence to and from the departments of Commerce and Interior dating back to Jan. 1, 2002.

Asked about the Schumer documents, DSCC spokesman Matthew Miller said, “We’re just making sure we’re armed against any possible Republican attacks.”

The price tag for processing the requested documents from Commerce was more than $3,800, while the tab from Interior was only $74.40.

Bob Cusack, Hugo Gurdon and Jonathan E. Kaplan contributed to this page.