The Daily Illini

Don't make us comfortable, make us informed

By Jessie Webster

If Hillary Clinton is elected 45th President of the United States, it will be the crowning achievement of a truly remarkable career.

Lawyer, First Lady of the United States, senator, and Secretary of the United States are impressive achievements in their own right, but pale in comparison to becoming our nation’s first female president.

So, why is Clinton sabotaging it all by talking about singer Lenny Kravitz’s penis?

In a recent interview for comedy website “Funny or Die” with actor and writer Lena Dunham, Clinton, a woman many people believe to be a front-runner for the leader of the free world, actually took the bait when Dunham mentioned the viral footage of Kravitz’s wardrobe malfunction. http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/1d875d8294/lena-dunham-interviews-hillary-clinton-about-lenny-kravitz-s-penis?_cc=__d___&_ccid=t1fjnc.nw19hv

“I’ll look for that,” Clinton responded with mock fascination.

The rest of the interview for Dunham’s newsletter “Lenny” touched upon serious issues such as feminism, and the current relationship between African-Americans and law enforcement in the United States.

But no one will pay any attention to those portions of the interview, and that’s a problem.

Clinton is not solely deserving of scrutiny; Democrats and Republicans, legitimate candidates and Donald Trump are all falling over themselves to show America their laidback, relatable side.

This summer, Jeb Bush appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon as a guest during the popular “Slow Jam the News” segment, in which Bush offered up a series of buzz words about his campaign while Fallon provided the color commentary. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5GMhGpk5jY

For some inexplicable reason, the phallus was once again front-and-center in this bit.

After Bush gave the usual shtick about how many jobs he created while Governor of Florida, Fallon interjected in full “cheesy 70’s movie” mode by saying, “[Bush] came from Texas, where everything is bigger, and turned Florida from a limp peninsula into a feral member of the U.S. economy.”

I know what you’re thinking. “Who cares what presidential candidates are doing or saying? The election is over a year away! Stop taking everything so seriously and get a sense of humor.”

You’re half-right. With the election 13 months away, now is the perfect time for candidates to portray themselves to the American public as fun and laid-back, and they know it.

In an interview with Big Think, scholar Lauren Feldman of the School of Communication at American University said that late-night comedy programs have become an essential aspect of an election cycle.

“Appearances on late-night comedy programs have become an essential part of campaign strategy and, increasingly, political strategy more generally,” Feldman stated.

Still, there should be a way for presidential candidates to appeal to the American public without embarrassing themselves or diminishing the seriousness of the job they are vying for.

Vice President Joe Biden, who is currently at the center of intense speculation as to whether or not he will run for president, may have found that sweet spot during a recent interview on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”

Biden talked mainly about the recent death of his son Beau Biden, who passed away recently from brain cancer. Colbert, who lost his father and two brothers in a plane crash at age 11, was perhaps the perfect person to discuss such personal anguish with.

According to a memo sent to officials with the Draft Biden super-PAC, the interview resulted in an “800% increase in daily (online) signups” of those who want to support Biden’s campaign.

While not all candidates are unfortunate enough to have suffered a personal tragedy they can discuss on national television, the response Biden got should be proof for other presidential candidates that there ways to relate to the American public without dumbing themselves down.

Every candidate will claim during a campaign stop or town hall meeting that they are serious about fixing America’s problems, and committed to making life better for our children and grandchildren. Their message of progress should be no different during an appearance on late-night television.

The idea that an individual running for President of the United States should be well regarded for their comedic timing or mastery of pop-culture references is a dangerous precedent to set at a time when this country that has a seemingly endless list of issues to fix.

If we are supposed to laugh along with a candidate as they reference their fondness for dancing the Nae Nae, it’s going to be a lot more difficult to take them seriously if they as president one day must tell us that our country is at war, or a natural disaster is looming.

The American public does not have time for the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election to be filled with candidates trying to make us feel comfortable. They need to tell us how to implement gun reform, or improve race relations or shorten the gap in our nation’s wealth and income inequality.

And, frankly, there’s nothing funny about that.

Jessie Webster is a junior in Media.
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