The Jerry Springer Show

Published July 27, 2004 3:36PM (EDT)

Political parties don't get to pick their celebrities. If they did, the Republicans would surely draw up a more dazzling list than Bo Derek, Lee Greenwood and Wayne Newton. As always, the stars on display this week at the Democratic convention -- Ben Affleck, Alec Baldwin, Glenn Close, the Red Hot Chili Peppers -- have a higher wattage. So, this year, as always, the Republicans are playing the "if you can't join us, we'll beat you" game, attacking Hollywood for the decadent values it injects into the Democratic Party. Of course, the GOP's biggest star outside of the Beltway is the Terminator and Ronald Reagan is its most revered icon. So Republicans are quite happy bedding down with Hollywood when it will have them.

Actor Richard Dreyfuss, wandering the halls of Boston's Fleet Center on Monday, made it clear what he thinks of the GOP's Hollywood bashing. "It's a silly, partisan waste of time," he told Salon. "This election will decide the fate of the republic. We're at a crossroads. Twenty years from now, all of us will have to answer to our children. I feel that history is judging us."

Dreyfuss also made it abundantly clear which direction he thinks the country must go. "Who better to grasp the acute nature of our country's current crisis than someone who fought in the Vietnam War, who went through that ordeal and saw friends die. It's no small thing to go through something like that. It took a lot of courage for John Kerry to go to Vietnam and it took a lot of courage to come back and fight against the war. That's guts."

The articulate Dreyfuss is one thing, but of course if parties got to pick their stars, the Democrats might not have gone for Jerry Springer. But the former Cincinnati mayor turned TV freak-show barker has been all over the Boston convention. Springer is interested in returning to politics, and Ohio Democrats, hungry for their own big names, are interested in embracing him.

Salon caught up with Springer as he dashed off the convention floor Monday night, and to our surprise, found him, if not presidential, at least gubernatorial. Will he definitely be running for office in Ohio, we asked him. "Not definitely, but I might run for governor in '06."

What does Springer think of Kerry's chances in Ohio this year? "Right now, the state is a little bit for Kerry. His speech on Thursday night will be very important. It reminds me of 1980 in reverse. That year the polls showed Americans weren't particularly happy with Carter. But before they shifted to the Republican ticket, they needed to be assured that Reagan wouldn't be some crazy guy with his finger on the button. When they saw him in the first debate and he came across as a genial uncle, they were reassured and the polls shifted immediately. It's the same this year -- all the polls show that Americans are not happy with the direction the country is going, they're not happy with Bush. But before they shift, they need to feel more comfortable about Kerry. Thursday night will be his first chance to do that."

After dispensing this cogent piece of wisdom, the TV celebrity excused himself, disappearing into the mad political media circus.

By David Talbot

David Talbot, the founder of Salon, is the author of New York Times bestsellers like "Brothers," "The Devil's Chessboard," and "Season of the Witch." His most recent book is "Between Heaven and Hell: The Story of My Stroke."

MORE FROM David Talbot

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

War Room