'Pop' Charting

You may still be trying to figure out where Senator Barack Obama stands on the Russian invasion of Georgia.

And maybe Senator John McCain’s position(s) on off-shore drilling have been hard to keep up with – but the candidates have finally come clean on some things.

Unfortunately, it’s nothing more “substantive’ than pop culture.

First you need to ask yourself – does it really matter what a potential leader of the free world thinks about music, movies, and television sitcoms? The short answer is surely “no’ – and yet, at a time when the nation is apparently still trying to gain a sense of who one candidate is, and who the other is now – inside those “pop’ culture references, we may find some clues.

In recent interviews with Entertainment Weekly, Obama was willing to claim M*A*S*H as the show he was most passionate about as a child (he doesn’t “get’ his kids affinity for “American Idol’). McCain’s list was more current – and cable-dominated, by shows like “Curb Your Enthusiasm’, “Dexter’ and “The Wire’, but he apparently also has a soft spot for Seinfeld reruns.

Role Models

As for presidential role models, Obama cites the character played by Jeff Bridges in The Contender. In explaining the choice, Obama said “He was charming and essentially an honorable person, but there was a rogue about him. The way he would order sandwiches — he was good at that.’ For his part, McCain said that “24’ President David Palmer [played by Dennis Haysbert] is “fabulous’. “He’s a guy who makes tough decisions, he takes charge, he’s ready to sacrifice his interest on behalf of the interest of the country.’

As for music, McCain says he has a weakness for ABBA (perhaps “Momma Mia” inspired?) as well as Roy Orbison and Linda Ronstadt. “But I like Usher too,” McCain added, recalling his “Saturday Night Live’ appearance with the singer. For his part, Obama says his staff kids him about his “eclectic’ tastes, which apparently run the gamut from Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, Sheryl Crow and John Coltrane. Even more eclectic; he says he also has Javanese flute music, African dance music, and “a lot of R&B’ on his iPod.

Asked to name the superhero they’d most like to be, McCain opted for Batman, who “does justice sometimes against insurmountable odds. And he doesn’t make his good works known to a lot of people, so a lot of people think he’s just a rich playboy.’ Obama offered a more “nuanced’ choice, the “Spider-Man/Batman model,’ noting that “the guys who have too many powers, like Superman, that always made me think they weren’t really earning their superhero status. It’s a little too easy.’ Obama favored the “inner turmoil’ of Spider-Man and Batman.

Politicing apparently doesn’t leave much time for getting out to the cinema. Obama said the last movie he saw was “Shrek III.’ On the other hand, McCain said that he’d gotten out a couple of weeks ago to see the new Indiana Jones movie. “I enjoyed that so much,’ he said in the interview. “The old guy wins.’