POLITICS AND entertainment have long been soul mates in the United States. But it is becoming increasingly hard to draw the line between the two. This autumn, NBC will broadcast The West Wing, a take on life in the White House. The show's advisers include Patrick Caddell, a former White House strategist. He could soon have another job: advising Warren Beatty, who, worried by the lack of attention given to serious issues such as inequality, is considering the presidency. They could be up against their Hollywood neighbour Cybill Shepherd, who is contemplating running on an anti-abortion platform, and a former basketball star, Bill Bradley. A wrestler is a state governor; turn on the TV, and there is the ex-mayor of Cincinnati, Jerry Springer, hosting his ludicrous talk shows.
It's easy to blame Ronald Reagan, the first Hollywood President, for all this. But, in an age when so many people value style over content, it is little wonder that people are losing their respect for politicians. And it is not just a US phenomenon; look at the way the London mayoral race is descending into a game of celebrity countdown.
Politics cannot be a branch of show business - but, so far, only Warren Beatty seems to have recognised this. Help!