Practicing for Prime Time

There are lots of reasons to run for president: Because a political ground swell has pushed your name to the forefront … because you think the country is heading the wrong way … because you lost your job as a four-star general…because you need an excuse to get out of the house.

But because it looks good on a resume?

Al Sharpton is job-hunting. As related by Jim Rutenberg of The New York Times, Sharpton often stole the show during the Democratic primary debates with a wit and sense of humor that made his opponents look like, well, like a bunch of policy wonks. Now, Sharpton has his heart set on his own reality TV show, and two weeks ago he signed on with the William Morris Talent Agency. (He’d also consider books, radio and movies.)

Normally these high-visibility job searches take some time. But if Sharpton’s advisors are worth their commissions, all they’d have to do is to flip to the Times’ business section today. (Sometimes the news cycle is just too perfect!)

Reporter Bill Carter details the increasingly-desperate search by ABC to find a reality show that can give NBC’s “The Apprentice” a run for its money.

On the hair ratings scale alone, Sharpton’s got The Donald beat by a wide margin.

But why saddle the voluble Sharpton with some made-up drama of intrigue, competition and avarice? Why not send him directly to prime time — running Walt Disney Co., instead of appearing on its lame network? (Again, on the hair scale, Sharpton is way ahead of the balding Michael D. Eisner.)

Sharpton acknowledges that his desire to become a media celeb might raise questions about his motives for seeking the presidency. But, he tells Rutenberg, either job provides him an opportunity to transmit his message.

Or to transmit something. “I don’t think anyone denies that I have built a national personality,” says the Rev., with the modesty of a born candidate.

Susan Q. Stranahan

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Susan Q. Stranahan wrote for CJR.