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By C. Antonio Romero

SAN FRANCISCO, 18 JANUARY 2008-Endless yammering about the madness of Princess Britney seems to be the staff of life for the tabloid media the last few weeks-that and the news that little sister Jamie Lynn Spears seems determined to outdo her as a precocious little baby-maker.

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And indeed Britney seems to be genuinely melting down, a descent into hell that accelerated with her implosive "comeback" performance at the VMA last year. (The latest rumor: the Associated Press has been preparing an obituary for her, just on the off chance...)

Can we give her a little credit, though, for her recent pregnancy test hoax?

Britney was never really going to be the next Madonna, for all that Madonna passed the torch to her years ago with an infamous kiss at the MTV Video Music Awards. (Few can work the media half so cannily as the Material Girl, who played Britney and the rest of us that night.)

While her little gesture was not exactly worthy of the Yes Men , it was a fun little nose-tweak of the too-credulous paparazzi and rumor-hungry tabloid press that scored her a point or two in my book.

It's a shame, then, that most of the political coverage this election season is really little smarter than the usual celebrity chase. Watching the swings in the polls leading up to each of the American primaries so far, it's clear that this election's coverage will be even more likely than the last two or three to go to whoever can play the talking-head press best, regardless of positions on issues.

At least, though, we seem to be past the seemingly endless run-up to Iowa, where the game of "dub the front-runner" exhausted the attention of anyone who wanted substantive discussion of issues, or principles... Whether it's charisma, thugliness, experience, a hit TV show, perfect haircuts, faith, or strong white teeth , little to do with issues seems to be at the root of the selections of the press. The new phase of coverage will be not much more meaningful, than what went before, probably, but at least it will be shaped by the actual behavior of the electorate as much as pontificators ranting to the unsteady cadence of their own speculation and spinning.

The candidates matter, the election matters, but what matters, we'll probably never hear about. Not to mention what matters about this administration, and all the horrors of the last seven years, that the media seems to want to fast-forward over. Tivo has infected our politics, making us feel we can just wish the Bush years are over. They're not, and you can't fast-forward past history, any more than you can a hangover (and we're in for one).

C. Antonio Romero is the Nouveau editor of He last wrote on Sports Cars: Legends of the Open Road.

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