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Raw Politics

11:19 PM, Apr 21, 2008 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
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Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain all appeared on USA Network's WWE Raw tonight. That's wrestling, for you snooty, literary types.

Appearing via tape, Clinton joshed that "tonight, you can call me Hill-Rod" and that "this election is starting to feel a lot like King of the Ring." "The only difference," she continued, "is that the last man standing may just be a woman." She talks about bringing the troops home from Iraq and making college more affordable. "If things get a little tough," she says with a mortifyingly fake twinkle in her eye, "I may even have to deliver The People's Elbow."

You see, "The People's Elbow" is a wrestling move once used by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, but it's also an echo of "We the people," which is a famous phrase from the Declaration of the Independence or the Bible or something. The point is, she's totally down with the type of people who watch Raw.

Obama does a softer sell, saying that "this is a historic time for America, it's not just that the reign of Randy Orton may be coming to an end," but that we have the chance in this election "to end business as usual" in politics. He gives a 20-second version of his stump speech and it's pretty endearing until he ends by saying, "Do you smell what Barack is cooking?" He gives his big toothy grin as the camera cuts away. This, too, is a reference to Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, one of whose catch-phrases was, "If you smell what The Rock is cooking." (No it doesn't make any sense. That's what makes it awesome.)

When it's John McCain's turn, he also channels The Rock opening with, "Finally, the Mac has come back to Greenville."

But then, McCain whipsaws through a slew of other legendary wrestling catchphrases, and unlike Clinton and Obama, he seems in on the joke. He does Flair ("If you want to be the man, you've got to beat the man."), he does Triple H ("Game over!"), he does Hulk Hogan ("Watcha gonna do when John McCain and all his McCainiacs run wild on you?"), he does Stone Cold ("And that's the bottom line because John McCain said so."). He promises to "introduce Osama bin Laden to the Undertaker." And then he rakes the eyes, noting that "Americans don't watch wrestling because we're bitter."

He totally gets over.

After the video tributes, and back in live action, Bill and Hillary Clinton look-a-likes come to the ring to the strains of "I am a real American." It's an inspired bit of comedy, actually, and the crowd isn't as hostile as you might expect. There's only a smattering of boos. The real boos come when an Obama look-a-like comes out. The faux candidates then stage a wrestling match. It's less dignified than it sounds.

Look, I was going to make fun of how unseemly it is for presidential aspirants to go begging for votes on a show which is half a step up from tentacle porn on the cultural food chain. But I tuned into Raw with a Boylans and a bag of chips tonight and I didn't even know they were going to be on. So really, who's sadder?

PS: This is a good excuse to remind readers about Paul Cantor's fantastic essay on "Pro Wrestling and the End of History." Treat yourself to it.