The dance primary: Which politician has the best moves?

Another election season, another year of "politics as theater," as they say. Politicians try desperately to please people they've spent a career mocking; they strive to sound like populists when they're truly elites; and they veer left (Democrats) or right (Republicans) even though they'll all run to the center next spring. Astute critics have called it "kabuki," but they've usually just meant it as a metaphor. Then came the Bush era. Now, politicians really are doing strange dances--President Bush gets down for malaria, Condoleezza Rice twists in Sao Paolo, and Barack Obama jumps to "Shout." The kabuki is real!

We've decided to grade our officeholders in a dance-off. Here, we've assessed them on a 20-point scale. Points are awarded arbitrarily for ability to stay on beat, brazen attempts at instrumentation, vocal participation, and general awesomeness.

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Our first entry is a team submission, featuring President Bush, his wife Laura, and Condoleezza Rice in Brazil.







Bush is the standout performer here, bravely tackling an instrument (albeit a maraca). Condi gets points for fluidity of motion but several deductions for complete lack of rhythm. Bush also loses points for his inability to keep a beat. Laura is awarded five bonus points for knowing to stand against a wall if you can't dance, though she loses some points for wan enthusiasm. [Total score: 15/20]

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Next, we have a solo performance from President Bush, this time on the White House lawn.

The president has obvious affection for instruments, and he has clearly improved since his trip to Brazil. (Has he been practicing?) Not only is he closer to being on beat than before, he also shows that he can learn four dance steps! Easy dance steps, but steps nevertheless. Points are deducted in the freestyle portion of the dance, however, for "old-man hips" and weird flapping motions. [Total score: 16/20]

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Our third entry comes from Bush's right-hand man, Karl Rove, performing at the Radio and Television Correspondents Assocation dinner.

There is so much to say, and yet I barely have the words. Rove gets points for providing the song's refrain, his weird jerky arm dance, and taking the phrase "hip-hop" literally. Twenty bonus points are awarded for checking his Treo mid-song. Thirty additional bonus are points awarded for proving the lyric "He's so white / from his head to his toe" true, while simultaneously throwing the gangsta sign. [Total score: 70/20]

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Fourth up is French presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy, who grooves to disco tunes.

Clearly the best dancer so far, Sarkozy earns himself a perfect technical score for a performance on par with Disco Stu. There is a 15 point deduction, however, for being an internet-generated routine, moving abruptly from one section of choreography to the next, and for using the Bee Gees. No one likes the Bee Gees anymore. Not even ironically. [Total score: 5/20]

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Our final entry comes from fresh-faced senator and presidential hopeful Barack Obama. Still new to the scene, Obama gave us a glimpse of his dance skills when he announced his intention to run for president.

Both the most attractive and most naturally rhythmic of all the contestants so far, Obama gets points for awesome song choice and smooth neck-and-shoulder coordination. However, there is a 5 point deduction for letting Karl Rove out-flava him. [Total score: 15/20]

We should pause here, before we announce the winner, to issue an honorable mention for an erstwhile saxophone god. Though he was disqualified from the competition for being animated, we would nonetheless like to showcase the Dance Dance Revolution skillz of Bill Clinton:

Well done, Mr. President.

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As you might expect, Karl Rove wins--he always does. MC Rove, despite authorship of more political scandals than we can count, has rocked the body that rocks the party, and he can strut while checking his e-mail. He is a true creature of Washington. Word up!

By Sara Tenenbaum