- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 28, 2011

All across America, the curious woke at the crack of dawn Friday to watch live coverage of Prince William marrying Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey. U.S. news outlets swarmed around London to fill an insatiable appetite for the royal wedding. From the newly titled Princess Catherine’s tiara choice, to William’s decision not to wear a wedding ring, to the first-kiss practice sessions, we commoners want to know every tiny detail of the pomp and circumstance the British monarchy does so well.

American fascination with the royal wedding is in stark contrast to - and offers needed relief from - the dismal circumstances in our own land, where the economy is struggling, unemployment is 8.8 percent, gasoline prices are staring at $5 a gallon, S&P warned our credit outlook was negative, and the military is locked in multiple wars. According to the latest Rasmussen poll, a mere 21 percent of Americans think the country is heading in the right direction, which is the lowest level of optimism recorded since President Obama took office.

In the past, when times were tough - whether during a depression, war or civil unrest - the public looked to the First Family and Hollywood for an escape from reality. In the 1960s, people were riveted by the Kennedys’ “Camelot” lives: Jackie’s dresses with white gloves, Jack’s sailing and dashing dinner jackets. The Reagans created a Hollywood-like White House in the 1980s with an abundance of elegant state dinners. (Prince William’s mother, Princess Diana, danced with John Travolta at one.) With Mr. Obama’s record low approval rating, almost nobody is looking to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. to escape an ugly reality this president has only made worse.

Americans also used to live vicariously through glamorous Hollywood stars. However, the current crop of celebrities makes most want to look away from the train wreck rather than daydream about living their lives. Today’s Tinseltown is defined by mug shots (Lindsay Lohan, Mel Gibson), rehab centers (Charlie Sheen, Brittany Spears) and cheesy reality stars (Kim Kardashian, Tori Spelling). Even starstruck Washington wonks are turning up noses at this weekend’s White House Correspondents Association Dinner because of the D-list Hollywood guest list, occupied by Paula Abdul, Kate Hudson, Alyssa Milano and John Hamm.

Despite the rebellion against the British monarchy 235 years ago, Americans remain obsessed by our old royal masters. With few admirable elites of our own, Americans are reduced to waking up at 4 a.m. to watch fantasy unfold in Merry England.