Sham Inauguration Rocks!

If American voters are discouraged by a seemingly endless and increasingly hyperbolic presidential campaign -- now called "The Campaign That Would Not Die" by some and disparaged last week by The New York Times as "meaner, more vacuous, more desperate, and more filled with pandering" as it drags on -- they might want to consider what Russian voters have had to put up with after the formidably brief and utterly unhyperbolic presidential campaign here. With only eight days left before the inauguration of the new president, Muscovites are still awaiting answers to some vexing questions that have been hanging in the air ever since Dmitry Medvedev was elected on March 2, including:

1. How many articles can be written before the Medvedev presidency begins about what might happen when the Medvedev presidency begins?

2. Is somebody keeping a running total on these? Does it include Buryat blog posts and drawings in crayon?

3. What's the story on Medvedev's cat? And how significant is his reported devotion to yoga?

4. Is it possible to produce an article less earthshaking than "Dmitry Medvedev Starts Each Morning With Internet"?

Clearly, brass tacks reporting has been a limited commodity here lately. OK, for the record:

1. Around 2,000, give or take.

2. The current count is 1,718. That includes all print venues except shopping mall flyers.

3. The incoming official Kremlin tabby, a tomcat named Dorofei, is reportedly unequipped to be First Cat. But let's be clear: The yoga jones is Medvedev's, not the cat's.

4. Yes, of course -- you're reading it.

Actually, what's so silly about the "Starts Each Morning With Internet" piece? It could've been "... Starts Each Morning With Frosted Flakes" or "... by Turning Off Alarm Clock." And it may even be true, which would mean it shakes more earth than last week's "Putin to Wed Flexible Flyer." In this speculation-heavy, information-sparse and eerily unfrenzied run-up to Medvedev's inauguration -- a historic event thousands of enthusiastic citizens will observe by waving to the new president from beaches in Turkey and Egypt -- a verifiably true news story is itself good news.

Perhaps a nice, newsworthy controversy will emerge from the president-elect's off-putting choice for First Rock Group. Many fear that Medvedev's resuscitation of British band Deep Purple could prove even more embarrassing to the incoming administration than the unmanliness of its head cat. And indeed, could anything look goofier than the widely circulated news photo of Medvedev and Gazprom's CEO, rockin' Alexei Miller, flashing giant grins and hip thumbs-ups as they stand around being shorter than the aging remnants of a band famous for being more popular in the Soviet Union than anywhere they could actually sell records?

I wish the incoming president well, of course. So here's a little friendly advice: Lose Deep Purple. First, they're British -- like spy rocks, that relentlessly civil ambassador and the nest-of-vipers Council with its insidious language lessons. You want an American band for your inauguration -- who invented rock 'n' roll, after all? -- and you want one that fits in here in Moscow, where sham elections are covered by sham newscasts and a sham judiciary tries to pull the wool over everyone's eyes. The rock star you want is as obvious as the song: Sam the Sham doing "Wooly Bully."

Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs had twice as many major hits as your purple pals, and their exuberant hallmark number -- a driving 12-bar blues anthem that sold an astounding 3 million copies worldwide as Billboard's 1965 "Record of the Year" -- is a garage-band classic that makes Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" seem about as exciting as, well, smoky water. And Sam's closing lyric is wisdom itself, counseling a soon-to-be-burdened president not to walk alone: "Get you someone really / To pull the wool with you." Maybe someone flexible.

Granted, it's unclear what Vladimir Putin is up to now, creating a position for himself that is more than prime minister but not actually president -- "prime-resident"? But let the press speculate about that ... for the 1,719th time.

You've got eight days left to practice the "Wooly Bully"-- so "Uno, dos, one, two, tres, cuatro!" You'll love it, and the headline will be unforgettable: "Sham Inauguration Rocks!" And who knows, we may get an encore performance by Sam next January in Washington. Let's face it, both places deserve him.

Bully for us.

Mark H. Teeter teaches English and Russian-American relations in Moscow.