American Idol-Mania Hits Clinton Country

Patrick Kennedy had never watched the Fox TV hit American Idol when he began preparing the first issue of Frank, the Clinton School of Public Service's new magazine. But the editor figured show cofounder Simon Cowell would be just the right newsmaker to feature in the pop culture section. "This is just a ridiculous show," says Kennedy, while acknowledging its "cultural significance." But now, after his interview, Kennedy's ready to croon for Idol. "He's really a brilliant guy," says Kennedy, the school's director of public programs. "This Simon Cowell guy actually has some sense."

Frank is the first of its kind: a twice-yearly magazine from a presidential school--this one at the University of Arkansas--that mixes historical and policy stories with current cultural showstoppers in a, ahem, frank way. In it, Cowell talks Idol and issues, like political correctness, which he dubs "an epidemic." On his future: "I would never go into politics. It can be very annoying when other people in my business go into politics." But he's cool with pols who go Hollywood. His two examples: Bill Clinton's sax-playing and former Bush aide Karl Rove's recent impromptu rap dance that made it onto YouTube. "I really liked him for doing that," Cowell says of "MC Rove," adding, "He showed himself to be a human being." As for Bubba: Charisma trumps squeaky notes.

By Paul Bedard