America's antihero must start to think down at our level

August 22, 1994|By MIKE LITTWIN

OK, folks, time for a little quiz. I think you'll enjoy it. Or would you rather read another piece on health care?

The idea is to identify this man. You get one guess, and here are the clues.

He was a small-town boy from the South, where he was born soon after the war.

We don't know much about his father. We do know he had an overprotective mother, who can be safely described as colorful.

An idealistic young man, he was confused by racism and never understood the point of the Vietnam war. It turns out he also had trouble with simple math, as would many of his generation.

He would meet John Kennedy and had a thing for Elvis. He never met Lisa Marie, however. (Time out for a David Letterman joke on the Lisa Marie-Michael Jackson wedding: If Elvis were dead, he'd be rolling over in his grave. Now, back to the quiz.)

He didn't inhale.

At some point, without any explanation, he began to jog.

Although there has been research on the subject, nobody knows the exact year in which he got cable.

He likes talking to strangers and especially telling them his life story. From the beginning. Any stranger will do.

As far as we can ascertain, he attended neither Woodstock.

He has one very bright child, upon whom he dotes.

Although there's no record of this, he may have once roomed with Kato.

Finally, to the surprise of many, he became a national phenomenon and, in the view of some, the perfect spokesman for his troubled generation.

You're right. The answer is Forrest Gump.

If you guessed Bill Clinton, you haven't been paying sufficient attention. Check the polls. Clinton is almost certainly the least popular person of his generation, even though that generation also includes Newt Gingrich.

You have to admit, the similarities between Clinton and Gump are kind of jarring. If Clinton had a 75 IQ, he might have grown up to be Forrest Gump. Or, possibly, Dan Quayle.

There are some important differences, of course, in style and in fact. Gump fought in Vietnam and won the Medal of Honor. Clinton went overseas to lead anti-war protests.

Gump is befriended by a lieutenant. Clinton settles for making friends with state troopers.

Gump catches tons of shrimp. Clinton orders super-sized fries.

Gump gets rich with the help of friends and makes the cover of xTC Fortune magazine. Hillary gets rich with the help of friends and Congress launches an investigation.

Gump becomes an All-American football player. Clinton has had lunch with John Madden.

Gump falls in love with one girl, who dies. Clinton falls in "love" with many women, some of whom sue.

While Gump may have had some serious problems to overcome, he didn't have to deal with Roger.

On the other hand, Clinton and Gump both profess to have virtually no knowledge of Whitewater.

The success of Gump is fairly amazing. With the possible exception of the arrival of the Wonder Bra, the movie is the most talked-about event of the summer season.

It's doing Schwarzenegger-type business. Gump happens, all right. People like him, I think, because he represents the simple, unthinking, anti-intellectual, instinctive goodness of America. For many, Clinton represents just the opposite, an unprincipled politician who tries to be all things to all people. Gump just tries to be himself. It's easy, isn't it?

What would Gump do if he were in Clinton's place?

Well, for one thing, he sure wouldn't be pushing health-care reform. In the world of Gump, somebody's always there to take care of you.

Crime bill?

People aren't really bad deep down, are they?

Haiti?

Like most Americans, Gump couldn't find it on a map.

For better or worse, Gump is America. And it's time Clinton figured that out.

If I were Clinton, I would try to co-opt Gump-ism and Gump himself. In fact, before the Republicans grab him, I think I'd dump Gore and put him on the ticket.

You say Gump doesn't really exist?

I say, stupid is as stupid does, sir.

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