IT'S TIME FOR an update on the current presidential campaign, which some of you older voters may recall started in approximately 1957. The next big event on the agenda is the nominating conventions, at which the two major parties will gather together and try, in the grand historic tradition of American democratic politics, to bore the nation to death. This is getting increasingly difficult, because the nation, which is not a total idiot, has pretty much stopped watching the political conventions. The major parties could conduct live human sacrifices on their podiums during prime time and I doubt that anybody would notice, including the TV commentators, who are so busy sitting around in their skyboxes commentating on the conventions that they hardly ever seem to be paying attention to the actual conventions per se.
FIRST TV COMMENTATOR: and so John, I'd say that the mood of these Democrats is one of concern as they
SECOND TV COMMENTATOR (peering down at the convention floor): I think these are the Republicans, Ted.
FIRST TV COMMENTATOR: Why do you say that?
SECOND TV COMMENTATOR: There's hardly any black ones.
FIRST TV COMMENTATOR (looking down): Hey, you're right! OK, I'd say that the mood of these Republicans is one of concern as they The Republicans have reason to be concerned, because the campaign of their candidate, Bob "Bob" Dole, is widely believed to be in trouble, despite Bob's two-pronged effort to establish that he is Just a Regular Citizen Like You by (1) retiring from the U.S. Senate after 356 years and (2) sometimes not wearing a tie.
Bob has a big problem: To win the election, he needs to attract moderates; on the other hand, if he gets too moderate, he's going to tick off the powerful Republican Loon Right, which already suspects that Bob is a communist pervert who takes orders via cellular phone directly from Satan. So Bob has to walk a very fine line, which is why he always seems to be looking around nervously, like a gerbil suddenly dropped in the middle of air-hockey game.
Compounding this problem is the fact that Bob is apparently unable, despite all his experience as a powerful figure on the national scene, to formulate a sentence that contains both a subject and a verb. I'm not saying he doesn't have views; I'm just saying that it's impossible, even with the aid of powerful code-breaking computers, to tell what they are. Also, despite the fact that everybody who knows Bob insists that he's friendly, his natural facial expression, especially when he's looking directly into a TV camera, is that of a guy who strongly suspects that you, personally, have been stealing his newspaper.
So at the moment, the polls have Bob trailing President Bill Clinton, which is pretty amazing when you consider that the Clinton administration has more legal problems than the Unabomber. For one thing, these mysterious items keep inexplicably turning up in the White House. If you ever, at any time in your life, lost an important file or wedding ring or valuable parrot, or whatever, you should definitely call the White House and ask whoever answers the phone to please look around upstairs, because there's just no telling what's going to turn up there next. Just last week a middle-level administration staff person opened up a filing cabinet in the library and found Jimmy Hoffa.
Of course, none of this is Bill Clinton's fault. He's the president! How the heck would he know what's going on in the White House? All Bill knows is, just because everybody he ever knew except Socks has been indicted, people keep saying mean things about him, and it makes him sad and weepy. Actually, everything makes Bill weepy; he's the weepiest president we've ever had. (They had to install a tie-dryer in the Oval Office.) Every time you turn on the evening news, there's Bill, looking like the kid in the locker room who's trying hard to be brave after the bully gave him a really hard towel-snap in the butt, getting all choked up over some ceremony or speech or prayer or song or funeral or natural disaster or the conviction of a close personal friend. When I see Bill weeping, I want to shout: "Cheer up, Bill! You're the president, darn it! Do something fun! Fly to some city that voted against you in 1992 and ride around in a motorcade, screwing up traffic! Order the U.S. Department of Tense Standoffs to surround some enclave of heavily armed fanatics and play the song 'Watching Scotty Grow' by Bobby Goldsboro at them through a powerful amplifier until they surrender!"
But apparently Bill is unable to avoid being overcome by emotion, just as Bob is unable to stop looking as though he's undergoing root canal via lawn dart. So there's your presidential lineup, America: Grumpy vs. Weepy. It'll be broadcast live on TV later this summer. Better get to the video store now.
Pub Date: 7/21/96