Candidate will wear very well

Stumping: Latest presidential hopeful has designs on the Oval Office.

July 16, 1999|By Chuck Salter | Chuck Salter,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Last time, my shirt came within 3,800 votes of beating Bob Dole in the New Hampshire primary. My shirt came closer to winning the nomination than I did.

-- presidential candidate Lamar Alexander, speaking earlier this year about his former signature red plaid shirt

And now, from Washington, Larry King...

Larry King: In all my years in this business, I've never interviewed anyone quite like our next guest. Folks, this is not only his first prime-time television interview, this is his first interview of any kind! Here he is, Lamar Alexander's red plaid shirt. Welcome to the show.

Shirt: It's great to be here.

Larry: Before we get started, I understand you have an announcement to make.

Shirt: That's right, Larry. Do you mind if I call you Larry? I'm not big on formality.

Larry: Go right ahead.

Shirt: Well, Larry, I've decided to go it alone. This time, I'm throwing my hat into the ring. Not literally, of course. Ha, ha. But you get the idea: I'm running for president.

Larry: Incredible! Folks, you heard it here first.

Shirt: Here, I brought you one of my campaign buttons to dress up your suspenders.

Larry: "One size fits all." Catchy slogan. But what makes you think the American people are ready for you?

Shirt: I know it's unprecedented. But I believe that I'm uniquely qualified to lead this great country of ours, Larry. I represent something the White House badly needs after eight years of skirt chasing.

Larry: Western wear?

Shirt: Moral fiber.

Larry: OK, so what makes you think you can win?

Shirt: Larry, New Hampshire in '96 wasn't a fluke. It was a sign that the American people want me to come out of the closet.

Larry: You mean you're --

Shirt: I don't like labels, Larry. Let's just say I'm a good fit for all kinds of folks. So I'm rolling up my sleeves and hitting the campaign trail.

Larry: Hmm. A centrist, then. I can see why you generated so much interest during the last election. Still, you've definitely got some stiff competition. George W. Bush looks like a strong front-runner already.

Shirt: Maybe for now, but everybody knows he's riding his father's coattails. Besides, I'll bet his past is more checkered than I am.

Larry: What about Liddy Dole?

Shirt: Frankly, I think she suffers from the same condition as her husband: PD -- political dysfunction.

Larry: Tough talk. But how are you going to compete with Vice President Al Gore and his Democratic fund-raising machine?

Shirt: By running an honest campaign. Folks, I promise you this: I have nothing up my sleeve. See for yourself.

Larry: No arguing that. You know, you're not the only candidate staging a political comeback. So is Dan Quayle.

Shirt: Please. No one takes him seriously. Even I've got a better head on my shoulders.

Larry: Then, of course, there's Lamar Alexander, who traded you in for a suit and tie. How will you differentiate yourself from your old running mate?

Shirt: Shoot, everybody paid more attention to me last time. Without me, he's just another stuffed shirt. Most Americans couldn't pick Lamar out of a lineup if he were wearing a name tag.

Larry: In case you just tuned in, we're airing some dirty laundry on tonight's show.

Shirt: Seriously, Larry, I'm glad you brought up Lamar. He's been implying that he hung me out to dry. Quite the contrary.

Larry: You mean, you fired him?

Shirt: I had no choice. During the last race, the man was a complete distraction. All that talk about education reform? Enough already! I swear, he's the only reason I didn't take Bob Dole to the cleaners.

Larry: Incredible, just incredible. I mean, you guys appeared so close in the papers and on TV. The All-American lumberjack shirt. The plan to cut taxes. That was strong stuff.

Shirt: We were tight-knit in the beginning. No one came between me and Lamar. But -- how can I put this -- things came unraveled.

Larry: What happened?

Shirt: Lamar showed his true colors. He began attending fund-raisers without me. Claimed they were black-tie only. Yeah, and I'm a blue-light special.

Larry: Someone's still hot under the collar.

Shirt: Let's just say we haven't ironed things out. But that's all I'm at liberty to say. I promised my agent, my publisher and my publicist that I'd keep it buttoned until my book comes out later this year.

Larry: Good for you. If my friend George Stephanopoulos can write a best-seller about his boss, I certainly think you're entitled. And speaking of youthful appearances, how is it that you have fewer wrinkles than my new wife? I didn't think that was possible.

Shirt: You don't look too bad yourself, Larry. Except for those pinstripes.

Larry: Ha, ha. Touche. So it's early in the race, but any thoughts on a possible running mate?

Shirt: I think it's only a matter of time before Bill Bradley withdraws -- he's washed up, if you ask me -- and when he does, I'm going to approach his chinos about joining my campaign.

Larry: Sounds like that could give you a leg up with Democrats.

Shirt: Well, actually, we've been friends since our days at L.L. Bean.

Larry: You're a softie. I can tell.

Shirt: Well, I am 100 percent, pre-shrunk cotton.

Larry: Folks, we're going to take a break, but we'll be right back with our next guest, a sassy designer pants suit that's just entered the New York Senate race. Stay tuned!

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