American political reality increasingly lets fundraising overcome obvious limitations in the politicians themselves. However, little-reported statements made by several presidential candidates in front of local reporters in New Hampshire reveal the true nature of American politics at the millennium..
"Will I be the next President of the United States?" asked Al Gore, addressing a group of Internet software developers in Nashua. "I've got 600,000 more reasons to think so every week."
The group, assembled to thank the Vice President for inventing the Internet, thereby providing them with livelihoods -- if not clear skin -- was stunned by Gore's candor. "It's not like being Veep is a full-time job, and I'm not exactly Dan Quayle over here. I've got a life. What the hell do you think I've been doing the last seven years? While not inventing the cell phone, the laptop computer, and the wrap sandwich, I've assembled the biggest money machine in the history of politics -- another million dollars every twelve days. Hell, I might have thirty-five million before the first primary is even held. Why the hell do you think there's not a single Democrat sincerely trying to beat me?"
Told of Gore's comments, Bill Bradley agreed. "Well, I'm not exactly working my keister off," said Bradley, "and the other guys, they know the game. Why waste a dime trying to outspend a dollar?" The former senator, interviewed while standing motionless in a stiff crosswind, went on to explain: "It's not like I'm a real alternative, either. I mean, I'm cooler than Al on race relations and civil rights -- I played basketball, remember, so I'm one of the few white politicians in this country who ever spent time with actual black people -- but remember, Wall Street pays our way. Hell, I oughta know: I actually advocated campaign-finance reform once. Not that I'm gonna mention it much this time around, not while I can hitch myself to Al's gravy train and ride into the White House with less sweat than driving the lane against the L.A. Clippers. Once I'm VP I'll talk about all the money in politics again. But for now, it's Al and me. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go practice my monotone."
The candidate denied rumors he was attempting to win favor with Granite State voters by impersonating an actual piece of granite.
Other Democratic candidates declined comment, with Jackson in Dover, Gephardt in Hanover, Kerry and Kerrey both en route from Derry, and Wellstone not Keene to reply.
(Aside from Bob: Sorry. I think I just channeled Dr. Seuss.)
Meanwhile, the spawn of Bush and spouse of Dole hold a wide lead in early polls of GOP voters, who seem uninterested in voting for candidates with actual positions.
Texas Governor Bush, who has already admitted that
a) his candidacy is entirely contingent on fundraising and
b) he won't explicitly state his positions on many issues until summer,
further shocked listeners by elaborating at a private meeting in Bretton Woods attended by bankers, bond traders, and some guy in camouflage relieving himself against a tree: "Hell no, I'm not willing to take any actual positions yet. Are you kidding? I mean, I just used the word 'compassionate' once, and the self-proclaimed Christians in my party tried to rip my throat out. Screw it. I've got three mil already and a thirty-point lead. Not gonna do it."
Liddy Dole, in contrast, refused to take a position on her complete unwillingness to take a position. Attending a meeting of Manchester United, a media-watchdog group funded by Rupert Murdoch, the woman who sleeps with America's leading Viagra customer again dodged questions like an X-Files shapeshifter, announcing only that she was "not a politician" (even though she held Washington jobs for five presidents), that politics should not be "dominated by special interests" (even though her campaign is a wholly owned subsidiary of the tobacco industry and Archer-Daniels-Midland), and that Americans are tired of the "ugliness of politics," by which she was presumably referring to Steve Forbes.
However, Dole did advocate the development of space-based nuclear devices -- not surprising, given that her maiden name is Hanford -- explaining (and this is a true quote): "Only one thing would be worse than the status quo. And that would be for the status quo to become the norm."
Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Dole received a congratulatory note from Dan Quayle.
(Actually, Liddy was mistaken: what would be even worse would be for The Norm Show to become the status quo, but that's another issue.)
Meanwhile, Dan Quayle attacked Clinton and Gore for giving Most Favored Nation trading status to China, a position Quayle advocated himself when he was Vice President. Aides to the Quayle campaign say he is looking for more ways to differentiate himself from other candidates by demonstrating his experience in foreign policy. Unfortunately, no state funerals are currently scheduled.
Lamar Alexander, as always, continues to pursue the Oval Office the way a greyhound chases a mechanical rabbit. "Look, I realize I'm less likely to get recognized than Taiwan," Alexander admitted to a small group of zealous plaidshirts milling around outside a shipyard in Plymouth, "but I never stopped campaigning after '96, I can put together twenty million, and dammit, I owe it to the American people to once again spend it all, become briefly prominent, and then fade into obscurity once again." The crowd reportedly intended to respond with wild cheers, but dispersed quietly a few minutes later when someone realized they were all facing the wrong way and listening to someone else entirely.
As to the rest of the GOP field, Alan Keyes, Bob Smith, and John Kasich had no impact whatsoever. However, Pat Buchanan made headlines briefly when he expressed disappointment that the White Mountains are named only for the surrounding landscape.
Bottom line: as predicted in this space since just after the midterm elections, Death Race 2000 continues to look like Gore/Bradley in a walk.
Bob Harris is a radio commentator, political writer, and humorist who has spoken at almost 300 colleges nationwide.
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