As the New Hampshire primary approaches, let’s sort out the field of candidates as even-handedly as possible.
Phil Gramm: A thoroughly repulsive human being.
Pat Buchanan: Just won Klan caucus in Louisiana.
Lamar Alexander: A pleasant cipher in a red shirt.
Alan Whatshisname: Excellent diction.
Richard Lugar: Millions still have fond memories from those days when he was a hand-puppet on the Howdy Doody Show.
Robert Dornan: Nutboy.
That cuts the field to two: Steve Forbes and Bob Dole.
Forbes, of course, is the rich guy who wants to turn 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue into a branch office of H&R; Block. Watching him, it is not beyond the realm of imagination that somebody, someday, is going to show up and demand an answer as to why Forbes wanted to take nude photographs of the 1992 New Jersey Little League championship team.
He is a complete simpleton with no shot at being elected president. He is, however, absolute proof that many Americans continue to confuse wealth with wisdom.
A lot of people actually figure that if a guy has a lot of money he must also have a lot of brains. My friends, Steve is an imbecile.
Steve is rich because he was born rich. And Steve is richer today because his father died.
He does well in the polls for several million reasons: That’s the amount he has spent smearing other people running.
He is also picking up popularity because he maintains a simple appeal: The idea that he will put more money in your pocket each April 15 and this savings will somehow result in a better society because, once Steve kills the IRS, everything else will flourish.
Steve’s bumper-sticker could be “Moi.” That’s what his deal is all about: What about me?
Schools will be better. Crime will drop. Divisions of race will disappear. Families will obtain a strength not seen since 1946. Welfare moms and teenagers eight months pregnant will either be working a lathe or out of sight. Nobody will worry about losing a job in a flurry of corporate mergers. Practically everybody will have a horse and houses so big they’ll have names and none of it will cost you a dime.
Winters won’t be as cold. And if the temperature does drop, you’ll get two weeks in Florida or Arizona because of Steve’s excellent adventure.
Steve is a real winner.
So, who’s left?
He’s been in the business 40 years and he knows this is his last turn at bat. He grew up poor as dirt, left a part of his life and a piece of his limb on a hillside in Italy fighting the last good war. He is today scarred in many ways by who he is and where he came from.
But scars aren’t all bad. And Dole isn’t either.
Listening and watching these cheap Forbes ads, it is not hard to imagine the parade of resentments Dole must have within. Eight years ago, he told a national audience that he wished George Bush would “stop lying about my record” and much of the media used the clip and the quote as proof of their theory that Dole is a cargo of meanness.
Let Reagan say the same thing or some telegenic liberal Democrat and the words would be used to reinforce the “fact” that the candidate had spine. Dole does it and it’s Freddy Kreuger time.
He is a private guy in the most public business of them all: Running for president. You put your name on a ballot now and you surrender your life to strangers with notebooks and minicams; to strangers in coffee shops and grange halls, airports and auditoriums. A million ideas are held hostage by a single image.
I do not know Bob Dole. But 30 years ago I used to see him nearly every single morning. He was a congressman from Kansas. I ran an elevator in a House Office Building in Washington where, despite my condition at the time, I never had a single accident.
Dole was a nice guy. A good guy. Occasionally, he’d bring you a cup of coffee, inquire about your life, talk to you like a human being. It was much more than a lot of other fakers and posers did at the time.
Bob Dole is not what he appears to be on TV. And he sure isn’t anything close to how he is portrayed by this dip-stick Forbes. He’s simply a Republican going to bat for the last time, an honest, sometimes awkward, very proud man trying to tell the country who he is and what he wants to do and having a hard time at it.