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Jewish World Review Oct. 13, 2000/ 14 Tishrei, 5761

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Consumer Reports

Forget polls: Bush passes turtle test --
TALK TO AMERICANS about a $1 trillion budget surplus and their eyes glaze. Trillions make no sense to the 99.9 percent of voters who aren't even sure how many zeros are in a trillion. Ten? Twenty? A bazillion? We may as well be talking about the high cost of yacht fuel on the C{ocirco}te d'Azur.

It's 12 zeros, for the record, but who's counting? Exactly. Americans don't understand a trillion-dollar surplus because they've got $237.45 in their checking accounts. Which permits them to understand things like a $600 government toilet seat. Dumb. And cars -- the latest obsession among pollsters and commentators.

Having exhausted every conceivable vehicle for determining where voters fall in the presidential election, pulse takers have turned to men with this question: If George Bush and Al Gore were cars, what kind would they be?

Not surprisingly, respondents said Gore is a sturdy wagon of some sort, a Volvo kind of guy -- dependable, good mileage, runs (loud sigh from left side of screen) f-o-r-e-v-e-r. Bush, meanwhile, was described as a midlife Maserati or Mustang convertible.

Presumably, the fellows polled were 50ish white guys who own the complete collection of James Bond videos and make love to the Goldfinger soundtrack. They see Gore as a safe dud and Bush as a risky stud -- the sort of fellow they'd like to be, if only they could get the hang of that smirk.

I realize I'm on the wrong side of the gender divide when it comes to wheels, but they're wrong about Bush. He's not a sports car at all. Sporty, perhaps. High-rolling, maybe. But not small. Midlife dudes in the South don't go smaller (give it a minute); they go bigger, rangier, all-terrainier, open-airier.

Bush is an SUV with noncombustible tires. He likes to sit up high and take the off-roads. He likes extra room for a dog and cooler, or the spontaneous extra cargo -- an antique chest for the girls, a tackle box for the boys or, hell yeah, a big ol' eight-point buck on a good day.

But what matters the vehicle? The more important question -- the defining question the pollsters have overlooked -- is: Would Bush stop for the turtle? Would Gore?

You know the turtle in the Volvo commercial, where Mr. and Mrs. Perfect glide around a rainy curve and, uh-oh, stop to move the turtle from the road and release him into the sea. If I see that commercial one more time, I -- a for-real turtle mover -- am going to emancipate my trigger lock and shoot the TV.

Of course Volvo drivers stop for turtles. It's in the driver's manual. It's required! On the other hand, I can easily imagine Gore suddenly turning tournament-tough, narrowing his eyes into a warp-spasm as Tipper screams, "Al, no, not Mr. Tur-tell!"

You just know a rebellious streak lurks within the apple-boy, not unlike the one that prompts me at times to toss an empty beer can into my front yard or to throw away my recyclable plastic grocery bags. I cannot exaggerate the liberating pleasure these actions give me.

And Bush? Pure Jell-O, not a mean bone anywhere. He's a sweetie-pie, a mamma's boy who probably sweeps cockroaches out the door rather than step on them. He may be able to chaw with the boys and spit Good Bite clear across the corral, but he's a turtle-mover at his core.

As for that big ol' buck in the back of his truck? Hit-and-run by a speeding Volvo.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.


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06/10/99: We owe children an apology

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