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Jewish World Review Sept. 16, 1999 /6 Tishrei, 5760

Michael Kelly

Michael Kelly
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Beatty and Buchanan: That's Entertainment! --
THE NEWS THAT PATRICK J. BUCHANAN is seriously considering tossing his comb-over into the Reform Party ring is of course splendid. As we regard a race dominated by Al Gore, Bill Bradley and George W. Bush (Tweedledull, Tweedleduller and Tweedlejunior), we feel a sore need for electoral amusement. It is a long, long way to November, and we are not going to be able to sustain ourselves, entertainment-valuewise, with these three.

For real spectacle in our presidential melodramas, we depend on the Reform Party, which has never failed to delight since the very first day that Ross Perot made his way onto the national stage, barking like a dog and occasionally biting off small pieces of himself. What pleasures that man and his movement have given us -- the tales of assassins and of plots to wreck weddings; the vice-presidential candidacy of Adm. James "Who Am I?" Stockdale; our first governor with a boa.

The bolting of Buchanan from the Republican to the Reform Party feels so right. Buchanan would be going home, going to where he has, in his heart, been all along. Here, in the funhouse that Ross built, everybody knows about the One World Order and a lot of people have actually seen the black helicopters. In the liberating air of Perotland, Buchanan will be all that he can be. Pat, unfettered. This is what we have been waiting for.

But is it enough? It is not. Candidate Buchanan is always entertaining -- he is, after all, an entertainer -- but his material is old. Pat, you've already told us that the Jews have all the money. (Actually, Pat, it's us, the Irish; we've got it all; we've just been very clever about hiding it.) No, we need something fresh.

And, there he is. Warren Beatty, enter stage left. Mr. Beatty penned a wonderful little pensee for the New York Times a few weeks ago. "Why Not Now?" the essay was entitled, and it was, for the heights of its vanity, the depths of its incoherence and the reach of its banality, a thing of rare beauty.

Every word was to savor, beginning with the opening phrases: "Aware of my 35 years of liberal activism as a Democrat, some have urged me to spend 40 years of fame on a Presidential campaign." This is a man who gets a telephone call from Barbra Streisand and thinks he hears America singing. This is a man who has been so long under the lights that he thinks fame is accomplishment. This is a man who believes his press clips, his agent, his manager and his personal trainer when they tell him that the people pine for him. This is a man of whom it can be boldly asserted: He is no less intelligent than Alec Baldwin.

This is also a man, it turns out, who is almost (but not quite) too good for the job of saving the Democrats from their sorry selves. "I have no wish to diminish the capable, cautious centrists Mr. Gore and Mr. Bradley, who have unselfishly devoted much of their lives to public service when they could so easily have enriched themselves in the private sector, as I have," Beatty writes with plodding condescension. "But when a Roosevelt-Truman-Stevenson-Kennedy Democrat, comfortably continuing a career of writing and directing movies, accepts the megaphone tossed to him, it will be to challenge the present party to admit its timidity in protecting those who need help most . . ."

And so, blah-blah on for almost another 100 words to end the sentence, in the manner of a teenage girl's note about a reeely, reeely cute boy, with one long phrase written entirely in capitals. Mr. Beatty ends on a teasing note: "Stay tuned. We'll be back after this message." Back for what, it is not entirely clear. Beatty is reportedly favoring entry as a Democrat. But he could challenge Buchanan for the Reform Party slot. Beatty's presidential Web site suggests "a winning scenario: Beatty runs as a Democrat, later converts to the Reform Party." Whatever.

But, oh, Warren, accept that tossed megaphone. Let us have more, much, much more of this. Stand before us and grin that 62-year-old boyish grin and let us join you in basking in you. Speak to us, Warren. Give to us your deepest thoughts, and as your lovely lips flap, we will listen to the wind whistle from ear to Beatty ear. Give us the real thing, Warren. We are tired of making do with a president who merely acts like an aging movie star. Give us a leader with some real numbers to boast about. Give us that scene from "Shampoo" on the evening news. Give us the logical conclusion of our politics. Give us the movies.

Michael Kelly is the editor of National Journal. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


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