Jewish World Review June 11, 1999 /27 Sivan 5759
http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- SOMETIMES A VAGUELY SENSIBLE madness takes hold of a person. It begins as a glimmer -- less a thought than the ragged edge of a dream. It catches one's fancy but also stands aloof, shimmering like a dollop of sun or maybe a wedge of brass: close enough to see, but too distant to comprehend.
The notion takes hold, at first slowly but then like spreading fire. It sweeps away better instincts and inclinations -- until suddenly, one feels a tug, an urge to abandon the security of home and hearth to quest for something exhilarating, dangerous and new.
Many people fall prey to such delusions at election time. They see a mottled image reflected above the pavement and interpret it as a vision of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Some rush to proclaim what they have seen. Others hedge -- and form exploratory committees.
Texas Gov. George W. Bush has taken this path so far. So have Elizabeth Dole and Vice President Gore. Noting their success -- they top the polls -- I have decided to heed the call that rings in their ears. I, too, shall form an exploratory committee.
Such organizations confer very special benefits. They permit a person to mull over the prospect of running for office while simultaneously hiring staffers, renting buildings, raising money (Bush should have $20 million in his treasury by month's end) and frolicking in a sea of free publicity. A non-candidate accepts public adoration without having to endure public scrutiny.
Best of all, exploratory committees are illusory -- the Potemkin Villages of modern politics. According to the Federal Elections Commission, the moment one forms a committee of any sort one becomes a bona fide candidate. No matter how much money you raise, you have a legal obligation to spend every penny -- and often, more. It took John Glenn 13 years and a campaign-finance investigation to dig out from his 1984 presidential bid.
The committees have the ancillary benefit of exposing the charming gullibility of workaday Americans. People who collect Beanie Babies, buy collectibles from the Franklin Mint and believe Bill was counseling Monica now find themselves standing in otherwise empty gymnasiums, bellowing their acclaim for such nice chaps as Bob Smith and John Hagelin. They holler not for victory, but for the thrill of belonging to a merry band of activists and, if they're really lucky, making a cameo appearance on C-SPAN. ("Look Madge, that's me! Right under the mounted bear head!")
Fittingly, the largest cadre of naifs comes from the press corps, which increasingly consists of young Ivy League grads who boast straight white teeth and well-honed vacuity. So, as our most famous homuncular candidates explore, the scribes lie in wait, scrawling questions on their wrists:
"Mrs. Clinton, will you divorce your husband?!"
"Mrs. Dole, does Viagra work?!"
"Mr. Bush, what did you wear when you danced naked on the bar -- and did you also ride the mechanical bull?!"
These folks have come to think of personal corruption as a politically necessary cologne. There is a growing sense that the biggest problem with Gary Bauer is that he never snorted coke, and that John Kasich would gain credibility if he could only point to a love child. Hasn't Bill Clinton proved that past villainy makes present sin acceptable?
I realize this could compromise my maybe-candidacy, but permit me to outline my qualifications anyway. I am a dull man leading an exciting life. I led a semi-wanton youth, but will say no more about it.
I enjoy travel. I have been to Des Moines of my own free will and have traveled to New Hampshire on other people's dimes.
I can say nothing as well as anybody, as loyal readers of this column know. If asked, "Boxers or briefs?" I will answer, "thong," and leave it to medical crews to remove the poor souls retching in the aisles.
I will not laugh when I sing "Amazing Grace."
I have not served in the military, but I do not loathe it. I have not served in Congress, but I harbor a healthy distrust of it. I don't know the price of milk, but I know the names of the people who put it in bags for me.
So here is my vow: I shall give full consideration to the idea of exploring the concept of thinking about running, maybe. This is my dream, my shining disk on the hill, and I shall pursue it vigorously -- right after I attend to more urgent business, such as changing the baby's diaper, trying to get dog hair off the sofa and hauling in the garbage cans.
It's 100-degrees out,
and unlike most modern politicians, I have to take care of my own
06/01/99: Sending the sheriff away from Dodge City