By Wil Forbis
August 1st, 2004
In the summer of an election year a young man's thoughts often turn to politics. So, too, do the thoughts of middle-aged men and even really, really old men. It could even be postulated that the thoughts of women turn as well, but that would presume one could make sense of the thoughts of women. As such I was not surprised when I found myself in a recent political conversation and someone turned to me and asked, "Which Presidential candidate would you like to be stuck in a car with for three days?"
It's an odd question. The first thing that pops to mind is why I would even be in a car with a Presidential candidate for three days? Have I kidnapped the candidate and am now taking them on a cross-country killing spree? Has the candidate kidnapped me to do same? Has it been discovered we are long lost brothers and this is part of some familial attempt to get to know each other? Nonetheless, I took the question to heart and answered.
"Well, I'd probably choose George Bush."
Wrong answer. I saw the questioner's face fall a bit.
Now you have to understand: I don't view this as a question of which President you would like to vote for (though many would answer it that way.) Rather, it's an attempt to pin down the candidate with that thing, that "charisma thing" that can so alter an election. Clinton had it. So did Reagan. And of course, so did the maestro of charm, a man I consider one of the most inflated Presidents ever, John F. Kennedy.
"So whaddaya saying, Wil?" I hear you bleat. "That George Bush has more charisma than John Kerry?" Well, duh! (The collection of dried, blackened gum stuck to the underside of the Starbucks coffeehouse table upon which I am typing this essay has more charisma that John Kerry.) I certainly recognized that Kerry has more intellect than Bush. And I totally agree that Kerry has a more nuanced thought process than Bush. And I freely concede that Kerry has a foreign policy vision that extends past what can be learned by pounding the "fire" button on a game of Galaga. But egghead, nuanced foreign policy wonks are not the sorts of people you want to be stuck in a car with for three days.
Now In hindsight I have to confess that when I answered the question I was thinking of "old George Bush." Late-30's, still-an-alcoholic, snorting-lines-of-coke-out-of-a-stripper's-ass-crack George Bush. To quote Seinfeld, "I love that George." I think he could be a lot of fun on a multi-state, Hunter S Thompson style bender, especially if he's picking up the tab. Is it disingenuous for me to think that this new George Bush - the one who claims to be a Christian and hasn't had a drink in 15 years (what loathsome traits!) - would be just as much fun? Maybe, but you have to understand - I have a way with people. By day one I'd have turned George into a committed atheist. By day two he'd be nursing a bottle of Jim Beam like Ma Bush had lifted up her bra and was feeding it to him straight. (Didn't like that mental image, did you? Try this: Ronald Reagan wearing moose antlers and a plastic strap-on! Bill Clinton's head atop Paris Hilton's nude body! Joan Rivers!) And by day three we'd be DPing a Vegas hooker in the Presidential Suite of the Aladdin. (By day four I'd have convinced George to invade Finland thus settling some old scores I've had since high school.)
Conversely, Kerry sounds like no fun at all. A while back he said he hates heavy metal, which would be a big problem since that's about the only thing worth listening to when you're on the road. I could imagine a whole lot of "Hey, Johnny, what do up think about this Grim Reaper album?" or "Your lunch not agreeing with you pal? You've had a funny look ever since we started playing Anvil." Additionally, while a nuanced thought process may be good when trying to formulate a plan to defeat Al Qaeda or stimulate the economy, it doesn't play well for a lot of basic road decisions. Kerry'd be sitting there, babbling on about the need to "carefully weigh the options that lie before us and tally up the advantages and disadvantages of each these important choices," and I'd finally have to break and say, "Look, it's a simple question! Arby's or Burger King?!"
Of course Bush and Kerry aren't the only cats running for President. I'd never even considered some of the other options when I initially answered the question. Nader for instance? What would it be like to have him riding for shotgun for three days? (I'd buy a Chevy Pinto just for the occasion!). I'll surprise you here when I say I think Ralpie-boy would be a lot of fun. Unlike Kerry, I think Nader's one of these "serious" guys who's actually pretty loose in real life.
Who else? Dean might not have been bad. A little preachy. I could see him getting pissed off at an AM/PM clerk and letting loose with one of those "ArrrrrGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!"s. Sharpton'd be great in the deep south - we'd be invited to one backyard barbeque after another. McCain? He'd have to be mellow. Even getting stuffed in the backseat of the Forbismobile next to some moldy bananas and a pile of last year's "New Yorkers" can't compare to living in a bamboo cage and being tortured by the Viet Cong for five years.
You know who's a guy think I would find fascinating, though he's not running this year? Pat Buchanan. While his forays into professional politics have always been, at best, curiosities, he's one of the few commentators on the cable news stations who worth taking seriously. When they ask Sean Hannity something like, "What do you think the Democrats should be doing to win the Presidency?" he'll give some disingenuous reply like, "I think they should move even further to the left and chase the all-important circus clown vote." But Pat will take a deep breath, crease his brow and honestly share his thoughts. Politically he and I couldn't be more apart but he strikes me as a guy you can disagree with and still pause for that 3 o'clock martini. He doesn't throw a temper tantrum and give you the silent treatment if you don't see things his way (another Kerryism, I suspect.)
Yeah, give me Pat, the road, a couple forties of Old-E and Iron Maiden blasting over the stereo. Good times, my friend. Good times...
WHICH PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE WOULD LIKE TO BE STUCK IN A CAR WITH FOR THREE DAYS? LEAVE YOUR ANSWERS ON THE GUESTBOOK!